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Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies

Expertise

Japanese domestic politics and foreign policy; Northeast Asia regional security; international relations of the Asia Pacific

Programs

Asia Program

Featured Publications

Testimony

U.S. Alliances in Northeast Asia

Author: Sheila A. Smith

In her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Sheila A. Smith discusses the strategic importance of the United States' relationship with Japan and South Korea and how President Barack Obama can promote the importance of both bilateral and trilateral relations.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Regional Security

All Publications

Article

Japanís Maritime Disputes: Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Authors: Sheila A. Smith and Charles McClean
Center for Naval Analyses

Sheila A. Smith and Research Associate Charles T. McClean argue that U.S. interests are affected by all three of Japan's territorial disputes with its neighbors. While the United States cannot resolve these disputes, it can and should do all that it can to promote peaceful dispute resolution and a lessening of military tensions.

See more in Japan; Sovereignty

Expert Brief

Japan's Moment of Choice

Author: Sheila A. Smith

Electoral politics in Japan have been upended with the defeat of the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party. CFR's Sheila Smith says the rise of the Democratic Party of Japan could test the U.S.-Japan alliance and advises U.S. policymakers to focus on economic and energy-related cooperation.

See more in Elections; Japan

Current Projects

Northeast Asian Nationalisms and Alliance Management

Staff: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
Director: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
September 1, 2014—Present

Japan is increasingly seen as being in the grip of nationalist politics. Regional diplomacy is rife with criticism of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and his nationalist agenda. Leaders in Beijing and Seoul both call on Washington to rein in a Japan that is provocative and revisionist. Geopolitical change presents a dangerous background in which political leaders in Northeast Asia are stoking popular sensitivities. These complex dynamics have profound implications for the United States, and U.S. concerns about nationalism in Japan are already beginning to shape alliance management. The expression of U.S. "disappointment" in the wake of Prime Minister Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December revealed serious differences between Tokyo and Washington over Abe's willingness to exacerbate tensions in the region. This project, which will run from September 2014 to March 2017, will look carefully at Japan's nationalist politics to examine their impact on the U.S.-Japan alliance, and will engage leading experts from the United States and Japan in a conversation about how to manage these reactive nationalisms in Northeast Asia. Research findings will be made available on the Asia Unbound blog on CFR.org, and through other writings. The project will culminate in a final report that will analyze the impact of nationalist politics on U.S.-Japan alliance cooperation as well as provide prescriptions for U.S. policymakers on how to navigate tensions between Japan and its neighbors in Northeast Asia.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S.-Japan Foundation.

Japanís New Strategic Challenge

Staff: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
Director: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
September 1, 2013—Present

Japan's security choices have far-reaching consequences for the United States. U.S. strategy in Asia depends heavily on Washington's alliance with Tokyo. Yet, frequent leadership changes in Tokyo have raised concerns in Washington about Japan's ability to be a strategic partner. Today, Japan faces a fundamentally different security environment. China's rise is beginning to challenge Japan's ability to pursue its national interests. Armed conflict between these two Asian neighbors has suddenly become a real possibility as a territorial dispute in the East China Sea has elevated tensions. Beijing has challenged Japan's administrative control over these islands, testing the ability of Japan's military to defend its territory. An aggressive and militarily powerful China could also test the U.S. commitment to defend Japan. Could this be the turning point for Japan? Will Japan finally assume a more proactive military posture in the U.S.-Japanese alliance? Or, will nationalism prompt Japan to act independently of U.S. strategic priorities? Dr. Smith will conduct research on the indicators of Japanese strategic transition, which will be the basis of a book on Japan's New Strategic Challenge.

This project is made possible by a grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Japanís Political Transition and the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Director: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
January 11, 2011—Present

The challenges that confront the U.S.-Japan relationship today are many, and the opportunities to devise new ways of cooperating ample. Yet we still know too little about how to adapt our alliance to the changing demands within Japan for greater accountability and transparency in governance. The March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake has confounded the governance pressures on Japan's new government, and expanded our bilateral alliance agenda. The confusion and disconnect between the two governments during the early months of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) rule suggest the need for a much better understanding of the domestic pressures on Japan's new government for change in alliance policy. The Japan studies program is excited to announce a new study to analyze domestic political change in Japan and its effect on the U.S.-Japan alliance.

This project is made possible by grants from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the U.S.-Japan Foundation.

Roundtable Series on Japan

Director: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
July 1, 2011—Present

The Roundtable Series on Japan is an ongoing series that provides a forum for leading U.S. and Japanese experts to analyze Japan's domestic and foreign policy. Of particular interest is the analysis of U.S.-Japan policy cooperation in a fluid Asia-Pacific region.

This series is made possible in part by the generosity of the following corporate and foundation sponsors: US-Japan Foundation, Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Mitsubishi International Corporation, Sony Corporation of America, Toyota Motor North America, and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

Past Projects

Is Japan in Decline?

Staff: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
November 28, 2012—Present

Japan is on the cusp of another leadership transition, and while politicians campaign for the Lower House election on December 16, larger questions about Japan's future permeate the global media. The tone outside of Japan is pessimistic, and many are dismissive of this nation's future prospects. Should we reconcile ourselves to Japan's inevitable decline, or are there other ways of considering Japan's current challenges? Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies, has initiated a broad conversation on CFR's Asia Unbound blog in which leading experts analyze Japan's economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan's future.

Regional Impulses in Northeast Asia

Staff: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies
November 14, 2007—January 14, 2010

The CFR Northeast Asia Security Architecture project began in 2007 as a track-two dialogue among Japanese, South Korean, Chinese and U.S. experts on Northeast Asian regionalism. Workshops were held across the region, first in Tokyo, then in Washington, DC, Seoul, and Beijing. Our expert team engaged important foreign policymakers in each government on the prospects for success in the Six Party Talks, as well as on the question of how best to organize an agenda for security cooperation in Northeast Asia.

China and India as Emerging Powers Project

Director: Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies

The Japan studies program is excited to announce a new project initiative, China and India as Emerging Powers: Challenge or Opportunity for the United States and Japan? This project will examine the rise of China and India in global affairs and study the economic, security, and environmental implications of global governance. Particular focus will be given to the implications for the United States and for Japanese policymaking. A core group of experts will be invited to a planning workshop in early 2009 to define policy discussions that will be held in the second and third years of the project. Envisaged policy discussion topics include: the global consequences of Chinese and Indian economic growth and the effect of the countries' simultaneous rise on global economic management; how the countries' growth will shape their global and regional military influence; the international coordination needed to manage competition for energy resources and to ameliorate the environmental consequences of global warming; and the types of influence the world might expect to see emanate from these two new globalizing power centers.

This project is made possible by a grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

CFR Events

Academic Conference Call

Japan: One Year Later

Speaker:

Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
March 8, 2012 12:00-1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

China 2025: Panel Two: China Goes Global

Moderator:

Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Panelists:

Evan A. Feigenbaum, Senior Fellow for East, Central, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, David H. Shinn, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
October 19, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium

Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership: An Agenda For Change

Chair:

Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
December 1, 2008

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Conference Panel Session

Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership, Session One: Global Transformations and the U.S.-Japan Partnership

Introductory Speaker:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Panelists:

Tanaka Akihiko, Professor of International Politics, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies and Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, and Director, Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Funabashi Yoichi, Editor-in-Chief, Asahi Shimbun
December 1, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Conference Panel Session

Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership, Session Three: Ensuring Stability in Northeast Asia

Panelists:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Tanaka Hitoshi, Senior Fellow, Japan Center for International Exchange, Gary Samore, Vice President and Director of Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Evans J.R. Revere, President, Korea Society
December 1, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

ListenWatch

Press/Panels

Bio

Sheila A. Smith, an expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, is senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Smith is currently completing the project on Japan's Political Transition and the U.S.-Japan Alliance, and has started a project on Japan's New Strategic Challenge,the subject of her next book. In fall 2014, she will launch a new project on Northeast Asian Nationalisms and Alliance Management. She also writes for the CFR blog Asia Unbound.

Smith's newest book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China (Columbia University Press, 2014), will be available in December. Among her other publications are Shifting Terrain: The Domestic Politics of the U.S. Military in Asia, East-West Center Special Report No. 8 (East-West Center, 2006) and Local Voices, National Issues: Local Initiative in Japanese Policymaking (University of Michigan Press, 2000).

Smith joined CFR from the East-West Center in 2007, where she specialized in Asia-Pacific international relations and U.S. policy toward Asia. She was also recently affiliated with Keio University in Tokyo, where she researched and wrote on Japan's foreign policy toward China and the Northeast Asian region on an Abe Fellowship. From 2004 to 2007, she directed a multinational research team in a cross-national study of the domestic politics of the U.S. military presence in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Prior to joining the East-West Center, Smith was on the faculty of the Department of International Relations at Boston University (1994–2000), and on the staff of the Social Science Research Council (1992–93). She has been a visiting researcher at two leading Japanese foreign and security policy think tanks, the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Research Institute for Peace and Security, and at the University of Tokyo and the University of the Ryukyus. She is vice chair of the U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Exchange (CULCON), a bi-national advisory panel of government officials and private sectors members. She earned her MA and PhD degrees from the department of political science at Columbia University.