On 4 December 2018, Japan’s National Security Council (NSC) marks its fifth anniversary. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration established the NSC after a decades-long reform movement aimed at strengthening the prime minister’s office and addressing perceived weaknesses of previous national security institutions. Its creation was, and remains, a big deal. Leading experts on Japan’s foreign policy have deemed it ‘the most ambitious reorganization of Japan’s foreign and security policy apparatus since the end of World War II’.
Desperately Seeking Statesmen
Japan’s self-restraint continues despite its refusal to acknowledge even the existence of a dispute. Ironically, and unfortunately, it is because Japan does not behave provocatively that its policy never makes headlines. Yet its constructive behavior demonstrates that even when a government claims territory “inherently,” acknowledges no dispute, and exercises effective administrative control, it still can choose self-restraint in the interest of regional stability. Meanwhile, Tokyo’s and Taipei’s initiatives demonstrate that when two are willing to hear the music, they can indeed tango.
As relevant parties search for a framework to manage South China Sea tensions, a consensus, binding definition of “self-restraint” faithful to the spirit of the 2002 DOC is the Holy Grail. The deck today seems stacked against it. Unconstructive activities driving changes to the status quo are unlikely to be reversed. Political will among relevant parties remains in doubt. Nevertheless, as observers naturally focus on tension and conflict, constructive alternatives must be proactively kept a part of the conversation.
That Japan’s decades-old policy of self-restraint is so often ignored is perhaps evidence that, at least until recently, it proved so effective.
With an official defense budget increase of 7.6% to 954 billion yuan ($147 billion) announced today, Beijing’s quest to restore China’s historic “greatness” and to attain international status as a military power commensurate with its economic standing continues. Yet with GDP growth slowing and social and demographic headwinds mounting, Chinese leaders face increasingly difficult tradeoffs concerning how to allocate government largesse.
With Beijing’s 2016 official defense budget, it is clear that even military spending is not immune to China’s economic and fiscal realities. Advance reports that…
My latest… on the need for reliable Sino-Japanese crisis management mechanisms in the East China Sea has been published in Foreign Affairs. Liff, Adam P. and Andrew S. Erickson, “Crowding […]
I have published a brief analysis on China’s projected official defense budget in 2015, which was announced earlier today, with Andrew Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College. You can find […]
My analysis of the prospects for a significant and sustainable breakthrough in relations between China and Japan after the (potentially) landmark November 10 summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and […]
My latest on U.S. policy toward China, coauthored with Professor Andrew S. Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College, has been published as the lead article in Foreign Affairs (online). […]