Japan and geopolitics under PM Noda: bilateral naval exercise with India and global initiatives

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Japan and geopolitics under PM Noda: bilateral naval exercise with India and global initiatives

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In late 2011 it became apparent that the government of Japan was intent on spreading its international influence. Indeed, it could be argued that the current government is more open to influencing the world stage than past governments for many a decade. Therefore, each new development became like a new piece in a complex jigsaw and clearly this “forward thinking” is badly needed because in the past Japan’s “quietist policy” meant that other nations took advantage.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda continues to press ahead with important geopolitical agendas. This applies to recent agreements with the Philippines; making positive overtures to South Korea; making it known that he would visit North Korea providing the abduction issue could be solved; sending peacekeeping troops to South Sudan; the first ever bilateral naval exercise between Japan and India; agreements with Vietnam in the area of nuclear plants; Japan will help to fund a Southern Corridor linking Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar; currency initiatives with China; and in other important areas.

At the same time Japan is offering an olive branch to Europe providing the European Union will focus on serious reforms and implement sound economic policies.  If this occurs, then Japan will buy more Eurobonds and help nations like Greece alongside other economic powers in 2012 in order to stabilize the situation.

Turning back to the announcement in late 2011 that Japan and India will hold their first ever bilateral naval exercise in 2012, then this will be welcomed by America and Australia which is a regional power in its own right.  After all, Australia sent military forces to East Timor, Iraq, and other nations, and it is essential that all democratic powers move closer together in order to maintain regional stability.

It is easy to view the bilateral naval exercise between Japan and India and see this move to be aimed, at least partly, at China but this would be overstepping the mark. After all, Japan also desires closer ties with China but leaders in Tokyo must also boost relations with democratic powers. Therefore, instead of adopting “a quietist policy” and “constrained policy” it is in the interest of Japan and democratic powers to see a more robust foreign policy.

India may view this move to be more political and leaders in New Delhi are worried about aspects of China’s foreign policy.  This applies notably to China’s support of Pakistan, border issues between China and India and China’s port link ups in Gwadar port (Pakistan), Chittagong port (Bangladesh), Hambanota (Sri Lanka), and the Irrawaddy Corridor (Myanmar) which will open up the Bay of Bengal.  Therefore, China’s geopolitical expansion is growing and this applies to the Bay of Bengal, Strait of Hormuz, Indian Ocean, and other areas and this is leading to maritime concerns.

However, while Japan does have some vested interests because important maritime issues concern all nations which operate or rely on trade and energy resources to pass through important sea-lanes; it is clear that Japan is more focused on border disputes within northeast Asia.

Japan, however, is intent on showing China that its military expansion and increasing geopolitical expansion and claims over border disputes with many nations, isn’t going to constrain Japan. On the contrary, it will merely boost Japan’s awareness that countermeasures will be implemented and deeper relations will be forged with other nations throughout various parts of Asia.

Noda and various ministries aren’t interested in negative policies towards China because trade between Japan and China is enormous.  Also, for much of history the best scholars from both nations visited each other and cultural interaction was enormous.  Without a shred of doubt the impact of many aspects of Chinese culture influenced Japan for many centuries and clearly Japanese scholars and ideas influenced China.

In historical terms China and Japan don’t share a history like France and England which was based on war and regional hostility in many periods of history.  Therefore, prior to the end of the late nineteenth century China and Japan wasn’t a threat to each other.

If is therefore hoped that relations between Japan and China will blossom in the future and clearly they have come a long way since China began to open-up.  However, Japan, like any nation state, must be prepared to protect its own geopolitical concerns. Therefore, the joint naval exercise between Japan and India which will take place next year shouldn’t be viewed negatively by China or any other nation.

Instead, it should be seen for what it is and this applies to a major power developing cordial military relations with another democratic power, in order to boost security and other important ties.




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