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Council on Foreign Relations Spotlight on Japan
Fall 2012

Japan Program Events

Japan's Political Leadership

CFR's Japan studies program cohosted a roundtable with the Japan Center for International Exchange on the challenges of political leadership in Japan on September 26. Jun Saito, a former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) member of the Diet, discussed how Japan's parliamentary structure increases the likelihood of divided government, large swings in support for political parties, and frequent turnovers in leadership in the years ahead.


Yuka Uchida, who previously served in the DPJ's international division and as a policy advisor to former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, explained the relationship between party discipline and leadership transitions in the party. Uchida pointed out that Japan's politicians will need broader institutional support for policymaking, both inside and outside of the Diet. Both speakers argued that without reform in the DPJ and the Diet, legislators were unlikely to gain the necessary policy expertise.

Japan's Political Transition and the U.S.-Japan Alliance Project

The Japan studies program convened a closed workshop in Tokyo on July 23 with leading Japanese experts as part of a new project generously funded by the U.S.-Japan Foundation and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. The workshop focused on two questions: how do changes in Japan's domestic politics affect the policy process, and how will the DPJ, as well as new political coalitions that emerge in the elections ahead, change Japan's foreign policy?

Participants acknowledged that the DPJ faced a learning curve when it took the reins of government for the first time in September 2009. Nevertheless, they were critical of the DPJ's policy agenda, from the failed attempt to reform Japan's political structure to the introduction of politician-led decision-making to a variety of missteps in handling the U.S.-Japan alliance. Participants agreed that there is now a pervasive distrust on the part of the Japanese public of the government across a variety of issues, from the safety of restarting nuclear reactors after last year's triple disasters to the capability of the government to handle negotiations with the United States on the deployment of Ospreys to Okinawa.


Recent Writings on Japan

Sheila A. Smith, an expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, is CFR's senior fellow for Japan studies and the director of the Japan studies program.

Japan, China, and the Tide of Nationalism

Escalating friction between Japan and China is becoming more difficult to contain, fed by political opportunism in both countries. Read the Expert Brief »

Little U.S. Can Do on Takeshima if not Invited

While recent tensions between Japan and South Korea over territorial issues are deeply worrisome for the U.S. government and regional stability, the reality is that a stronger bilateral relationship can only come about if the Japanese and Korean people lead the effort on reconciliation. Read the Oriental Economist Interview »

Diplomatic Shift Shows Tokyo’s Tensions

Japan's move to replace its ambassadors to the United States, China, and South Korea with three officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has as much to do with domestic politics as it does with tensions in the region. Read the Global Times Op-Ed »

Japan and the East China Sea Dispute

An examination of the way in which the 2010 crisis emerged between Japan and China may suggest that a crisis management initiative between Beijing and Tokyo today is needed rather than an overall reconciliation agenda. Read the Orbis 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 »

Times Are Changing in Northeast Asian Waters

The politicization of the dispute over Takeshima/Dokdo has led to a new willingness to demonstrate the defense of sovereignty through military means. If this impulse remains unchecked, it will be the end of the virtual alliance that U.S. planners had hoped for. Read the Post »

How Japan's Next Election Will Be Won

In a guest post, research associate Charles T. McClean says that for the Japanese public to have an equitable voice in determining its future, electoral reform must happen and it must be significant. Read the Post »

A Deep Chill or Heated Clash for Japan and China?

At best, a chill lies ahead for the Japan-China relationship. At worst, a confrontation in the waters around the disputed islands in the East China Sea could propel the two Asian giants into a very dangerous scenario. Read the Post »

Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, 1952–2012

Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya was a frequent guest at CFR in New York, a lively contributor to our discussions, and a conspicuously good friend to the United States. Read the Post »

Japan Restoration Party: The Policy?

The Japan Restoration Party has yet to announce a party platform, but on August 31, the Osaka Restoration Party issued what is likely to be the national party's manifesto. Eight policy proposals form the basis of what Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto describes as the "great reset" needed to renew Japan. Read the Post »

Introducing the New Japan Restoration Party

Hashimoto's unconventional entry into national politics has galvanized the Japanese media. But beyond his ambition of reforming Japanese politics, the policy agenda of this much heralded new Japan Restoration Party remains unclear. Read the Post »

Sixty-seven Years After WWII, Northeast Asian Nationalisms Flare Again

There are many opportunities to demonstrate the value of cooperation among the countries of Northeast Asia that could help overcome the hurts of the past. Cooperation is a difficult task, but for the political leaders of Japan, South Korea, and China, it is perhaps the most pressing one. Read the Post »

Getting Japan Right, Mr. Romney

The person who leads the United States should be aware that Japan is one of America's closest friends and allies. If he does not, he will undermine all that has been done over the past half-century to build one of America's most valued relationships. Read the Post »


Japan Program in the News

BBC: The World Tonight (September 18, 2012)

Leonard Lopate Show: East China Sea Dispute (September 13, 2012)

AP: China Sends Patrol Ships to Islands Held by Japan (September 11, 2012)

Global Journalist Radio: Tensions Flare Up Between Japan and China Over Disputed Islands (September 6, 2012)

Korea Herald: How Can Northeast Asia Improve Relations? (August 27, 2012)

CCTV World Insight: Islands Dispute (August 26, 2012)

Canberra Times: Nationalism and Political Tensions Rising in Northeast Asia (August 25, 2012)

China Daily: Experts Share Opinion on U.S.-Japan Military Drill (August 23, 2012)

CNN: Fukushima Disaster Man-made (July 5, 2012)