Country Report: Japan (November 2023)
Across the two months of September and October 2023, Japanese articles covered the UN General Assembly leaders’ meeting, the G20 summit, a difficult phase of Sino-Japanese ties impacted by Japan’s Fukushima water discharge and China’s arrest of a Japanese businessman, China’s BRI forum, and, above all, India’s rise as a great power. Russian diplomacy with both North Korea and China also garnered rapt attention. The Global South attracted ample interest, with the US remaining in the background compared to both India and China.
On September 1 Yomiuri covered arms exports, noting an agreement on exporting the Japan-Great Britain-Italy next-generation tank, advancing Japan’s export possibilities, but adding that Komeito (the party of peace) still opposes lethal arms to Ukraine. Should the status quo be changed by force in East Asia, the same restrictions would appear to apply, it concluded.
On September 16 Yomiuri reported on the establishment of an office of the US space force in Japan. This followed the November 2022 creation in Hawaii of the Indo-Pacific space force and the December 2022 establishment of a US space force office in South Korea. In August at the Camp David trilateral agreement was reached on cooperation in space, and the office in Japan aims to further trilateral linkages. The same issue covered a plan for Taiwan troops to exercise in the United States on a scale of 600-800 soldiers by 2025. Also 2000-3000 US defense personnel will be visiting Taiwan for short-term training purposes.
On September 21 Yomiuri reported on the deepening isolation of the Nikai faction of the LDP. Nikai Toshihiro is pushing for the 2025 Osaka/Kansai exposition and diplomacy with China, but the prospects are not looking good for his China-centered approach.
On tourism to Japan, Yomiuri on September 21 noted that the level has returned to 86% of the pre-pandemic scale. Of the 2.156 million tourists in August, many attracted by a devalued yen, 6%, and Hong Kong at 206,000 was up 8%. China at 364,000 was down 64%, but on August 10 the Chinese government’s restrictions on group travel were lifted, leading to high expectations for the October 1 holiday period.
On September 21 Yomiuri focused on the aim to reach agreement in November at APEC on three areas of IPEF, having already done so on supply chains. Talks this month in Bangkok covered trade, the green economy, and a fair economy. Since Biden announced IPEF in May 2022, keeping the US involved after it pulled out of TPP, talks have advanced.
An October 25 Yomiuri article observed that Japan’s GDP has slipped to fourth place, falling behind Germany with 2/3 of Japan’s population after the yen grew further devalued. It warned that this reduces Japan’s international influence. Abe’s 2015 plan to raise the GDP has failed. As other states have rebounded from the 2020 COVID impact with GDPs more than 20 percent over the 2019 level (Germany is 14 percent over), Japan has fallen 17 percent. China’s GDP is now 4 times that of Japan. India is set to surpass Japan in 2026, and Great Britain may do so in 2030. This will accelerate foreign businesses coming to Japan to export from there.
Kamikawa Yoko, who just became foreign minister, was set to make her debut at the General Assembly in advance of Kishida’s trip, where she would lead the G7 in talks on Ukraine and other subjects and make Japan’s presence felt, wrote Yomiuri on September 16. She is identified as having studied at Harvard, served on the staff of the US Senate, three times served as justice minister, and been part of the international faction of the LDP.
Appointed as foreign minister in the September 13 cabinet shuffle, Yoko made her debut days later using English and chairing the G7 at the UN in opposition to their use of the veto. Kishida spoke there of his life’s work on behalf of denuclearization. Also on September 20, Yomiuri covered the appeal at the UN of developing countries with Modi playing a leading role for assistance from the US, Europe, and Japan after being hit with inflation in food and energy prices. If in 2022 the UN high-level week focused on Ukraine support, this time it was on the dissatisfaction of the “Global South,” blaming one-sided attention to Ukraine.
On September 21 Yomiuri discussed the approaches toward the “Global South” of the United States/Europe and Russia, including Zelenskyy’s overtures stressing this region. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, the Ukrainian leader appealed to this region, as did Biden in his speech on September 19. Countries there narrowly prioritize their own national interests, leaving a gap in their thinking with the US, Europe, and Ukraine. On the 21st Yomiuri editorialized that states in the “Global South” put food and energy above assistance to Ukraine, urging efforts to change their thinking. Kishida should lead in concrete proposals for Security Council reform, an editorial added, sating that after the invasion of Ukraine, an opportunity has opened, given that the Security Council, as on North Korea, is not reflecting the changes in international society.
On September 30 Yomiuri discussed Japan’s UN diplomacy, pointing to linkages with developing counties in containing Russia at a time of two, overlapping clashes: East versus West, reviving the Cold War, and North versus South, between developed and developing states. The first is not ideological but over maintenance of the liberal, international, post-Cold War order. The second is about strengthening the voice of states. This complex picture makes Japan’s UN diplomacy difficult. Kishida sought to appeal to the “Global South” in his September 19 speech, stressing the UN Charter’s respect for humanity, knowing that values diplomacy is not working.
Early in September, alarm was building over China’s response to the water discharge, as schools for Japanese in China were targeted with hate behavior. Yomiuri on August 30 listed dates of concern: September 3 victory day in the resist Japan war; September 11 when Senkaku was nationalized by Japan, September 18 commemorated for the Manchurian incident and when demonstrations in 2012 rattled about 100 cities. On September 2 the paper covered Foreign Minister Hayashi’s appeals for support on the discharge issue to the “Global South.”
On September 6 at the ASEAN summit, a big theme was Kishida’s push for support on the water discharge issue. The Sino-Japanese struggle was extending to appeals to the “Global South,” as Yomiuri reported that day. An editorial in Yomiuri on that day emphasized that Kishida is seeking to persuade countries with science and reason, while also talking to China to get its agreement.
On September 3 Yomiuri reported on the responses in neighboring countries to China’s new map. India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia were impacted, and the article expected the issue to reverberate in the month’s summits across the region. On September 8, covering the ASEAN summit, the paper asked if China would continue to lose trust, as was happening over its hegemonic behavior and late May map.
On September 7 Yomiuri reviewed responses to China at the ASEAN summit. Concerns were raised about dangerous behavior in the South China Sea and the newly issued Chinese map. Premier Li Qiang sought strengthened cooperation over supply chains and the BRI, but in spite of his conciliatory mood, wariness was apparent as US influence has been growing, notably in the Philippines but also in Vietnam, which Biden was soon to visit. Special note was taken of Yoon Suk-yeol’s role at the ASEAN + 3 summit, making concrete his December 2022 Indo-Pacific strategy and in various ways containing China without saying so. He strengthened maritime security cooperation with ASEAN, fought against Southeast Asia’s role as a source of funds for North Korea, and pressed for increased exports to the area after they had grown by 70% from 2016. Overall, stress was put on understanding shown by South Korean and ASEAN states for Japan’s position on the discharge and on restraining China. Li Qiang showed restraint on the water discharge, as China’s isolation on this was conspicuous in the world.
On September 19 Yomiuri reported on the drop-off in coverage in China of the Fukushima water discharge, despite further news control. On the sensitive historical date of September 18 police ten to twenty deep had protected the Shenyang consulate and Beijing embassy. In Indonesia, Premier Li Qiang had expressed a desire for improved bilateral ties, and in Northeast China customers have been returning to Japanese restaurants.
An editorial in the September 10, Yomiuri asked if China could find a new path for BRI on its 10th anniversary. After some success in building infrastructure and expanding trade, it has run into difficulty. Italy is pulling out, and other participants are considering their options. While it did not put conditions, such as US and European political conditions, it did not lead to state’s autonomy or personnel training, while repayment has proven difficulty. Transparency is needed. Prevailing secret conditions are being criticized. In opposing the US, EU, and Japan and lauding Sino-Russian comity, international trust in BRI is being lost.
The September 29 Yomiuri pointed to signs of searching for improvement in Japan-China relations after China’s response to the Fukushima water release. On September 28, in honor of the 45th anniversary of the 1978 bilateral treaty, the Chinese embassy hosted a reception. Nikai and the Komeito’s Yamaguchi as well as former prime minister Fukuda attended, In November, there could be a Kishida-Xi meeting at APEC and a trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting in South Korea.
On October 8, Yomiuri editorialized about blocking the penetration of China’s disinformation abroad, taking particular note of the water discharge issue. The impact in the media across the Global South was covered. To counter the information war, Japan was asked to step up warnings and to increase cooperation with others sharing democratic values as in the US and Europe.
The October 11 Yomiuri covered the state of Sino-Japanese relations, which have worsened badly with China’s response to the water discharge, pointing to China’s disinformation war as a factor. The article credited Kishida with many diplomatic successes, but it argued that improving ties with China remained on the to-do list along with restarting dialogue with Kim Jong—un, which in May appeared possible before a revival of COVID led to further border closings. Noted is the Kishida faction’s record of diplomacy with China, including Ohira’s role as foreign minister in normalization and Miyazawa’s role in arranging the Emperor’s visit to China. In September at ASEAN meetings, Li Qiang gave a forward-looking message. Kishida seems keen on not arousing China again, causing nervousness around him over the emphasis he is placing on dialogue. In an accompanying note on poll data, Chinese were more likely to view relations as good or not bad (37 versus 8 percent) but also more likely to expect a military clash within years (53 versus 40 percent).
On the BRI forum on October 14 Yomiuri wrote that contradictions and limits were in evidence, as this project acquired a more confrontational image versus the US and Europe with Putin in the limelight. It has achieved a degree of political success in penetrating the Global South. In 2013 it was contending with TPP. Over a decade it led to $2.4 trillion in infrastructure investment while boosting China’s centrality. After 2018 it expanded to Latin America and the Polar Silk Route. Intentions shifted, raising debt trap and security wariness, while the focus has shifted to Sino-US rivalry in plans for expanding influence in the Global South.
The October 20 Yomiuri indicated that improved Sino-Japanese relations are far off despite the hope that on the 45th anniversary of the 1978 treaty on October 23 a different mood could be fostered, leading to a Kishida-Xi summit at APEC in November. Japanese public attitudes have worsened further. The era of China stressing economics is no longer present. The anti-spy law has impacted the investment spirit of Japanese companies in China is the downbeat message.
Reporting on the 19th Tokyo-Beijing forum in Beijing, Yomiuri on October 21 noted the joint statement in favor of renewing the consciousness of the peace and friendship treaty 45 years earlier. After numerous harassing phone calls to the Japanese embassy and others, the path to constructive bilateral relations will be difficult, and China’s ambassador to Japan brought up the “nuclear contaminated water,” while the recent arrest of a Japanese worker in China for spying was not mentioned. The forum resumed after four years and is set for Tokyo in the coming year. Kishida sent a message at the opening, and both foreign ministers did as well.
The October 24 Yomiuri covered the mutual congratulations of prime ministers in honor of the 45th anniversary of the 1978 treaty despite no concrete plans to overcome the setbacks over the water discharge and arrest of a Japanese employee in China. Foreign ministers attended the respective celebrations. At the 35th anniversary exchange messages were postponed over the Senkaku issue. The 40th went much as this occasion dud, Kishida aims for a meeting with Xi at APEC, and China is forward-looking to draw investments, but it is not clear how concerns are resolved.
An October 25 Yomiuri article examined Chinese economic pressure, treated as intensifying. Noting export controls on Japan from rare-earth restrictions in 2010 to marine products in 2023, the article recognizes joint alarm in Japan, the US, and Europe as China’s restrictions expand. 73 cases aimed at 19 countries, areas, or the EU are cited in 2020 to 2022, where economic control is unrelated to the incidents of concern to China– Philippine bananas and Taiwan pineapples among them. They illustrate thinking that it is natural for a powerful country to make a weaker country obey. China may achieve short-term success, as in THAAD retaliation against South Korea getting it to promise the “three nos” in 2017 or the restrictions on coal and copper over the Dalai Lama’s visit to Mongolia, resulting in a statement that “Tibet is part of China.” There are many examples, however, of Chinese losses over the mid- or long-term, as in Yoon Suk-yeol’s reversal on the “three nos” and pursuit of trilateralism or Lithuania’s firm response to China with support from Europe and the United States. “Wolf-warrior diplomacy” arouses a backlash. On the Fukushima wastewater issue, Russia and the Solomon Islands concur, but China deepens its own isolation. Countries are learning to reduce their economic dependency on China by remaking their supply chains for important products.
An October 12 Yomiuri article noted deepening Japan-Taiwan economic and exchange ties in a meeting of Hagiuda (an LDP official, formerly METI minister, who also visited in 2022) and Tsai Ing-wen. The article pointed to supply chain cooperation with semi-conductors in the forefront with economic security the objective. A TSMC plant in Kumamoto is noted.
September 12 on the G20 summit, Yomiuri depicted a triumph for Modi. It took seriously the wording on territorial integrity and respect for sovereignty as a statement on Ukraine sought by Modi, insisting it was not a victory for Russian diplomacy.
On September 12 a Yomiuri editorial on the G20 summit said that without naming Russia the communique called for its cessation of war and withdrawal and rejected the threat of nuclear weapons use. Yet, compared to the 2022 G20, pressure on Russia was reduced. Given the aim of the US, EU, and Japan of tightening ties to India, they agreed, stifling their dissatisfaction. This G20 raised the voice of the “Global South.” Given that Japan has long supported these countries it must strive to serve as a bridge between them and the US and EU. On September 8 Yomiuri had described the G20 as facing an overlapping crisis of food insufficiency, energy prices, and debt payments to which the US was rushing to respond.
On September 10 Yomiuri described the joint effort led by the US and India to counter China and its debt trap BRI, to be continued from the G20 to APEC and perhaps with Biden as the key guest in January at India’s Republic Day along with a meeting of the Quad. Highlighting India’s virtual “Global South” summit of January and India’s outreach to ASEAN at the September 7 ASEAN summit, Yomiuri the next daytrumpeted India’s key role without reminding readers of the repeated overtures of Biden toward Modi throughout 2023—the year of US-India relations.
On September 24 Yomiuri covered India’s ambitions at the G20 summit: reform of the Security Council, but that is not in sight. Admitting the African Union into the G20 is a step in that direction, adding it to the G4 group proposed in 2005 of Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil. Some in the “Global South” oppose the G4 at a time both the US and Europe on one side and China and Russia on the other are appealing to it. Worsening ties with veto-holding Russia and China stands in the way of Japan, which has been leading in the debate over Security Council reform. As the next two hosts of the G20, Brazil and South Africa, are eager to pursue reform.
A September 29 Yomiuri editorial that India’s alleged role in an assassination in Canada is not good for the shared values Japan and others are seeking from their partner, and an investigation is urgently needed. This behavior raises distrust in international society and leads to accusations of “double standards” against the United States. The US, Europe, and Japan must seek respect for universal values including human rights from India, the editorial concludes.
Toa, No. 10, concentrated on India’s policies in the shadow of the US-China confrontation. It opens with Horimoto Takenori’s forecast on India as a great power, as reflected in it becoming the fourth country after the US, the Soviet Union, and China to achieve a moon landing. Along with the US and China it is a 21st-century great power, having 1.43 billion people, 5th in GDP, and 3rd in military expenses, while soon to surpass Japan and become 3rd in GDP. Geopolitically, it is well-positioned at the center of the Eurasian mainland and the Indian Ocean. By 100 years after its independence in 1947 it will be recognized as one of the G3. Having separated politics and religion under Nehru, it is under Modi becoming a Hindu state, trying to obscure its biggest internal problem, economic inequality, while drawing criticism from the European and US media. Both India and China claim to be exceptional civilizations. Japan and India are alike in their relationship with China. The Japan-India relationship serves to supplement the Japan-US one. To date, economically and militarily ties have been equal. Ahead, as India strengthens, this will have a big impact on the nature of the relationship. It is possible that concern will grow that India id becoming like China, Horimoto concludes.
Nakamizu Kazuya in Toa, No. 10, wrote about India on the path of becoming a religious state, at odds with talk of the “world’s biggest democracy.” At the same time, he is pushing to be the trusted, great power voice of the Global South. Key to the Quad and the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” on which Japan and others are counting, India is veering toward quiet authoritarianism, Nakamizu concludes, emphasizing the contradictory situation that is emerging.
In Toa, No. 10, Tamari Kazutoshi focuses on India’s foreign strategic thinking, combining the Quad with Russia, the BRICS, and the SCO, while waving the banner of the Global South. It veers between the democratic and authoritarian camps. Strategic autonomy remains the mantra along with multi-alignment. If citizens prefer Russia to the United States, policymakers and the strategic community think differently. At the global level, India seeks democratization, multilateralism, and reform of the Security Council. In its extended neighborhood, India seeks strengthened ties in all directions, deeming China the greatest threat and welcoming closer ties to Japan, America, Australia, and others with common interests—unlike its global orientation. In its direct neighborhood, it aims to be the controlling great power, wary of China’s expanded presence and previously that of the US. Through the SCO, India rivals Pakistan in Central Asia. As China’s influence grows in the SCO and BRICS, India faces a dilemma. As relations with China worsen, it is hard to manage RIC and ties with Russia more generally. In the Global South, as seen at the G20, competition with China has intensified. Japan has shown its support for India’s Global South strategy, reflected in Kishida’s March visit to India and the G7 Hiroshima summit, linking the G20 and G7 at the global level. Ukraine’s absence at the G20 and the wording of the joint statement, however, showed the difficulty of doing this, despite the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor approved at the G20. As India strengthens its role in world politics, for Japan it is becoming an increasingly important country, the article concludes.
Also in Toa, No. 10, Kasai Ryohei took a multi-layer look at Indo-Chinese relations, as two great powers whose global presence is rising rapidly and whose bilateral relationship has importance. At the regional level, there were plans for BRIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar), reaching to Kolkata from Kunming, but at the 2019 BRI forum it was no longer mentioned. Instead, CPEC from India to Pakistan alarmed India, crossing Kashmir, where India claims sovereignty. In 2022 India joined IPEF, but not its fourth trade dimension, while insisting on superiority in its own vicinity. Supported by four permanent members of the Security Council, India is only blocked for permanent membership by China. In the pandemic, China won acclaim in 2020 for “mask diplomacy,” then India in 2021 and beyond for “vaccine diplomacy.” There are both cooperative and competitive dimensions to this critical bilateral relationship, Kasai concludes, as both are contending for leadership in the Global South.
On September 3 Yomiuri equated Russia’s attitude to the Northern Territories and its justifications for invading Ukraine. As Russia commemorated the day, it changed the label in retaliation for Japan’s support to Ukraine. The new name is “Day of Victory over Militaristic Japan and the end of World War II.” Russia also is saying Japan has renewed militarism, while overlooking peaceful postwar Japan. The real militarist is Russia. And there is no justification for claiming the islands as a result of the war. Putin’s is rewriting history all around, transmitting this to Russian youngsters, and China too is using victory day to stir up anti-Japan feelings. The next day the paper reported on celebrations in the Russian Far East, including one Medvedev joined in Iuzhno-Sakhalinsk, saying Japan should learn the lessons of history and that by aiding Ukraine it is inviting a military clash. In 2022 Russia had ended talks over a peace treaty and visa-free exchanges, and its propaganda against Japan in 2023 only kept intensifying.
An October 14 Yomiuri article said there Is no progress in Japan-Russia territorial talks, citing the Tokyo Declaration of 1994 when Russia agreed that resolving the question of the return of four islands is a precondition for a peace treaty, and adding that since Russia’s Ukraine invasions talks are frozen. One of Japan’s priorities is to resume visits to ancestral graves on the islands. In May Putin left the door open for Japan to resume dialogue and cut sanctions, but Japan will stay in lockstep with the G7. Although Lavrov is expected to be at APEC in November, there is no plan for talks between foreign ministers, the article concludes.
October 19 Yomiuri reported on Putin’s meeting with Xi Jinping at the BRI forum, noting that trade over the first nine months of the year had topped $170 billion with the 2024 goal of $200 billion easily in sight. These leaders have met 42 times since 2013, it was observed, while note was taken of “honeymoon” relations, as the two authoritarian states aim to lead the world against the United States, while causing disorder in the international system. Expectations are of further economic cooperation with energy in the lead, while Putin’s words reflect the reality of subordinating to China. Despite the presence of more than 140 countries at the forum, the number of heads of state was down from the previous two forums. China has reconsidered its assistance, making sure to prioritize its own country’s interests.
On October 21 a Yomiuri evening article discussed the blow to small and middle companies from the government’s new sanctions on Russia of July 28, which took effect on August 9. This struck a blow to local economies in Hokuriku and Hokkaido, which are appealing for assistance to lessen the blow. If previously possible dual-use items were targeted, now plastic items more broadly were impacted. One Sapporo company, which counted on the Russian market for about 20 percent of its exports, 600-700 million yen annually to more than 60 factories in Sakhalin, is unable to find alternative buyers, readers are told. Already after the imposition of sanctions in March 2022 exports of 295 Japanese companies trading with Russia had fallen by 13 percent, and now further losses are unavoidable. Dealers in used cars are particularly dependent on the Russian market. They had received higher prices in Russia than domestically. One company had sold 30 cars a month to Russia, but from August only 5 were sold. In Toyama prefecture about 30 companies were shipping cars to Vladivostok on the cargo ferry, and in August their exports fell by half from July to 5921 cars. The new phase of export controls is hitting hard in late 2023.
On August 31 Yomiuri showcased the accelerating ties between Russia and North Korea with weapons transfers in the forefront. Japan signed a declaration at the UN opposed to this. On September 1, when Yomiuri discussed Russia-North Korea arms cooperation, it noted that Russians refer to a “new cold war,” as they conveniently give the North more space to operate. With Russia’s presence weakening, it is restoring a “honeymoon” with the North, whose missiles already rely on Russian technology as the possibility grows for additional cooperation in technology. On September 5 the paper followed with Defense Minister Shoigu’s official proposal in his late July visit to Pyongyang for joint Russia-China-North Korea military exercises. TASS on September 4 said it was under discussion, but Kim Jong-un’s response is not yet clear. The North meanwhile is pressing South Korean progressives on the water discharge issue to drive a wedge between Seoul and Tokyo.
An editorial in Yomiuri on September 15 commented on the Russian-North Korean summit, calling their military cooperation a challenge to the world, which also will prolong Russia’s war in Ukraine. After failing twice this year to launch a spy satellite, North Korea may can help in return for its military assistance to the North. The editorial asks how China, which has North Korea’s back, will respond to Kim Jong-un prioritizing relations with Russia. By remaining silent on the North’s nuclear and missile development, China bears responsibility for the worsening of regional tensions that it does not desire.
On Kim Jong-un’s six-day trip to Russia, Yomiuri on September 19 asked if it was successful in its military and economic goals, focusing on assistance to Kim’s satellite and ICBM programs. There is agreement to reopen twice weekly air traffic from Pyongyang to Vladivostok and the North awaits tourists from Primorskii krai to a large resort under construction there. Kim also sought help on hydroelectric power, was not interested in food aid, and was satisfied with his visit, in the view of Ambassador Alexander Matsegora, who had traveled with him and spoke to TASS.
A September 21 Yomiuri article on escapees from North Korea explained that the Sino-North Korean border has been sealed, making it physically impossible to cross. By 2025 a fence longer than 1300 km will be completed along the length of the border. Border guards in the North are being rotated to end bribe-taking. Orders exist to shoot to death those caught crossing. China is using new high-tech devices, including facial recognition, to catch escapees. False identity cards are useless against new digital means, as transportation is under tight surveillance. While about 34,000 escapees reached South Korea previously, since 2000 the number is tiny, just 67 in 2022. Of those arriving of late, almost all are workers sent to Russia and China. The aim is to cut North Korea off from South Korean culture, for which ending escapes is one measure.
Looking back on a half year since Yoon Suk-yeol announced his resolution of the forced labor compensation issue, Yomiuri on September 6 showed the progress achieved in the South on his plan and praised the dramatic improvement in bilateral relations. Shuttle diplomacy is renewed after twelve years, trilateralism is advancing, and Seoul is taking a sober look at China’s actions.
Yomiuri on September 6 noted the reform of the unification ministry in Seoul in a shift from dialogue to pressure, including human rights. Four entities are joined into one, a team is set to address abductees, and 81 staff have been cut. Meanwhile, on August 27 Kim Jong-un for the first time called South Korea “Daehan Minguk,” dropping “South Chosun,” in recognition of state-to-state relations, treating the South as an enemy country along with the United States.
On September 14 Yomiuri recognized Seoul’s stance versus China and Russia and China’s seemingly careful distancing from the tightening Russia-North Korea axis, as Seoul urged it to respond. Having North Korea’s back, China may not be happy with the tilt to Russia, the article hinted. Pyongyang tries to play Beijing off against Moscow, shifting to the former in 2018-19 but now seeking triangularity in response to the Camp David trilateral, argues a contributor. It wants a lot of weaponry from Russia, which should be wary, knowing it cannot control the North. Yet, the analysis wonders if spy satellites might be supplied.
On September 25 Yomiuri covered a South Korean military parade to be held on October 1 for the first time in a decade after Moon Jae-in refused to hold one due to his accommodating policy toward North Korea.
A Yomiuri editorial on August 30 contrasted the expanded BRICS, whose diversity and lack of shared values leaves its presence in doubt, to the G7. Xi Jinping clearly aims to use the group to oppose the US-Europe-Japan, but he cannot reorganize the international order on this basis. Russia’s status in international society is reduced, and India at the G20 in September must call for an end to the war. At odds with Xi’s agenda for BRICS is India’s closer strategic ties to the US.
Shiraishi Takashi in the October 8 Yomiuri wrote about this year’s 50th anniversary of Japan-ASEAN friendship cooperation, which will be marked by a summit in Tokyo for the first time in ten years. He noted the region’s strategic importance as the confluence of the Pacific and Indian oceans and one of the world’s growth centers but warned that ASEAN is losing its sense of direction: first because of China’s use of force to alter the status quo, causing disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, and four other countries and sharply dividing states’ geopolitical interests; second by forcing countries to choose their biggest economic interest amid reorganization of supply chains shifting production from China to the region with exports still mainly directed to the US market; and third owing to differences over Myanmar, notably due to Thailand in June inviting it to an unofficial meeting, at which Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore were absent. The countries of ASEAN are proceeding more independently, as in the case of Vietnam with the US in IPEF and a strengthened partnership; the Philippines in tightening security ties not only with the US but also to Japan and Australia; and Indonesia with a mixed approach of closer security cooperation with Japan and the US but stress on investment from China. ASEAN is losing its unity, and its centrality is also threatened. There is no consensus on how to respond. Japan in December will redouble on cooperation with it and various countries.
The United States with IPEF has expanded bilateral ties, but Biden skipped the September ASEAN summit for the G20 in India and a visit to Vietnam. Around 2030, ASEAN will surpass Japan in GDP, about 65 percent of which comes from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Supporting ASEAN centrality is important. Japan can deepen ties, given the inconsistency of the US and China’s late August map claiming all of the South China Sea. Japan can build trust through exchanges with the next generation, infrastructure assistance, and supply chain reorganization, Shiraishi argues. Another Yomiuri article by Kaneharu Nobukatsu on October 26 on the rise of the Global South observed that the share of the world’s GDP in the G7 has fallen to 50 percent, while Japan in ten years is expected to be overtaken by both India and ASEAN after falling behind China.
On October 14 a Yomiuri editorial noted that new foreign minister Kamikawa Yoko is traveling to four ASEAN countries in preparation for the December summit in her first bilateral visits, a sign of the emphasis Japan puts on Southeast Asia. In Vietnam she is discussing improvement in the investment environment as well as double taxation. Brunei is major trading partner since Japan is the biggest LNG importer from it. China’s influence in ASEAN states has grown. The United States aims through supply chain shifts here to reduce its dependence on China. There are states that do not want to get embroiled in the Sino-US struggle for hegemony. Japan can fill the role of a bridge between the United States and ASEAN, the editorial explains.
An October 24 Yomiuri article discussed the rise of mini-lateral cooperation in Southeast Asia aimed at constraining China with emphasis on the Philippines. The article equated what China is doing in the Philippine EEZ with China’s actions near the Senkaku Islands. Mention is made of US-Indonesia maritime exercises and tightening maritime cooperation with Southeast Asian states of the US, Japan, Australia, and others. Joint exercises in October with the Philippines are the largest ever with Japan and Great Britain added. With an eye to a summit with the US in November, China has softened its posture to the US, but there are limits to reforming its forceful conduct. It is not going to be successful in getting export controls on advanced technology relaxed, as China desires.
On US-Vietnam relations, the September 18 Yomiuri editorialized that ties had been raised to the level of ones with Russia and China, as Vietnam is endangered by China and its construction of islands and sinking of fishing vessels. It is getting patrol ships and joint exercises with the US. Under Biden, US ties to the Philippines and Vietnam are strengthening, the editorial notes. Days earlier, on September 12, the paper reported on US assistance for Vietnam’s maritime security in an effort to wean it away from Russian-made weapons.
On Biden’s September 25 hosting of 18 Pacific Island leaders, Yomiuri on September 27 wrote that the US is stepping up its engagement, dealing with climate change, infrastructure, and illegal fishing. There is concern that the Solomon Islands, whose leader did not attend, may let China station troops there.
On September 17 Tanaka Akihiko wrote in Yomiuri on “Inner Asia,” Central Asia, Mongolia, and three countries in the Caucuses all within sea borders except Georgia. Economically diverse and mostly authoritarian, these are states formerly part of the Soviet Union (except Mongolia) and dependent on Russia, e.g., by sending migrant labor there, yet conscious of trying to change the nature of their ties to it. Many see the fate of Ukraine as tomorrow’s fate for themselves. With Russia in the north and Afghanistan to the south, the only alternative is east through China for some as economic ties to it have been growing. In May, China made a play at the C5 summit in Xian for incorporating Central Asia into its political sphere after Tony Blinken in February had met with its foreign ministers in Kazakhstan and the EU had held a summit with the five last November. At the end of 2022 Japan held the ninth foreign ministers meeting of Central Asia + Japan along with pursuit of Mongolia and support for training as a major donor. Today, Japan seeks to be a bridge between Inner Asia and the world, while taking it as a major diplomatic stage. So far Southeast and South Asia as well as south of the Sahara are treated as objects of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” and this should be extended to all of Inner Asia, prioritizing aid to democracies and possible democracies and routes that bypass China and Russia, strategically making Japan a link to the democratic camp.