Country Report: Japan (May 2023)
The early spring of 2023 proved to be a busy time for Japanese diplomacy. After hosting Yoon Suk-yeol on a historic reconciliation visit, Kishida Fumio outlined a new version of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” in India (treated as the gateway to the “Global South”) and followed with a secret trip to Ukraine, which bolstered his credentials for hosting the G7 in Hiroshima. In April, Foreign Minister Hayashi took the spotlight, traveling to China to renew mutual visits and then hosting other G7 foreign ministers in Karuizawa, setting the stage for the Hiroshima G7.
Unlike previously, Japan showed its leadership role in the Indo-Pacific. Three objectives stood out: (1) demonstrating, as Asia’s lone member of the G7, the indivisibility of security in Europe and Asia given the Ukraine war; (2) giving Japan a unique role in persuading the “Global South” to embrace security concerns and values many had avoided, while helping to address its problems, such as food security; and (3) searching for the right balance in managing Chinese assertiveness while boosting economic ties. In advance of Kishida’s busy May schedule, Japanese media discussed critical questions of foreign policy.
In the April/May Gaiko showcasing the Hiroshima summit, Kishida called for defending the international order based on the “rule of law.” He argued that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a challenge in Asia too, which faces changes to the status quo through coercion, seeking to put an end to the postwar order. The response begins with the G7, which Japan is leading until May and for which Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons have deep meaning. Also resolving issues in the Global South of economics, including energy and food security, will be on the agenda, along with economic security, climate change, and health. Kishida was offering a roadmap.
Kudo Yasushi in the March 23 Yomiuri called for countering the fragmentation of the world, while asserting that the key is Kishida’s appeal for a new form of capitalism. This could counter the anger of the poor left behind by global capitalism and excessive liberal competition. Japan should take the lead in a transitional period in reconsidering the linkage between state and market. As chair of the G7, it can show a pathway for an enduring peaceful order, overcoming divisions. While Kudo does not clarify what makes Japan a possible model or how this proposal would be attractive to the Global South, his sense of Japanese leadership fits this moment.
Russia and Ukraine
On Japanese political support for Kishida’s visit to Ukraine, Yomiuri on March 22 emphasized the agreement of parties in and out of power, noting the great significance of on-sight observation prior to the G7 summit. Only the Japan Innovation Party doubted the value of the trip if Japan could not supply arms or send SDF troops. Looking for a parallel to this secret visit, Yomiuri that day noted Koizumi’s 2002 trip to Pyongyang, which was kept secret until a half-month in advance and sent shockwaves when it was discovered. Three officials went to Iraq in 2005-06 in secrecy.
Mainichi on March 23 commented on Kishida’s visit to Ukraine. As chair of the G7, Japan took this very significant step. Total aid amounted to $7.6 billion. While Japan in light of its peace constitution takes care not to send weapons abroad, when Europe and the US are sending tanks, missiles, shells, etc., some in the LDP are calling for this prohibition to be reconsidered. Yet, Mainichi said this should not be done, and the government should clearly explain what Japan is supplying through the NATO foundation. At a joint news conference, Zelenskyy expressed strong expectations for Japan’s humanitarian and recovery assistance. Japan is supporting mine clearance, preservation of cultural items, education, and strong governance. Kishida went through Poland after visiting India but did not get this cleared in advance with the Diet contrary to precedent. This was necessary for security, but he must quickly report and take questions at the Diet. In Hiroshima, Ukraine will be a big topic and Zelenskyy will join online.
On March 23, Yomiuri praised Kishida’s visit to Ukraine and to the site of a tragedy. It stressed broadening the linkages in international society over Ukraine. While exports of lethal arms by Japan are restricted, there are lots of types of civilian assistance such as health and education that are possible. Mine clearing aid has begun, and longer-term assistance is needed drawing on Japan’s strengths. Even as attention turned to Ukraine, the Sino-Russian summit occurred with talk of a Chinese “peace plan.” Yet, it did not touch on the facts of the invasion nor ask for Russian forces to withdraw. Rather it made clear collusion with Russia. After the ICC issued a call to arrest Putin for war crimes, Xi’s invitation to visit China is shocking. Sankei on March 23 also covered the Xi visit to Russia, accusing China of deceit in claiming to play a constructive or neutral role. The thrust of its proposal is to blame NATO for threatening Russia. Kishida’s visit to Ukraine served as a good contrast. The US, Europe, and Kishida are right in their demands. That same day Yomiuri noted that Putin and Xi had differed on China’s potential role as a mediator and that their declaration walked back the February 2022 “no limits” claim to the relationship by they do not have a military or political alliance of the sort seen in the Cold War period.
On March 23, Sankei reviewed articles on the one-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, noting Hosoya Yuichi’s refutation of Putin’s argument that Russia attacked because of NATO expansion and the strengthened threat to it, which some in Japan echo. Instead, it was the West’s weakness that invited Russia’s aggression, argues Hosoya there and in the April issue of Voice. Responding weakly conveyed an image of a weak West, emboldening Putin in 2014 and Xi Jinping, too. After the 2014 reaction to aggression suggested that peace took precedence over vigilance, these leaders were further bolstered. Without 2014, there would have been no 2023. In defiance of the guarantees to Ukraine in 1994 when it gave up nuclear weapons, the world had let it down. Japan bears some responsibility, having set up a commission with Kyiv and regarded this step toward denuclearization as salient to its special mission. Kishida seeks to use the Hiroshima summit to find a way forward at a historical turning point in support of the existing international order when nuclear war could loom in the future.
Kishida’s visit to Kyiv drew praise in Japan for accomplishing at least four things. First, it gave him credibility for leading the Hiroshima G7 to address the war in Ukraine. This point is raised over and over again, suggesting that if Kishida had remained the only G7 leader not to make the trip, his leadership may have been compromised. Second, to make the desired linkage between Asia and Europe concerning the impermissibility of the use of force to change boundaries, Kishida had to demonstrate his strong concern for what was happening in Ukraine, as he prepared to draw European states closer in preparing for possible Chinese use of force over Taiwan. Japan sees its distinctive role in the current conflict as a bridge in persuading Europeans and paving the way to some degree of NATO involvement in Asia. Third, Xi Jinping’s simultaneous visit to Moscow showcased clashing worldviews, reinforcing Kishida’s theme of defending the liberal, international order. Kishida has put values at the center of Japanese foreign policy and used his visit to highlight them. Finally, as nuclear war emerges as a serious possibility, Kishida enhances his use of Hiroshima as a backdrop to rally the world against it. Yomiuri on March 23 drew such linkages along with a headline, “Toward ‘Participation’ in the Hiroshima Summit.”
On March 23, op-eds in Yomiuri by Tsuruoka Michito and Miyake Kunihiko clarified the value of Kishida’s trip to Ukraine. Tsuruoka stressed the timing of Asia’s two big powers lining up on the opposite sides of Europe’s conflict and the importance of Japan leaving a solid foundation at the G7, given that Italy will chair the group next. Miyake found reassurance in Japan succeeding in keeping Kishida’s visit secret—a test of whether it was now a “normal country” –as well as the message of a close linkage of European and Asian developments, comparing China’s similar autocracy to Russia. Above all, Japan had avoided the embarrassment at the G7 summit of only its leader not having made the journey to Kiev.
In the April Voice, Tsuruoka Michito explained how Europe had changed as a result of the war. He started by asking what this war is: “Russia’s war,” a “defensive war,” a “proxy war,” or a “European war.” The Japanese government is unsparing in calling this “aggression,” even more negative than the term “invasion,” against the backdrop in Japan of debating which of these terms applies to WWII. The G7 and others call this an “illegal and unprovoked” invasion. For some, this is the “war in Ukraine,” while in Russia this is a “special military operation,” and in China, this is mainly viewed as a “conflict,” avoiding the terms “war” and “invasion.” Others call it “Putin’s war.” One image is a war between NATO and Russia. Another is of a “defensive war” against the West. Alternatively, some see Ukrainians being sacrificed in a “proxy war.” If the implied outcome is to force a settlement on the Ukrainians, it could have the effect of the Portsmouth Treaty ending the Russo-Japanese war, leaving Japanese dissatisfied. In any case, the outcome will be a very different Europe than before the war with a fundamentally different security framework. Russia will be isolated. No mention is made of Russia’s new place in Asia. Meanwhile, a point clearly raised in Yomiuri on March 25 was that the Northern Territories issue is the same as Crimea, territory of another country seized by Moscow, which must be returned. The article suggests that this has contributed to great sympathy in Japan toward Ukraine.
A Sankei article on March 31 praised the Summit for Democracy for solidifying the opposition to China and Russia. About 120 countries and areas were invited online. Zelenskyy participated, and Russia’s war against freedom and democracy was condemned. The theme at the December 2021 first such summit had centered on China’s repression in Hong Kong and intensifying military pressure on Taiwan. This time, after the invasion of Ukraine, it was unifying the liberal, democratic camp against the authoritarian axis of China and Russia, making this summit more important. Eight more countries were invited. Taiwan joined again. Premier Li Qiang’s opposition to this gathering as leading to a new cold war defies international society.
On April 8, Yomiuri raised the issue of modifying Japan’s three restrictions on arms exports. Diet discussion of doing so had begun in order to support Ukraine and strengthen security ties in Southeast Asia. Not changing these principles put Japan at a disadvantage in speaking on the Ukraine issue, and ties with the Philippines and Vietnam could benefit. What Japan does now on Ukraine could influence how others respond to a future contingency faced by Japan. Sending air defense radar to the Philippines, e.g., would enhance Japan’s security. The key remained the Komeito. Its younger Diet members show some understanding, but veterans remain cautious.
An editorial in Yomiuri on April 23 contrasted Putin’s agenda today with the diplomatic policy concept Russia set forth seven years earlier toward the US, the EU, and Japan. It is not the US and Europe that have weakened Russia but Putin himself under the illusion that Russia is more than a state. In the new thinking, China gains a special status as Russia’s most important friend, but economically and militarily Russia is weaker by becoming much more dependent on China. Calling for a multi-polar world, Russia at the very least, has lost the force needed to be a pole.
At the Karuizawa G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, Hayashi put the focus on maintenance of the status quo in the international order. Reporting in Yomiuri on April 18 highlighted Japan’s call for solidarity on the Indo-Pacific as well as Ukraine, strongly opposed to one-sided change in the existing situation. Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable, Hayashi emphasized. The G7 meeting would have great significance for delivering that message from Asia’s only G7 member. The Karuizawa gathering gained new salience in the aftermath of French President Macron’s visit to China, questioning Europe’s role if China used coercion against Ukraine. With France’s foreign minister agreeing, the Japanese media proclaimed success in rallying G7 solidarity. Yet, Yomiuri the next day warned that Macron would be in Hiroshima, threatening this consensus. Yabunaka Mitoji’s opinion was echoed by Tadokoro Masayuki’s insistence that defending Taiwan has the same significance as supporting Ukraine. The case for both must be made to the Global South, which Japan is doing by ODA assistance and closer grassroots ties. Meeting in Hiroshima, which suffered nuclear attack, is ideal for conveying the danger of nuclear war as an outcome. Beneath the surface of the foreign minister talks, Japan had kept the focus on deterring China.
Hayashi’s trip to China earlier in April served to reassure others in the G7 that Japan’s goal is a constructive, stable relationship with it. In Yomiuri on April 19, whereas the editorial acknowledged that the inability of Japan to offer arms to Ukraine left it marginal to the US in raising the issue at the G7, on Taiwan Japan had no qualms about preparing to take the lead in the Hiroshima summit.
An April 9 Yomiuri article pointed to the emergence of a ritzy Chinese hotel (transferred from a British group after the Ukraine war began) and business center just 15 km north of the center of Moscow. Xi Jinping stayed there during his summit with Putin. Russian media went out of its way to assert a relationship of equality between China and Russia, but in talks over a gas pipeline and China’s role as a peace mediator the depth of Putin’s troubled situation became obvious.
Japanese asked whether it is possible to rebuild constructive, stable Japan-China relations, a precondition for international order. Few had answered that it was possible, especially under the impact of the Ukraine war. On February 4, Yomiuri published the results of a poll on foreign policy. It showed a fall in friendly feelings toward Russia from 13 to 5 percent in one year, while the drop in perceptions that Japan-Russia relations were good was greater—from 21 to 3 percent. Good feelings toward the US hovered at 87-88 percent, but perceptions of good bilateral ties fell from 91 to 85 percent. Friendly feelings toward China slipped from 21 to 18 percent, while perceptions of good relations fell from 15 to 11 percent. In polls taken in the fall of 2022 perceptions of South Korea and Japan-South Korea relations were already on the rise: from 37 to 46 percent friendly and from 19 to 28 percent positive on the state of relations. Given closeness to Australia and hostility to North Korea, the trend of polarization was deepening.
On March 23, Asahi commented on the Xi-Putin summit. Claiming that Xi was expected to press Putin to end the war, it fretted that the two leaders only solidified ties at the expense of the international order. Putin’s remarks about the West starting the war and refusing negotiations were aimed at the widening war fatigue in newly developed countries, shifting responsibility to escape from isolation. While calling itself “neutral,” China stands on one side. China should play a mediating role on the basis of clearly rejecting Russia’s invasion, the editorial concludes.
On March 23, Yomiuri noted that Japan had ranked sixth in G7 assistance to Ukraine with 1.1 billion euros, ahead only of Italy, but in February Kishida offered a supplementary package of $5.5 billion dollars. Now with Kishida visiting Kyiv awareness of Japan’s presence has grown. The same day the paper editorialized that Kishida’s visit was important for shaping international opinion. Kishida declared that Russia’s aggression had shaken the foundation of international order. Beginning with the kinds of non-lethal support Japan is offering, it must support Ukraine for the long term, showing Japan’s strength. Faulting China’s “peace plan,” it seems to condone not returning land Russia has already seized and gives recognition to a war criminal.
On March 26, Yomiuri explored the impact of the Ukraine war on Chinese thinking about Taiwan. On the one hand, it drew China closer to Russia. On the other, it led to a mixed response to the possibility of a Taiwan contingency, reducing the chance of an optimistic scenario for it, and preparing more intensively for a confident course of action. Japan must double down on moves to engage China, given the difficulty of enlisting Europe and Southeast Asia in a coalition versus China. While economic security is important, including semi-conductors, and competition will intensify in more areas, it is important to explore with China possibilities for mutual benefit.
On March 31, Asahi editorialized on searching for a path of coexistence with China in the Indo-Pacific. Praising Japan’s positive role contributing to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific, it criticized the lack of effort to boost ties with China, which has influence in the region. Kishida has just visited India and issue a new plan for developing the FOIP, refusing to recognize change through coercion and economic pressure, while advancing four pillars for peace and prosperity. He declared that Japan, combining public and private sources, would assist with more than $7.5 billion until 2030. The FOIP has added significance in light of the divisive invasion of Ukraine, and with a broad vision it can avoid a split in international society. However, in Kishida’s speech on Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands, there was no mention of China. The FOIP appears as encirclement of China and a countermeasure to the BRI. To counter that, Abe had spoken of cooperation with China. It is necessary to seek deeper dialogue with China and co-prosperity, not the current Sino-US confrontation and Japan’s security policy shift.
On April 3, Asahi covered the visit of Foreign Minister Hayashi to Beijing, appealing for dialogue instead of confrontation. It called for rebuilding relations, including with “pipes.” This was the first visit of a Japanese foreign minister to China in 39 months. Despite the November Kishida-Xi agreement to improve ties and a January meeting of foreign ministry officials, things have not gone smoothly. A Japanese company employee in Beijing was charged with spying, spreading alarm among other employees. Chinese military vessels are more active in Japan’s vicinity, and Hayashi emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. In turn, Japan has decided on counterstrike capabilities and a big jump in defense expenditures. Both sides need to reduce tensions; the China-Japan-South Korea summit—not held since 2019—must resume; and Japan’s decision to limit exports of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, clearly aiming to cooperate with the US in containing China, poses problems for two historically close neighbors and Japan’s biggest trading partner. It is necessary to work harder at neighborhood diplomacy so that thar there is no bad influence of the US-China confrontation on global stability and the economy.
On April 3, the meeting of the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers drew praise for dialogue to manage crises and preparations for summit visits. It is China’s turn to visit, but after Xi was not able to make a state visit in the spring of 2020, conditions are not ripe for him to come. If Prime Minister Li were to come, that would open the door to a Kishida visit to China. Noting the improvement in Japan-ROK ties, China is focusing on a China-Japan-South Korea summit. Despite arrests of Japanese in Chinese and the Senkaku maritime incursions, it would benefit both sides for trade to pick up, excluding semi-conductors and advanced technology. Japan would like more stable relations.
Yomiuri on April 4 also assessed the foreign ministers’ meeting in Beijing, starting with the arrest of a Japanese employee, and warned of loss of trust in international society including Hayashi’s deep concern about repeated territorial infringements near the Senkaku Islands. It noted that in the course of the meeting, something hard to believe occurred—a Chinese coast guard vessel stopped in Japanese territorial waters for more than 80 hours—the longest in the 12 years since the islands were nationalized. While economic cooperation and exchanges are advanced, there should not be indifference to Japanese appeals or to cultivating mutual trust. It is important not only to continue high-level exchanges but also to strengthen defense versus China’s aggression.
A Yomiuri editorial on April 4 regretted the lack of progress in resolving issues with China from arrests of Japanese for spying to the incursions by the Senkakus. This raised doubts as to whether China really wants to improve relations. Despite showing hospitality to Kishida, no progress occurred in clearing concerns. Yet high-level exchanges are important, notably as Japan boosts its forces on its island near Taiwan, while improving deterrence in that area. On April 7, Yomiuri editorialized that Japan needed to step up more on Taiwan, as China reacted to Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with the current speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy in California. China was raising military tension and threatening peace, and Taiwan needed to solidify ties to the democratic camp.
Sankei on April 4 assessed the foreign ministers’ meeting too, asking incredulously why success in the talks was declared. None of Japan’s concerns was resolved. Yet, the Japanese side praised the important success in agreeing on reconvening the China-Japan-South Korea summit and foreign ministers’ dialogue. Timing in diplomacy is important. Kishida’s visit to Kyiv and Xi’s to Moscow show the world contrasting postures, as Tsai Ing-wen is set to stop in the US. For the Japanese foreign minister to visit Beijing at this time, doesn’t that suggest a Japan-Taiwan split and please China?
In Kokusai Mondai, No. 2, Aoyama Rumi wrote about the world splitting into blocs and China’s Global South policy. Xi’s foreign policy has a strong ideological streak, while siding with Russia and confronting the West, he prioritizes not forging alliances but tightening ties and altering the existing international order through South-South cooperation. The confrontation with the US is now economic and ideological as well as political and strategic, perhaps more of a “hot war” than the US-Soviet clash. Already 149 countries have exchanged documents with China as part of the BRI, while the US is advancing its Indo-Pacific strategy, deepening alliance ties to Japan, and forging new groupings in 2021, as Japan leads CPTPP and US leads the IPEF.
Noting the 2019 AOIP declaration of ASEAN, Aoyama pointed to the balanced approach now spreading “to be a friend to all, but an enemy to none.” This being the case, what is China’s diplomatic priority, stressing talk of the Global South at the 20th Party Congress and finding signs of more ideology in policy, the likelihood of escalation in confronting the US, and a shift from economic development to security, a term used 91 times in Xi’s party report accentuating that the world is at a historical crossroads. Along with his Global Development Initiative (GDI), he added a Global Security Initiative (GSI), one element of which repeats Putin’s language for invading Ukraine, i.e., “indivisibility of security.” Since the end of the Cold War, China has stressed “great power diplomacy” (i.e., the US and the West), “neighborhood diplomacy,” “diplomacy with developing countries,” and “multilateral diplomacy.” Now the focus has turned to the Global South, which builds on some of these prior themes and on the BRI as well as BRICS and the SCO. On Russia, the ideological element is pronounced. Central Asia is a target, taking advantage of Russia’s focus on Ukraine, the natural gas war between Russia and Turkmenistan, the pandemic arrangements from 2020, and the retreat of European and US firms from the region in 2022.
The article next turns to Southeast Asia, noting infrastructure projects, including the leap in Sino-Indonesian trade in 2021 by 59%. Through bilateral talks, China has avoided sharp clashes over the South China Sea and at the end of 2022 proposed joint maritime patrols with Vietnam. Later, the focus shifts to the Pacific Islands, where Chinese interest is strong. Not demanding alliances and making it easy for centrally controlled economies to become part of China’s camp, China is leading the world to a battle between democratic and authoritarian systems.
In the April 5, Chian Taro in Maida news assessed Foreign Minister Hayashi’s reception in China. Noted was Huanqiu Shibao’s April 3 criticism of Japan as the “tiger’s pawn” of the US. A day earlier, China had appealed to Hayashi to strengthen economic and cultural ties. Only by refraining from close support of the US would China’s precondition be met to improve ties, the paper argued. The Japanese analysis held that after its zero-Covid policy, China is anxious to improve its economy, reaching out to many economic powers, but insisting that relations with the US are hopelessly antagonistic. Meanwhile, China’s arrest of a Japanese company employee has riled relations further. Explaining the contradiction in China’s approach, the article posited that two schools are fighting over policy: a hard line and a moderate group, which focuses on economic needs and is seeking better ties with Japan, as its firms accelerate their departure from China. Japan’s imposition of export controls on advanced semi-conductors, after the US decision to do so, has particularly upset China. In the event of a Taiwan contingency, the article foresees not only attacks on US and SDF bases in Japan, but also cyberattacks, disinformation, and sanctions, as well as increased hostage-taking.
In Kokusai Mondai, No. 2, Miyamoto Yuji asked if it is possible to reestablish constructive, stable relations with China, marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic normalization. Relations were based on the existing international order. Rising self-confidence and reduced fear of the impact of opposing the Western-led international order, especially from 2001, freed relations from a narrow bilateral framework. In 2008, under the impact of Chinese nationalism, relations started to reverse, as Chinese military power grew rapidly. It was directed at Japan over the Senkakus in 2010 and especially from 2012. Then a Taiwan contingency entered the picture, as security rose to the front. Xi Jinping exerted more power in the South China Sea to alter the status quo and advanced the BRI as a step to reform the international framework. “Wolf warrior” diplomacy followed along with claims to have a new development model different from that of the West, while challenging the US in all areas. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was premised on its relations with China, as both sought to shake up the existing international order. If China heads this way, it will mean a complete defeat for Japanese diplomacy, substituting Chinese values for universal ones and rejecting a Western-led international framework. This also goes against China’s own interests, having used the existing order to reform and strengthen. In October 2022, Xi was ambiguous about the existing order, insisting on his support for it in some ways, as in favoring free trade and globalization against protectionism and decoupling. Avoiding a new cold war is critical to maintaining Chinese economic development and realizing the “China Dream.” Thus, emphasis is put on the clash with the US not being ideological but a traditional great power competition, hoping for at least five years to avoid conflict through a détente and claiming to only seek reform in the international framework, while the West’s challenge to China is halted.
An April 25 Sankei opinion piece attacked China’s ambassador to France for denying sovereignty to former republics of the Soviet Union. Rejecting the international order that was established with the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was partially corrected by the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry. Unless China reconsiders and accepts internationally recognized boundaries, including in Crimea, its claim to be an intermediary in the Ukraine war should not be trusted.
In the May Gaiko, Mifune Emi assessed Xi Jinping’s March 20-22 visit to Moscow and the Chinese 12-point proposal on Ukraine. Rejecting the claim that Beijing is neutral on the Russia-Ukraine war, she notes the leaders’ claim to be strengthening relations and the Chinese press assertion that the two states have similar objectives. Xi’s praise for Putin as a friend and his contribution to Russia’s development left no ambiguity. An impression was left of China legitimizing the invasion, a sharp contrast to Kishida’s simultaneous visit to Ukraine, speaking out against the aggression and winning Zelenskyy’s support for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept and principles opposed to Chinese behavior in Asia, albeit without naming China. Mifune warns of Chinese pressure for a ceasefire, leaving Ukraine in a disadvantageous position. Tracing many of the 12 points in China’s proposal, she shows how some echo the views of Putin and are far from neutrality. The West should not have any illusions on this.
On March 21, Yomiuri headlined its coverage of the Kishida-Modi summit by pointing to a linkup to maintain order. For Kishida it was a matter of opposing Russia’s war and China’s hegemonic behavior. He set forth a new plan for FOIP, while coordinating the G7 in May and G20 hosted by Modi in September. Kishida was strengthening ties to the representative of the Global South. Agreement was reached on a new loan for the construction of a high-speed railroad.
Kasai Ryohei in the April Voice reflected on continuity and change in India in the context of the Ukraine war. India is on the rise 75 years after its independence with a GDP surpassing Great Britain’s just as someone of Indian descent became prime minister of its former colonizer. Now leading the G20, India is dreaming big, as the world watches its mix of membership in the Quad and close ties to Russia coupled with a huge increase in purchases of its oil in 2022, if at a discount. Modi’s remarks that this is not an era of war and warnings against the use of nuclear weapons distance India some from Russia, while Modi’s decision not to go to Russia in 2022 defied the annual summit exchanges the two countries have been holding, similar to Japan’s annual summit exchanges with India. Is calming rhetoric just an effort to assuage concerns in the West? Will India act to maintain grain exports? It will be difficult to steer a path between Ukraine and Russia. India could be a big factor in the way this was ends up resolved.
In the April/May Gaiko, Tamari Kazutoshi analyzed India’s Indo-Pacific diplomacy, the new axis of its foreign policy, and the prospect of Japan linking the G7 and G20 with emphasis on trust-building. India is trumpeting its G20 role by proclaiming its leadership of the Global South. The focus is put on consciousness of the Global South as a unit and how this vast expanse has been buffeted by the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, accumulated debt, food and energy prices, and security challenges, just as world attention has turned elsewhere. No longer are China and India grouped together, China is excluded from the entity facing theses troubles and those labeled victims of today’s conflicts. Japan seeks to use its leadership of the G7 and ties to India to find common ground as a bridge with the Global South. India’s is competing with China there. Given its determination to both maintain ties to Russia and constrict China through the Quad, India is walking a tightrope. The worst-case scenario would be Russia, China, and Pakistan joining against India, although many in India foresee gradual distancing from Russia. Limiting price rises are critical in advance of the 2024 elections, especially of the three F’s: food, fuel, and fertilizer. In assuming leadership of the Global South, Modi promotes values distinct from both liberal democracy and authoritarianism, but he is not breaking away from the Quad and Indo-Pacific. He divides the world into three levels, separating the Indo-Pacific from the global and from South Asia. The Global South focus can be seen as an extension of non-alignment, if limited.
An article in Toa, No. 3, by Suzuki Kazuto, started with the comment that in light of Japan’s diplomatic and security perspective, India’s behavior has been extremely difficult to understand. This applies not only to its stance on Russia (abstaining on UN resolutions and even offering tacit support), but also in its booming imports from China. The explanation offered is that there are two Indias, a continental one and a maritime one. There is little chance that Quad partners will play a role in border disputes or geopolitics of a continental nature, while Russia is considered of value in dealing with China or Pakistan and supplied arms when others were wary after India’s nuclear test in 1998. In contrast, maritime India cannot depend on Russia. Even so, while Japan focuses on economic security with the view that dependence on China is a threat, India, despite its refusal to accept China’s G5 communications, is hardly connecting economics and security. Given the huge gap between Indian and Japanese perceptions of China, some are asking if India can be a trustworthy partner. The article does not try to answer this question.