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Council on Foreign Relations Spotlight on Japan
Winter 2014

Japan Program Events

Asia's Changing Security Environment

Hitoshi Tanaka, chairman of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute and senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange, spoke about the challenges and opportunities for the United States, China, and Japan as they adapt to a changing security environment in East Asia. Tanaka said that finding the "right approach" to China's rise remains the biggest task for the U.S.-Japan alliance, and that policymakers must be mindful of how Chinese domestic factors shape its foreign policy.


Japan's Political Change and Alliance Management

Kazuyoshi Umemoto, deputy permanent representative of Japan to the United Nations, shared his thoughts on Japan's leadership transitions, the role of bureaucrats and politicians, and the expectations of the Japanese public for the alliance. While Umemoto acknowledged that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) faced challenges in implementing its foreign policy agenda, he also described how the DPJ's leadership improved over its three-year tenure at the helm of Japan's government.


Historical Perceptions and U.S.-Japan Relations

A group of experts from the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)including Toshihiro Nakayama, Aoyama Gakuin University; Nobumasa Akiyama, Hitotsubashi University; Junya Nishino, Keio University; and Asuka Matsumoto, JIIAspoke on the role of history in Japan's contemporary relations with its neighbors.


The group discussed how perceptions differ in Tokyo and Washington on how Japan has dealt with its historical legacy and the implications both for regional relations and the U.S.-Japan alliance.


Japan-Korea Relations and East Asian Security

Yoshihide Soeya, director of the Institute of East Asian Studies and professor, Keio University, described Japan-Korea relations as a "paradox" with serious security implications in Northeast Asia. Soeya stressed that while ties between the people of the two countries remain strong, improving the diplomatic relationship will require greater political leadership from both Tokyo and Seoul.


Recent Writings on Japan by Sheila Smith

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

What Happened to the Asia Pivot in 2013?

Elizabeth C. Economy, Sheila A. Smith, Tim Huxley, and Michael Fullilove weigh in on what happened to Obama's Asia "pivot" in 2013, and offer their projections of what 2014 will bring for regional policy. Read the Expert Roundup »

North Korea's Role in Japan's Strategic Thinking

Since the succession of Kim Jong-un, Tokyo has put greater emphasis on ensuring it is prepared militarily for a more unpredictable Pyongyang and strengthening support for UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea's proliferation. Read the Asan Forum article »

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 »

The Constancy of Contest With Okinawa

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine's re-election has put Tokyo on notice that construction of the new runway for the Futenma Marine Air Station will incur local opposition, though the degree of discontent remains to be seen. Read the post »

Abe's Yasukuni Visit: The Consequences?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to visit the politically charged Yasukuni Shrine creates more rigidities in a region already ridden with tensions over territorial disputes, popular sensitivities, and leadership rivalries. Read the post »

A New Strategy for a New Era

Prime Minister Abe announced Japan's new National Security Strategy (NSS), which represents the first comprehensive, "whole-of-government" effort to articulate the ends and means for Japan's long-term security. Read the post »

Drawing Lines in the East China Sea

China's announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) put regional tensions on the front burner of U.S. vice president Joe Biden's trip to Northeast Asia, and highlighted the U.S. role in balancing a rising China. Read the post »

China Ups the Ante in East China Sea Dispute

Beijing's unilateral assertion of its control over the airspace above the East China Sea will further upset maritime relations in East Asia. Read the post »

A New Island Is Born

Japan witnessed the arrival of a new island after a volcanic eruption near Nishinoshima in the Bonin group of islands six hundred miles south of Tokyo. Read the post »

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and the Emperor

An aura of the past surrounded the procession that bore U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy to the Imperial Palace to present her credentials to Emperor Akihito. Read the post »

Sheila Smith Joins Forbes Asia

In January, Sheila Smith joined @Forbes as a contributor, where she will write on Japan, Northeast Asia, and U.S. policy toward the region for @ForbesAsia. Her profile page and list of recent articles can be found here:


Japan Program in the News

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Seeks Abe Assurance He Won't Visit War Shrine (January 23, 2014)

South China Morning Post: Abe's Shrine Visit Throws Regional Affairs Into a State of Confusion (January 1, 2014)

Yonhap: U.S. Sticks to 'Disappointment' Over Abe's Yasukuni Visit (December 30, 2013)

Asahi Shimbun: U.S. Expresses Disappointment at Abe Visit to Yasukuni Shrine (December 27, 2013)

Wall Street Journal: Abe Visit to Controversial Japanese Shrine Draws Rare U.S. Criticism (December 26, 2013)

Radio Free Asia: Will Beijing Declare a Special Air Defense Zone Over the South China Sea? (December 10, 2013)

AFP: U.S. Opts to Manage, Not End, China Air Zone Rift (December 7, 2013)

Los Angeles Times: China Air Zone Risks Miscalculation, Distracts Diplomacy, Experts Say (December 4, 2013)

NPR: Territorial Dispute Between China and Japan Hits the Sky (November 27, 2013)

BBC: Newspaper Barbs and US Bombers Flying After China's Air Defence Move (November 26, 2013)