It has been a little while since the power of US foreign politics seemingly weakened, while China and Russia are increasing their respective influence on world politics. The relationship between these two nations is the closest ever after the breakup in the 1950s. The interests of Russia in gaining a large energy market in China and a powerful partner in the UN besides reducing defense costs on long borders between these two nations has overlapped with China’s current interests in securing energy supplies and avoiding any conflicts with Russia until the establishment of a strong presence in the South and East China Seas has been satisfactorily completed. Russia’s relationships with both the EU and the US have deteriorated since the Ukraine conflict has started. China as an emerging great power keeps a sharp eye on the US and vice versa. Even though US president Obama’s foreign politics shows an aversion to intervention, it is very difficult to imagine that the US is just watching while China is strengthening an already strong presence and tightening its control over the West Pacific and the Indian Ocean, where the US Navy has enjoyed undisputed control for a long time. Therefore, Japan can win some time to get ready for enhancing its defense power as long as China and Russia maintain their relationship, which irritates the US. Meanwhile Japan should also build up and strengthen its allied partnerships with Australia and other Asian nations. Japan should also try to maintain good relations with Russia because the current relationship between China and Russia might not remain forever. In addition, North Korea’s movements should also be paid close attention. Russia tries more likely to maintain cooperative relations with South Korea in order to gain a profitable market. Parallel to it, Russia might also support North Korea. The Korean Peninsula could again become a hot spot. If North and South Korea would unify, on which side such a Korea would stay? China and Russia do not desire it to be under US influence (or, for that matter, each other’s influence). Likewise, the US does not tolerate Russia or China’s influence on the peninsula. These three powerful nations would like to maintain their presence on the peninsula, i.e., the status quo might be the desired situation for the time being. An exclusively Russian or Chinese influenced Korean Peninsula also increases military tensions between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. A power balance seems to be kept currently. Thus, these involved nations have to remain in the arena with their power and should not reduce their presence or show weakness. Japan might just have a good chance to resolve the issue of the Japanese citizens abducted by the North Korean government.

 

It is obvious that the Chinese hegemonic era has come. Asian countries might be facing a very important decision: either join the cause with or try to contain China. There are some territorial conflicts in the South China Sea, but the countries in this area seem to have already accepted the hegemony. These nations received a great amount of development aid from China right after Japan had also promised high amounts of investment and development aid.[1][2] China can continue such competition, but Japan cannot because Japan aches under large debts and its economic growth has been stagnant. Nevertheless, Japan should enhance its defense forces and make every effort to reach a consensus in Asia in order to contain China’s expansionist politics there. Japan needs a determined policy to defend itself and keep peace in this unsettled region with the other Asian nations. Parallel to resolving domestic problems like an aged society, weak economics and huge debts, Japan should make efforts to enter into a fruitful dialogue with the other Asian nations including China in order to share its values and principles.

[1] The Wall Street Journal: Japan Inc. goes Deeper into Southeast Asia, September 29, 2014. [accessed December 1, 2014] http://jp.wsj.com/articles/SB11426559292233444529604580183600577790166

[2] The San-in Chuo Shimpo: Tai Ajia Gaiko (Foreign politics towards Asian countries), November 16, 2014. [accessed December 1, 2014] http://www.sanin-chuo.co.jp/column/modules/news/article.php?storyid=549151033

 

About author:

Kumiko Ahr-Okutomo

Born in Japan.

She wrote her doctoral thesis, supervised by Professor Albert A. Stahel (Strategic Studies) at the University of Zurich, about power shifts in East Asia and Japan’s security politics. She is now a research associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies of Professor Stahel.

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