The election of the hawkish Shinzo Abe as Japan's prime minister has the world worrying that Tokyo is about to part with its pacifist strategy of the last 70 years. But Japan's new leaders are pragmatic, and so long as the United States does not waver in its commitment to the country's defense, they are unlikely chart a new course.
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Two trends represent Korea today: South Korea's extraordinary economic boom and North Korea's stagnation and provocation.
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Japan is undergoing profound changes that are empowering its political leadership at the expense of its bureaucracy.
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Sheila A. Smith says Yoshihiko Noda will need to stitch together a frayed party and a fractured public to lead Japan — and stay in power.
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Is it too late to convince North Korea and Iran to dismantle their nuclear programs?
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The treaty that forms the backbone of postwar relations between Washington and Tokyo is one of the most enduring treaties since the Peace of Westphalia.
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By exposing them to the truth about their impoverishment and about the prosperity of their South Korean cousins, the United States can encourage North Koreans to change the regime in Pyongyang.
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The DPJ's rise to power is a historic opportunity for Japan to revise the constitution, loosen the bureaucracy's grip on policymaking, redistribute income, and improve relations with the rest of Asia. But the road will be long and tortuous.
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Japan should not apologize for its past aggression by emulating the contrition that Germany has displayed since the mid-1960s because it would risk a nationalist backlash.
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Financial sanctions have become a key tool of U.S. foreign policy. Measures taken against Iran and North Korea make clear that this new financial statecraft can be effective, but true success will require persuading global banks to accept a shared sense of risk.
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The Bush legacy in Asia is positive and the next admistration can continue this trend by continuing multilateral engagement with Japan and China.
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Why North Korea will not change.
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After 60 years of U.S. domination, the balance of power in Northeast Asia is shifting. The United States is in relative decline, China is on the rise, and Japan and South Korea are in flux. To maintain U.S. power in the region, Washington must identify the trends shaping this transition and embrace new tools and regimes that broaden the United States' power base.
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The outcome of the North Korean nuclear saga has been held up as an example of the Bush administration defying its bellicose reputation and using multilateralism and diplomacy to defuse a crisis. But in fact, the story is one of extremely poor policymaking and a persistent failure to devise a coherent strategy -- with the result that North Korea has managed to dramatically expand its nuclear capability.
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Shinzo Abe has had a tough act to follow since succeeding the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi as Japan's prime minister. Abe has already shown himself to be adept in the field of foreign affairs, and Tokyo's influence is likely to increase with him at the helm. But it remains uncertain whether he can keep the momentum going on the reforms needed to stave off economic stagnation.
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This module features teaching notes by CFR Senior Fellow and Director of CFR's Center for Preventative Action Paul B. Stares, coauthor of Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea, along with other resources to supplement the text. This Council Special Report addresses the foreign policy challenge of how the United States and its allies can prepare for the possibility of sudden and destabilizing change in North Korea.
See more in North Korea, International Peace and Security