Japan's Reluctant Realism

Foreign Policy Challenges in an Era of Uncertain Power

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

Has Japanese foreign policy changed in the post-Cold War era? On the surface, it appears to have been quite consistent since the end of World War II. It has stressed the U.S.-Japanese security alliance, the use of economic tools, and constraints on the use of force. However, this book argues that new ideas and new patterns of diplomacy have in fact come about following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Using case studies that look at China, the Korean peninsulas, Russia and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and international institutions, Green uncovers Japan's foreign policy.

Because Japan can no longer rely on economic power to insure regional dominance, Tokyo has begun to assert itself—reluctantly—as an independent power, by expanding its influence and agenda in East Asia and in international organizations. Although much of Japanese foreign policy remains constant—including the centrality of the U.S.-Japan alliance—Green detects important changes: an increased concern with China's growing military power; increased anxiety about external security threats; and the emergence of a more independent international identity that is willing to disagree with U.S. policy, especially toward East Asia. Green argues that these changes should encourage—not discourage—closer coordination of U.S. and Japanese policy.

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Japan's increasing independence, Green argues, has spurred an emerging strategic view, what he calls "reluctant realism," that is shaped by a combination of changes in the international environment, insecurity about national power resources, and Japanese aspirations for a national identity that moves beyond the legacy of World War II. As a result, it is time for the U.S. and the world to recognize Japan as an independent actor in Northeast Asia and to assess Japanese foreign policy on its own terms.

A Council on Foreign Relations Book

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Reviews and Endorsements

With Japan's Reluctant Realism, Michael Green has artfully captured the essence of Japanese thinking about the world since the end of the Cold War. Green demonstrates how the uncertainties of the Japanese economy and the angst of a more fluid strategic environment in Northeast Asia have unleashed a new assertiveness in Japanese foreign policy. More than any other book on the subject, Japan's Reluctant Realism explains why the United States must approach Japan as a strategic player in East Asia if we are to continue building a true strategic partnership with Japan in the future.

Walter F. Mondale

No single alliance is more important than that with Japan. Can it last in the face of change in Japan and Asia? Michael Green's positive answer rests on a thorough and sensitive analysis. This is a fine book!

Joseph S. Nye, Dean, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

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