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Council on Foreign Relations Spotlight on Japan
Spring/Summer 2012

Japan Program Events

Future Prospects for Japan

On June 13, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies Sheila A. Smith presided over a CFR general meeting with Mitsubishi International president and chief executive officer Seiei Ono and Hitachi America chairman Takashi Hatchoji. The New York meeting attracted an audience of over eighty prominent business leaders, academics, and experts. Mr. Hatchoji reflected on leading the recovery efforts of Hitachi, Ltd. in the wake of last year's triple disasters, while Mr. Ono focused on the effect March 11 had on Japan's energy needs.


Both CEOs emphasized the need for Japanese corporate competitiveness in the rapidly changing global market. When asked about the growing economic influence of China, both expressed confidence that Japan could compete and that Chinese and Japanese leaders would successfully overcome intermittent political frictions. Mr. Ono emphasized that the time has come for Japan to tackle its tax and social security reforms for the sake of future generations.


North Korean Regional Security

On June 19, the Japan program, in cooperation with CFR's Korea program, convened a seminar and general meeting with former Republic of Korea ministers of unification and defense Hyun In-taek and Kim Tae-young. The seminar was co-sponsored by the Ilmin International Relations Institute of Korea University, and it focused on the security implications of North Korean and Iranian proliferation as well as regional approaches to the threat posted by North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.


Both ministers discussed their time in the Lee Myung-bak administration during North Korean provocations in 2010, with Minister Hyun arguing that the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incidents were real "game changers" in deteriorating inter-Korea relations. General Kim stressed the importance of not rushing to judgment in the aftermath of the Cheonan sinking, and shared the many lessons learned by the South Korean military for future preparedness. Both ministers emphasized that South Korea's response to future provocations would be immediate and focused on the origin of attack. Watch the General Meeting ยป


China-U.S. Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue

On April 19–20, the Japan program and the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS) of Peking University co-sponsored a conference on Asia-Pacific security. The workshop brought a distinguished Chinese delegation of experts and scholars—led by Wang Jisi, dean of the School of International Affairs and director of CISS, and Zhu Feng, deputy director of CISS—together with the U.S. policy community.


The dialogue was the first track-two effort to complement the ongoing government-level China-U.S. Asia-Pacific Dialogue. The conference covered a range of security issues, including the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia, Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula, China-U.S.-Japan relations, and Taiwan. The dialogue featured luncheon keynotes from former National Security Council senior director for Asia affairs Jeffrey A. Bader and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David F. Helvey.


U.S. and Chinese participants agreed on the importance of increasing exchanges between military personnel, enhancing consultations on regional security challenges such as North Korea and Taiwan, and ensuring that the United States—as well as the U.S.-Japan alliance—continues to play a stabilizing role in the region. However, experts disagreed on policies in the Middle East and acknowledged that structural challenges and pervasive distrust make it hard for the United States and China to make tangible progress on a number of issues.

Roundtables on Japan

On May 9, experts from the Japan Institute of International Affairs—including Hideki Asari, Toshihiro Nakayama, Tsutomu Kikuchi, Taisaku Ikeshima, and Asuka Matsumoto—visited CFR to discuss U.S.-Japan relations. Professor Nakayama discussed the new and unpredictable role played by Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto. Professor Kikuchi outlined the challenges that the U.S.-Japan alliance faces in a changing Asia-Pacific.

On March 27, Yoichi Funabashi, president of the newly established Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, discussed the results of the independent investigation on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The investigation—which included scientists, lawyers, journalists, economists, and other experts—found that the government, power companies, and other relevant actors were unprepared to manage the crisis due in part to dysfunctional political leadership and to a public myth that had been nurtured in Japan for decades about the "absolute safety" of nuclear power.


Sheila Smith's Recent Writings on Japan

A Strategy for the U.S.-Japan Alliance

The time has come for Japan and the United States to set priorities for military missions, formalize mechanisms for crisis management coordination, and work toward a long-term basing strategy that consolidates U.S. and Japanese facilities. Read the Policy Innovation Memorandum »

U.S. Joint Basing with Japan's Self-Defense Forces

In an Asahi Shimbun op-ed entitled "在日米軍基地 自衛隊と共同使用し整理を," Smith argues that with cuts in defense spending on the horizon the United States should rethink its military presence in Japan by moving in the direction of joint basing with Japan's Self-Defense Forces. Read the Op-Ed (in Japanese) »

The U.S.-Japan Summit: Three Things to Know

Smith discusses the significance of the April 30 U.S.-Japan Summit as the first state visit by a Democratic Party of Japan prime minister. The visit comes at a time when both Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and President Barack Obama face political challenges domestically. Watch the CFR Video »

Beyond Quake, Japan's Political Aftershocks

One year after Japan's triple disasters, questions persist about the ability of the world's third-largest economy to rebound and how its struggling political system can enact serious reforms. Read the Expert Brief »

Response Shows How Challenges Can Be Met

Smith discusses recovery and rebuilding one year after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Read the Nikkei Weekly Article »

From Asia Unbound

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

Prime Minister Noda's Divided Party

Prime Minister Noda succeeded in passing his legislative initiative on consumption tax and social security reform, but it was his ability to cooperate with his opposition in parliament that made it possible. Fifty-seven members of his own party decided to thwart his appeal for unity by voting against the bill. Read more »

Japan's Day of Remembrance

On March 11, 2012, those who survived last year's earthquake and tsunami took time to light candles and pray for the more than 19,000 Japanese who lost their lives in the worst natural disaster in their modern history. Read more »

Movement on the Okinawa Base Plan

There is still much creative thinking to be done on how to reconfigure U.S. military bases in Japan. Ultimately, the United States needs a comprehensive approach that looks forward and fully considers the political transitions underway in Japan and in Asia more broadly. Read more »

Japan's Iran Sanctions Dilemma

Cutting off Iranian oil imports has put Tokyo in a difficult position. The United States and its European allies have already agreed to up the ante on sanctions against Iran, but the domestic costs that Japan has to bear in order to cooperate are higher. Read more »

Japan's New Politics: Tactics in the Divided Diet

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is about to reshuffle his cabinet, and my friends here in DC are looking at me in amazement, asking "not again?!" The real story is less about these faces, and more about the frequency with which Japan's top policymakers change. Read more »


Japan Program in the News

PBS Newshour: Japan Flips the "Off" Switch on Its Last Nuclear Reactor (May 4, 2012)

Yomiuri Shimbun: Obama Expects a Lot from Noda (May 2, 2012)

NPR: Trade, Security on Agenda for Obama, Japan's Noda (April 30, 2012)

Japan Times: Hopes for Noda-Obama Talks Underwhelm (April 28, 2012)

VOA: Security Issues Expected to Top Obama-Noda Meeting (April 27, 2012)

Korea Times: North Korean Rocket to Test Sino-U.S. Ties (April 8, 2012)

AFP: World Has Few Ways to Punish North Korean Launch (April 8, 2012)

National Geographic: One Year After Fukushima, Japan Faces Shortages of Energy, Trust (March 8, 2012)

Mainichi Shimbun: Japan, U.S. Hoping to Conjure Better Ending After Failed Scenario (February 10, 2012)