Country Report: Japan (December 2022)
On December 28, Yomiuri looked back at 2022, naming Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the No. 1 overseas news and the resulting spike in oil prices No. 6. The addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO rated No. 11 on the list. Gorbachev’s death appeared as No. 13. Xi Jinping’s third term and breaking precedent stood at No. 7, while the lockdown in Shanghai due to his “Zero COVID” policy landed at No. 10. No. 3 on the list was the Seoul’s Itaewon tragedy, with 158 deaths. No. 2 was the death of Queen Elizabeth and with it the sensation that a 70-year era has come to an end.
On New Year’s Day, Kishida described 2022 as a “tumultuous year,” citing the contagious omicron variant, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and the assassination of former prime minister Abe Shinzo. He added that Japan is “facing the severest security situation” in the post-World War II era, and he projected leadership in rejecting attempts “to change the status quo by force” and responding to Putin’s possible use of a tactical nuclear device against Ukraine. Japan’s term on the Security Council and the G7 Hiroshima summit offer him opportunities. Revising three defense documents, Japan is poised to respond decisively to security threats.
Great power relations were on the minds of many Japanese as the year 2022 drew to a close. At the G20 meeting Yomiuri Shimbun on November 16 saw an irreconcilable clash immobilizing the gathering. On one side was Japan, the US, and Europe, and on the other China and Russia. Kishida was strongly critical of Russia, blaming it for food and energy price increases and supply disruptions. Biden spoke similarly, seeking to persuade countries on the fence that the problems they were facing were so induced. Biden sought to renew trust in the US lost in the Trump era. China, in contrast, adamantly opposed the charges against Russia, claiming that the world was being divided for ideological reasons and that sanctions were the actual cause of these problems.
Kitaoka Shinichi in Gaiko, No. 5, wrote about the UN General Assembly votes on Russia in 2022. After the March 2 vote critical of Russia (141 yes, 5 no, 35 abstained, 12 not voting), the April 7 resolution to oust Russia from the Human Rights Council was (93, 24, 58, 18). Support fell by 48 votes. Given that 40 supporting votes came from Europe, it is clear that countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East—developing countries—were mostly not supportive. The results reveal the distrust existing toward the US and its double standards, dismissing also the US-led Summit for Democracy just held in December 2021. Kitaoka explains that Japan is the country best able to respond to this distrust. Its ODA wins trust by using the term “cooperation,” not assistance, and that should be strengthened. Japan has proposed reforms in the Security Council, including abolition of the veto, which the US strongly opposes. Reform, notably expanded membership, came closest to succeeding in 2005, but Japan’s economic contributions have fallen from 20 to 8 percent as China’s have risen to 15 percent, weakening Japan’s case to become one of four new members. Indeed, Kitaoka says that the failure of that reform is a reason that the Security Council is stymied over the Ukraine issue. He frets that by so far thinking mainly about the US and G7, Japan has given too little attention to developing states. Kishi Nobusuke in the 1950s and Nakasone Yasukuni in the 1980s pointed the way to diversified diplomacy. A crisis could become an opportunity for Security Council reform, and Kishida’s UN speech in September offered an opening. Specialists should assemble, and concrete proposals must be developed.
Kitaoka’s argument fit into the lively debate in Japan on the “Global South” with some warning that much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America is being lost in the existing international order and greater support should be offered. As Okabe Noburu wrote in World, No. 1, this third pole of about 100 countries is essential for restoring the international order. Mostly, these states have avoided criticism of Russia, not imposing economic sanctions or excluding it from APEC and the G20. As the forerunner in the development of Asia, Japan advocates for the spread of universal values and focuses on getting India to do so, notably where the message does not get across due to a gap with Western values. Western leadership has failed to overcome the distance these countries seek to keep, but Japan’s ODA has forged good relations with lots of newly developing countries. In WWII Japan fought for the independence of India. It is the only member of the G7 in Asia. Thus, it can be a bridge between Europe, the US and these states, starting with India to broaden the liberal international order.
On December 22 Yomiuri reviewed various writings on the “Global South,” arguing that ASEAN, given its obsession with balance, is leaning toward this identity and that Japan with nuance should connect there in the economic and cultural dimensions, sticking to the US in security.
In the December issue of Toa, Suzuki Kazuto wrote about the struggle over semi-conductors following the October US statement on export controls. He argued that the impact on Japan would be much less than on South Korea and Taiwan since less advanced semiconductors are not included, and that is all Japan produces. But he sees this as no cause for satisfaction. Note is made of Tsukuba as the likely spot where Japan will follow the US lead in new developments.
On October 14, Yomiuri wrote about China forging an axis with Russia and threatening the democratic camp. In September at the SCO summit, ties were tightened, Russia’s heightened military presence in the Far East region is desired as a way of diverting the Japanese and US focus away from Taiwan. China now treats Russia as a younger brother. In 2022 the nature of the relationship has changed, but both remain intent on challenging by force the US-led order.
In the November Toa, Mifune Emi reviewed the SCO summit, emphasizing that China would not abandon Russia. While talk following the summit suggested that China has begun to distance itself from Russia and Mifune recognized a diversity of views inside the CCP, Mifune observed that given Xi Jinping’s outlook on the international order and his “global security initiative,” he seeks to deepen the BRI inclusive of Russia. Yet, China’s Russia connection is downplayed some, as in the cover page of Renmin Ribao on September 7, putting Xi-Uzbek ties above the Xi-Putin meeting and the three-way Sino-Russian-Mongolian summit. Expansion of the SCO to West and South Asia was highlighted, as Xi seeks to build it up along with CICA, BRICS, etc. Both security and values—a common destiny—are high on China’s priorities for the SCO.
On November 16, Yomiuri reported on the UN General Assembly vote, calling for Russia to pay reparations for the damages it has caused in Ukraine. This was the fifth vote there concerning the invasion. The paper delineates a three-way divide: 14 states in opposition to the resolution, among them Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran; 94 states including European ones, the US, and Japan in favor; and 73 states abstaining, notably India. Despite the high hopes put on India in Japan in recent years, there is little commentary found on its stance toward this aggression.
On December 2, Yomiuri reported on a Sino-EU meeting in Beijing, which called threats to use nuclear weapons irresponsible and extremely dangerous. It argued that amid the conflict over Taiwan with the US and Japan, China has been pursuing summits with Germany and other EU countries. In turn, the EU, while decoupling in advanced technology is seeking a degree of cooperation in other economic areas. The exchange made clear that China is not supplying arms to Russia. This summit occurred against the background of demonstrations against the zero-COVID lockdowns. The paper recognized EU support for the right of assembly.
On December 3, Yomiuri stressed the strength of Sino-Russian relations, noting joint military drills, involving strategic bombers just days before—the second joint flights of 2022 and the first where these planes landed on each other’s air bases. It is unusual to allow another state’s bombers into one’s airspace and even more to land there. Only in November 2021 did the two first permit such entry. Russia’s strategic bomber capabilities are more advanced than China’s, and China is clearly learning a lot from their joint activities. Five times since July 2019 the two have conducted joint strategic flights. As opposition to the US over Taiwan deepens, linkages with the Russian army are a tool of China to contain the US. While the two differ on the use of and threat of nuclear weapons, they seek to show their closeness. In September their aircraft made almost a complete circuit around Japan., aiming to contain it and its alliance with the US.
An October 12 Yomiuri article estimated losses from companies retreating from Russia. Nissan Motors had sold its engine research outfit, leading to a 100 billion-yen loss. A factory built in St. Petersburg in 2009, producing 43,000 SUVs in 2021, had been expected to reopen by year’s end, but the prolonged war has made that difficult, as about 2000 workers are receiving insurance. Mitsubishi’s joint venture is exploring exiting as well.
In World at the end of 2022, there was a discussion of Koizumi Yu’s newly published book, The Ukraine War, where the author noted that in Japan, as in Russia, the word “war” is avoided. Authors generally write of the “invasion of Ukraine.” With forces numbering 900,000 to 1,000,000 fighting fiercely for more than ten months along a front of more than 2000 km, this deserve to be called a war. According to Koizumi, some Japanese intellectuals defend Russia by referring to the “problem of NATO and America.” They draw an equivalence between the Iraq war, seen in Japanese progressive circles as imperialist, or they shrug their shoulders with the argument that both Russia and Ukraine are bad, as if Ukraine has no right to defend itself. Blaming NATO’s expansion due to the US, they ignore that Putin’s real reason is his nationalist claim that Ukraine must be part of Russia. They act as if Ukraine is a pawn to be moved around with no volition of its own. Similar logic could be applied to Japan, caught between the US and China, as if Japan is just a weakling, not a player on its own. What lesson would be drawn for Japan from such logic? If a ceasefire agreement were reached with Russia, in a few years it is very likely Putin would renew fighting, as he did in 2022. It is not that Putin would be satisfied by a promise that Ukraine would not join NATO. Japan’s position is close to that of Ukraine. It could also be attacked. For Koizumi, the bottom line is that if Russia’s invasion succeeds and international society abandons Ukraine, the same could occur for Japan. At the book’s conclusion, Koizumi equates Taiwan to Ukraine and Japan to Poland. Japan, too, would likely be drawn into supporting troops from US bases and facing threats of attack, even with nuclear weapons. It would be drawn into the war. It is already weighing its options. The implication is that if Japan caved to Russia now it would pave the way to cave to China ahead.
Mainichi on December 27 reported on the gathering of foreign ministers from the five Central Asian countries with Foreign Minister Hayashi, stressing the increased importance of this area due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It noted the surrounding environment of Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Iran. Since 2004, a dialogue has occurred about every two years. This time it comes as concerns rise about instability due to the Ukraine crisis. The joint statement stresses the importance of a free and open international order based on the rule of law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, prohibition of use of force or threats thereof, and the peaceful resolution of disputes without mentioning Russia by name. In the first half of next year, a symposium will be held on cooperation over the “Caspian route” linking Asia and Europe by bypassing Russia and also limiting China. States are diversifying their oil export routes. In June, President Tokayev told Putin that he would not recognize areas in Ukraine under the control of pro-Russian elements, and Kazakh ties with Russia have rapidly deteriorated. Kirghiz, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan send lots of workers to Russia and are more affected by Russia’s deteriorating economy. Strengthened cooperation should be sought by Japan to improve the quality of development, the paper advocates, considering the environment now to be advantageous.
Yomiuri on December 30 editorialized on diplomacy with Central Asia, reporting on Foreign Minister Hayashi’s speech before the gathering and calling on Japan to assist these countries to become more independent in politics and economics. He referred to the Ukraine situation by advocating for the importance of sovereignty and territorial integrity. As Russia’s economy is faltering, workers are returning to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and Hayashi suggested a path for them to work in Japan in construction and agriculture. The editorial noted that they have a lot of people friendly to Japan and the government must urgently devise concrete measures.
On October 17, Yomiuri wrote about tightening relations between China and North Korea. The North reported a telegram from Xi Jinping to Kim Jong-un in response to one from Kim in honor of the October 1 greeting the 70th anniversary of the PRC. Kim’s message had appealed to China to join in backing North Korea against Japan, the US, and South Korea. Congratulating China on the 20th Party Congress, Pyongyang recognized the historic nature of this event as well. On October 7, a Yomiuri editorial had faulted China and Russia for their stance at the UN that the North’s missile firings are the result of US military activities. It called their stance irresponsible.
On October 18 Yomiuri commented on the Kishida-Xi summit in Bangkok at the G20, the first official meeting since December 2019. Relations had cooled since then, and this was seen as the starting line for avoiding conflict and improving ties. They agreed that Russia should not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Mention is made of the 7-hour meeting between National Security Advisor Akiba and Yang Jiechi on August 17, paving the way for this summit. Yet, it is noted that after the Pelosi visit to Taiwan and China launched missiles into Japan’s EEZ, some opposed the planned meeting. The Kishida LDP faction is viewed as traditionally pro-China, and opposition could easily be aroused from conservatives. Kishida may have achieved some balance with criticism of China at the Bali EAS meeting in front of Li Keqiang for violating Japan’s sovereignty. In the background to the Kishida-Xi summit, it was said that Xi wanted a degree of stabilization of Sino-Japanese relations. Concerns had been raised about the considerable rise in Japan’s military budget and especially the deployment of missiles on its southwestern islands. The US government has heightened pressure on China in economic security, including semiconductors, and is seeking Japan’s agreement. China has economic problems for which it seeks cooperation from Japan too. The article suggests that as the Xi administration follows Kishida’s domestic political troubles it may take this weakness as cause to harden its positions. As Japan becomes more involved in the Taiwan question, it is not inclined to make concessions as well. Thus, no real thaw in Japan-China relations is anticipated in this coverage.
On October 24 Yomiuri described China’s “Taiwan shift,” preparing militarily and economically for war. Assuming that sanctions will be imposed, China is tightening supply chains within its borders, including semi-conductors. Inevitably, a Taiwan contingency will lead to US and European sanctions. Xi is engaged in “war preparations,” argues the newspaper. In an editorial that day, Yomiuri asked how Xi Jinping would use the enormous power concentrated in him and concluded that Japan had to step up its security cooperation with the US because of signs of the danger to Taiwan and to Japan’s territorial waters. On October 26, the paper followed with an opinion piece asserting that the sense of danger had risen in Japan due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the focus centered on Taiwan. China’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit and the 20th Party Congress, including Xi’s statements on Taiwan, heightened alarm. PRC unification with Taiwan would alter the balance of power in East Asia. Anticipation of a contingency there makes the Japan-US alliance more important than ever. In the wide-ranging debate over a contingency in Japan, it is argued that 5-10 years ahead danger will spike. Alongside the article, a commentary by Kaneharu Nobukatsu cited intensified debate on Taiwan in the past year and clarified that US Taiwan policy would decide the destiny of Japan, but US policy is uncertain and Japan, too, has been slow to discuss economic security. The Ukraine war has had a huge impact, including the effect of a jump in energy prices. Great power relations are the focus of his remarks.
In Yomiuri on October 24, Miyamoto Yuji, ambassador to China in 2006-2010, bemoaned the loss of any “pipe” to China at a critical time of leadership reorganization there. He mentioned the close relationship of Nonaka Hiromu and Zeng Qinghong as the model for what is needed to deliver messages to Xi Jinping. Miyamoto argues that limits can be put on worsening relations through dialogue and realizing some balance despite the Senkaku and Taiwan issues at hand. While warning against China taking hardline policies, Yomiuri on October 27 called for efforts to relax tensions at the Kishida-Xi summit. It reiterated the importance of a “pipe” to China.
The Biden-Xi summit saw Yomiuri on November 15 insist that there was no improvement in relations with Taiwan, the centerpiece, and in differences over Russia with Washington seeking a halt to China’s cooperation and Beijing opposed to sanctions against Russia. Biden’s goal was limited to reducing distrust and avoiding unintentional conflict, as Xi prioritizes strengthening his domestic base over stabilizing international society. On economic security, the paper saw clashing viewpoints: Xi charging that the US was breaking international trade rules and weaponizing trade and technology, while Biden despite his desire for dialogue had no intention of relaxing policies such as the November export controls, which will have a big impact on China. The struggle over economic security will only keep intensifying, readers are informed. The main theme in the coverage was two countries on parallel tracks over Taiwan and more.
A Yomiuri editorial on November 19 argued that China was trying to reduce tensions with Japan because of the deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations, but it is focusing on economic ties, not working to resolve security problems. While it repeatedly insists it is against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, its response to North Korean missiles able to carry such weapons fails to support such claims, and uncertainty exists over how it would react to a nuclear bomb test.
Looking back at Xi Jinping’s diplomatic actions in Southeast Asia, Yomiuri on November 19 saw economic security as his main emphasis. Opposed to decoupling in advanced technology, Xi appealed to countries to not harmonize policies with the US and to keep supply chains open. At the APEC summit he called what the US was doing a blow to international supply networks. Xi revealed a strong sense of crisis over tightened restrictions on semiconductors. In striving to secure supply chains for food, energy, and natural resources, Xi was preparing for a long-term clash with the United States, readers were told.
In the December issue of Toa, Hashimoto Ryuichi wrote about Xi Jinping beginning his third term on top leading six Political Standing Committee members on a visit to Yanan for studying the “Yanan spirit,” i.e., Mao thought. In contrast, for foreign consumption, Xi talks of continued globalization and economic reform. On November 8, Xi carried this theme forward, stressing for the new era a spirit of preparation for war and warning of increased instability in the security situation facing China. Yet, in Shanghai Xi spoke of the importance of opening to the world and of economic globalization, and he called for pressing forward with the BRI. On November 14 Xi met Biden and appealed for reducing tensions between what the article calls two superpowers. Comments reiterated that China has no intention of changing the existing international order, interfering in US internal affairs, challenging the US, or replacing the United States. Likewise, Biden said the US has no intention of reforming the Chinese system, seeking a new cold war, opposing China in its effort to strengthen relations with allies, or seeking Taiwan independence. It does not seek conflict with China or decoupling or containing it. Yet, the article makes clear that the “red line” hovering over the summit was Taiwan, while clear differences emerged in language dealing with Ukraine and North Korea. Kishida met Xi at the APEC meeting, where Xi noted a high level of economic interdependence and called for stabilization of supply chains and increased cooperation. Kishida said that great powers have responsibility for peace as well as prosperity in international society and expressed deep concern about Chinese missiles flying into Japan’s EEZ and ships intruding into the Senkaku area. The article wonders if the many leaders with whom Xi met at the G20 and APEC who brought up the subject might have even a little influence on his policy toward Ukraine. No sense is conveyed of positive results except for the overall support offered for renewed diplomacy after a long period of limited contacts.
On December 1, Yomiuri reported on the latest Genron NPO joint Japan-China survey. It found that more than half of Chinese respondents had a negative view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both nations seek restoration of the peaceful order of the world. There is disagreement on the cause of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. 64% of Japanese answered China, but 53% of Chinese chose the United States, and just 4% Japan. 87% of Japanese do not have a good impression of China, and 63% of Chinese do not have one of Japan. If there is a military clash in East Asia, the Japanese respondents were split on whether it would be on the Korean Peninsula (24%) or in the Taiwan Strait (25%). Chinese chose the latter (49%) over the former (16%).
At the beginning of December articles covered the funeral of Jiang Zemin, pointing to a mixed legacy. Yomiuri on December 2 found that while he transformed the CCP from a “class party” to a “people’s party,” it became more corrupt. He invited a worsening of Sino-Japanese relations with anti-Japanese “patriotic education,” helping to restore the lost prestige of the party. He also showed the world in the mid-90s that China could be a military threat. Yet, compared to Xi Jinping, he did not turn the party into his personal instrument or threaten force in Taiwan or over the Senkakus. Thus, he did not threaten international society to change the status quo through the use of force. We should not forget that, although Jiang raised China’s confidence, he built a foundation for a path of cooperation with international society.
In a December 9 editorial on China’s use of space, Yomiuri said that doubts have not been cleared away that it is not for peaceful use. Its new space station, “Tiangong,” demonstrates the surprisingly quick closing of the gap with the US. The Japan-US-European-Russian ISS is aging, and NASA wants to keep it going to 2030, but Russia is hinting at leaving it. China is violating the spirit of international treaties against military use. Japan and the US should press for international rules further clarifying space activity, the editorial concludes.
In the November-December issue of Gaiko, Kawashima Shin wrote of China’s foreign policy and prospects for Sino-Japanese relations. In Xi Jinping’s 20th Congress speech he found much the same language as before, but Xi’s talk of a “new type of great power relations,” used to refer to the United States, is gone. Instead, one finds mention of constructing a framework of great power relations for “peaceful coexistence” and stable and balanced development. Xi says he is resolutely opposed to hegemonism, power politics, cold war thought, and interference in internal affairs. Of course, no connection to Russian behavior is made. Xi is opposed to a security network centered on the US and finds Western values unacceptable. Japan is considered a great power. China considers the Quad cold war thinking and opposes the Japan-US security linkage. On Taiwan, China is increasing pressure on Japan. Not just the US, China too is pushing for economic security. It seeks economic ties with Japan that maintain existing supply chains, but for purposes of control, limit knowledge and cultural exchanges. More control is expected over students studying abroad and overseas Chinese. Kawashima asks if Japan will completely stop incentivizing Chinese behavior as the US has done and take China as a threat as the foundation of its policy. He calls for appropriately managing economic security to avoid a negative impact on Japan’s economy. This is hardly an endorsement of joining the US agenda.
On December 5, Yomiuri discussed military reorganization for a Taiwan contingency, noting joint exercises through operation “Keen Sword.” It warned that if China occupied parts of the Nansei Islands (Ryukyus), the frontline of the Japan-US deterrence of China, these exercises are meant to prepare for a response. Held through mid-November, they involved 26,000 Japanese and about 10,000 US troops. In 2014 there were 25 joint exercises, but this year the number has climbed to 86. Japan is preparing for joint action in a contingency. Also required are more preparations for defense industries and maritime security points, readers are informed. Other exercises in the Hokkaido area are called “Resolute Dragon.” The alliance is deepening, year-by-year, but many problems remain to be resolved, including the organizational system of the self-defense forces. Indispensable for complete mutual trust is Japan raising its deterrence capacity and demonstrating its national defense determination at home and abroad.
On November 8, Yomiuri editorialized that although on security Yoon has joined with Japan and the US, including joint maritime exercises in June and November, Japan and the ROK have only begun to explore a breakthrough in their frozen relationship. Trust, it said, could only be restored by resolving the forced labor issue. The editorial warned that as Yoon’s favorability ratings fall, he might do what previous Korean leaders have done and take a hard line toward Japan for domestic political reasons. Such wariness left Kishida little room to find a solution.
On November 14, Yomiuri covered three related summits: Japan-ROK, Japan-US-ROK, and Japan-US. The tone was optimistic about all of them. Primacy was given to Kishida’s meeting with Yoon, where they agreed on early resolution of the forced labor issue and on the response to intensifying threats in the neighborhood, as the paper listed those from China, Russia, and North Korea. This first official summit since December 2019 saw Yoon promise to share his Indo-Pacific strategy by year’s end as the two sides joined toward realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” Recognizing that in recent years bilateral relations were at their worse, Yomiuri said with North Korea firing missiles into Japanese air space, joining together is necessary. The three-way summit was brief—only 15 minutes—but jointly called for: US extended deterrence strengthening to prevent an attack on allies, opposition to China changing the status quo in the Indo-Pacific by force, the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and strengthening supply chains of the three, as well as opposing Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. The image of three-way solidarity contrasts with the past. As for the Japan-US summit, it was no longer than the Japan-ROK one (40 versus 45 minutes) and was explicitly linked to the Sino-US summit, set to come afterwards and to Biden’s strong support for Japan’s defense build-up.
On November 13, Yomiuri discussed how South Korea is caught between China and the US on the Taiwan question. Prior to Pelosi’s August visit to South Korea, China told various officials of the ROK that mishandling the matter would have consequences for the August 24 recognition of the 30th anniversary of normalization. Beijing has been intensifying its pressure on Seoul ever since Moon in May 2021 agreed to a joint statement, mentioning the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Ambassador Xing has been outspoken against US interference in Sino-ROK relations. Yet, in mid-September a US official spoke of preparing a plan for US forces in South Korea in a Taiwan contingency. There is talk that in such circumstances China’s missiles might be launched at US bases there. In late September, however, Yoon on CNN said that if China attacked Taiwan, it is highly likely that North Korea would take action, too. This is a sign that Seoul does not want US forces in South Korea to be sent to Taiwan. The Yomiuri article concludes that if Chinese pressure on Seoul continues, it will test the Japan-US-ROK linkage.
On November 15 Yomiuri editorialized about the second Japan-US-ROK summit of the year, following one in Spain in June. Along with the arrival of the Yoon administration, the worsening security environment in East Asia has led Seoul to adopt a realistic security policy. The paper calls for stronger measures to deter North Korea and seems optimistic Seoul is now agreeable.
In the December Toa discussed Seoul’s difficulty dealing with a Taiwan contingency. It noted that with the Security Council at an impasse North Korea has more space to maneuver. Routes have reopened for North Korean trade to China and Russia. On November 11 and 13 Yoon made clear his own Indo-Pacific strategy in meetings at the EAS and G20, saying that cooperation with ASEAN is most important while supporting its strategy. He did not mention China by name. By declaring a strategy, he fulfilled his promise to Biden in May, but the contents were balanced in respect to China. At an October 26 trilateral meeting of diplomats, Wendy Sherman said that we support Taiwan and Japan and South Korea are cooperating, but that same day a South Korean foreign ministry official took exception to her remarks. In September on CNN Yoon hinted that he was negative about US forces in Korea becoming involved in a Taiwan contingency, explaining that North Korea might pose a challenge. In contrast, a US defense official separately stated that these troops might be useful. If US forces on Taiwan were to be involved in Taiwan, a fierce response from China might follow. Seoul is left in a tough position.
Kishida’s meetings with ASEAN drew Yomiuri’s attention on November 13. In support of the international order, he appealed for them to join against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s hegemonic behavior, drawing it closer to the democratic camp. What Russia is doing now may be what China will do later was the apparent message. Japan offered support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which is described as similar to the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) advanced by Japan. The paper notes that Biden’s May Washington ASEAN summit brought a new age in US-ASEAN relations after Trump neglected Southeast Asia and hope was lost in the US. Now the region is caught between China and Russia on one side and Japan and the US on the other. The new Philippine president Marcos is improving ties to the US with joint military exercises expected to be expanded. Along with Indonesia and Vietnam, which also have territorial disputes with China, he is strengthening military ties to the US. but holding tight to economic ties to China. Vietnam, however, also relies on Russia for arms, as does Myanmar.
On December 10, Yomiuri reported on the Japan-Australia 2+2 meeting, which called for expanding bilateral and trilateral military exercises with the US. The objective is to heighten deterrence against Chinese hegemonic behavior in the South and East China seas. Every four years from 2008, these 2+2 meeting have taken place. In October Kishida visited Australia and agreed with Albanese to strengthen security cooperation. On December 6, the US and Australia held 2+2 talks in Washington, calling for expanded participation of Japan’s SDF in joint drills. In 2023, for the first time Australia will join the Yamasakura exercises. New ties are foreseen also in the cyber and space domains. Mention was made as well of advancing the FOIP together.
The first AUKUS defense ministers’ meeting in early December in Washington drew Yomiuri’s praise on December 9 for drawing up concrete plans for early 2023. Formed in September 2021, this is a format for sharing advanced technology. Ahead are joint exercises for maritime intelligence gathering and eavesdropping. Nuclear submarines will go to Australia in the 2040s.