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Council on Foreign Relations Spotlight on Japan
Spring/Summer 2013

Japan Program Events

Tadashi Yamamoto Memorial Seminar

On May 2 at CFR, the Japan Program hosted the first in a series of annual seminars in honor of Tadashi Yamamoto, founder and longtime president of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). Members of JCIE's Study Group on Political Leadership in Japan shared their insights on Japan's domestic politics and the impact of the new government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


Peggy Blumenthal, chair of the board of JCIE, opened with remarks on Tadashi Yamamoto's legacy as a leader and advocate for U.S.-Japan relations. James Gannon, executive director of JCIE, said it was particularly fitting that the inaugural seminar should feature a group of young political scientists and politicians looking for what leadership really means in Japan.


In the day's final panel, three members from the Japanese Diet—Takao Ochi (LDP), Seiji Kihara (LDP), and Yasushi Adachi (JRP)—joined Gerald L. Curtis, Burgess professor of political science, Columbia University, for a discussion on Japan's next-generation politicians. While the three disagreed on the specific policy reforms they would like to see implemented, there was a general consensus on the need for stronger political leadership in Tokyo to address Japan's challenges.


Japan's Maritime Strategy

On May 22 at CFR, Vice Admiral Yoji Koda (ret.) discussed Japan's changing strategic environment and how this affects its maritime strategy. Koda acknowledged that China's naval buildup was natural given its dependence on the sea for trade, but said it also caused great uncertainty for U.S. and Japanese security planners. He emphasized that the two allies should increase joint interoperability and utilize the natural complementarity of their forces to better defend Japan's southwestern island chain.


U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group

On May 7 at CFR, members of the independent, bi-national U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group discussed the broader strategic implications of the Fukushima accident. L. Gordon Flake, executive director, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, shared the recommendations of the group's Final Report. Takuya Hattori, president, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, discussed lessons learned from Fukushima and how Japan's emerging nuclear safety regulations would affect its future energy mix.


Japanese Nationalism and Foreign Policy

On April 29 at CFR, Gerald L. Curtis discussed his article, "Japan's Cautious Hawks: Why Tokyo Is Unlikely to Pursue an Aggressive Foreign Policy," from the March/April 2013 edition of Foreign Affairs. While Abe's election as prime minister has some worrying that Japan could part with its pacifist strategy of the past seventy years, Curtis argued that Tokyo's new leaders are pragmatic and the U.S.-Japan alliance will continue to be vital.


Japan's Monetary Policy

On March 18 at CFR, Paul Sheard, executive managing director, chief global economist, and head of global economics and research, Standard & Poor's, discussed future prospects for the Bank of Japan and "Abenomics." Sheard argued that Japan's central bank should play a more active role in ending deflation and improving consumer expectations about the economy. He stressed, however, that a strong, credible message from the bank would need to be backed up by policy actions if Prime Minister Abe hoped to keep his momentum going.


Economic Fallout from the Senkaku Dispute

On March 1 at CFR, Richard Katz, editor, The Oriental Economist Report, discussed Japan-China economic relations since tensions last fall over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands led to anti-Japanese riots and the boycott of Japanese products. While Katz acknowledged the damage done to bilateral relations, he argued that Japan-China economic interdependence—together with Washington's commitment to defend Japan—would still limit the scope of future conflicts as well as the likelihood of an armed clash.


Prime Minister Abe's Foreign Policy

On January 25 at CFR, Yukio Okamoto, senior fellow, Center for International Studies, MIT, discussed how Prime Minister Abe's new cabinet will affect Japan's foreign policymaking. Okamoto praised Abe's pragmatism in choosing his cabinet members, and expressed hope that he would exercise similar judgment in improving Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors. Particularly in the case of China, Okamoto emphasized that deep-seeded distrust would make resolution of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands difficult for any leader.


A Sino-Japanese Clash in the East China Sea

Sheila A. Smith argues in a new CFR Contingency Planning Memorandum, A Sino-Japanese Clash in the East China Sea, that the United States has considerable interest in doing all that it can to prevent armed conflict between Japan and China, and should pursue three policy goals: promote de-escalation of the dispute, initiate crisis management consultations with Japan, and intensify efforts to create multilateral maritime risk reduction mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific region. Read the Contingency Planning Memorandum »

More Writings on Japan By Sheila Smith

Sheila A. Smith is CFR's senior fellow for Japan studies and director of the Japan studies program.

Lessons of Futenma for Future Basing in Japan

U.S. forward deployed forces in Japan continue to represent the foundation of U.S. deployments across the Asia Pacific. Sustainable use of these forces will depend on new strategies for ensuring Japanese public and government support for the alliance. Read the Book Chapter »

Abe to Xi: Shall We Dance?

Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations face several challenges, particularly the territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Read the China-US Focus Article »

What Is the Way Forward for Territorial Disputes in the East China Sea?

The East China Sea is a source of vital resources, especially fisheries and natural resources like gas and oil. Regional cooperation on fisheries conservation as well as joint energy development projects could go a long way to offsetting tensions over territorial disputes. Read the Ask CFR Experts »

From Asia Unbound

On the Asia Unbound blog, six CFR experts analyze issues emerging in Asia today. Sheila A. Smith analyzes Japan's domestic politics and foreign policy. Subscribe to Smith's blog posts via RSS »

Why Resurrect the Divisive Politics of Yasukuni?

The revival of Yasukuni Shrine visits presents a serious diplomatic setback for Tokyo. More importantly, it reveals the reactive nationalisms afoot in Northeast Asia are dangerous and unpredictable. Read the Post »

Japan Prepares for Pyongyang’s Worst

The most recent round of escalatory tensions emanating from Pyongyang has been a source of deep concern for Japan. Yet the Abe cabinet maintains quiet vigilance, largely in an effort not to contribute to the dangerous dynamics surrounding the peninsula. Read the Post »

Post-Summit Decisions for Prime Minister Abe

In Washington, Prime Minister Abe declared that "Japan is Back!" It may be too early to declare economic victory, but politically Abe has certainly changed the tenor of Japan's domestic debate. Read the Post »

Who’s in Charge?

If Tokyo and Beijing want to contain the escalatory dynamics between their forces in the East China Sea, then they should begin work on processes for better managing an already dangerous situation. Read the Post »

Presidential Inbox: U.S. Policy in Northeast Asia

Northeast Asia demands the full and long-term strategic attention of the Obama administration, and articulating the future direction of the Asia pivot will be essential to maintaining regional confidence in the United States. Read the Post »


Japan Program in the News

Nikkei Shimbun: (Japanese only) 橋下氏発言、米外交専門家に聞く (May 18, 2013)

Asahi Shimbun: (Japanese only) 維新・橋下氏、止まらぬ持論 「慰安婦必要」石原氏が同調 (May 15, 2013)

CCTV: Japan-China Dispute (April 25, 2013)

Wall Street Journal Japan Real Time: Kerry Reassures Tokyo—For Now (April 15, 2013)

PBS Newshour: From "Abenomics" to North Korean Nukes (April 8, 2013)

Marketplace: U.S. Ambassadors Tapped for Their Connections, Cash-Raising (April 8, 2013)

Nikkei Shimbun: (Japanese only) グローバルオピニオン (March 4, 2013)

Wall Street Journal Market Watch: Growth, Trade in Focus at Obama-Abe Meeting (February 21, 2013)

Asahi Shimbun: (Japanese only) 安倍首相、勝負の訪米 (February 21, 2013)

Wall Street Journal: Japan's Abe Aims to Forge Deeper Ties on Visit to U.S. (February 20, 2013)

NBC: Huge Military Exercise Highlights Rebalancing of U.S. Policy Toward Asia (February 15, 2013)

New York Times: Deep-Sea Drilling Muddies Political Waters (February 6, 2013)