Japan Briefing 2015: Japan and Asia's new geopolitics

(Left to Right) Hitoshi Tanaka, Chairman, Institute for International Strategy, Japan Research Institute; Sourabh Gupta, Senior Research Associate, Samuels International and Associates; Dr Amy King, Lecturer,  Strategic and Defence Studies, ANU’s Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs; and Dr Shiro Armstrong, Co-Director, ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy

By Louise Mao, Asia Society Australia

On Tuesday the 13th of October, Mr Hitoshi Tanaka led a discussion on Asian geopolitics from a Japanese perspective at Asia Society’s October policy briefing event. In his keynote address, the former Japanese deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs reviewed the relationship between Japan and its neighbours in North-east Asia before moving on to discuss the country’s diplomatic direction. He identified the importance of solid contingency planning and the need for greater cooperation and coordination with other states in the region.

The policy briefing addressed the issue of instability on the Korean peninsula and its ramifications for North-east Asia. The Kim regime is unreliable and risks collapse. In response to the North Korea issue, Japan is creating contingency plans with the United States and South Korea, as well as seeking greater agreement from China. A confidence-building security mechanism or regional partnership is preferable and the recent change in the interpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution should reflect not military strengthening but a consolidation and expansion of capabilities under existing partnerships.

In discussing China, Mr Tanaka pointed to the Chinese leadership’s iterations of the ‘Chinese Dream’, which has come to replace the previous slogan of a ‘peaceful rise.’ However, despite concerns over Chinese expansionism, a containment strategy is not a viable solution. Japan should seek more effective rapprochement with China and needs to establish common ground in areas such as energy cooperation, the environment and trade and investment. The recent signing of the Trans-Pacific Pact represents a sizeable victory for Asian regionalism and China’s participation is desirable.

Similarly, while a breakthrough on the matter of territorial concessions between Japan and Russia is not likely, there is potential for an evolutionary relationship between the two countries if Russia is to seek a future in the Far East.

Mr Tanaka’s comments were supplemented by a speech from the Hon. Stuart Ayres MP, NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, who provided an Australian outlook on the TPP. In concluding the night, Dr Shiro Armstrong, Co-Director of ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, chaired a panel discussion with Mr Hitoshi Tanaka, Mr Sourabh Gupta, a Senior Research Associate at Samuels International and Associates and Dr Amy King, a lecturer and expert in Strategic and Defence Studies at ANU’s Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs. In taking questions from the floor, the speakers offered further insights into Japan’s defence strategy and the future of the region.

The Hon Stuart Ayres MP, NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events

The Hon Stuart Ayres MP, NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events

 The event was co-hosted by Ian Thatcher, Asia-Pacific Financial Advisory Leader at Deloitte, and the Hon Warwick Smith AM, Chairman of Asia Society Australia. The boardroom dinner and policy briefing was generously sponsored by  Deloitte and held in Sydney. The Japan Briefing and Dinner is the initiative of the Asia Society Australia, Deloitte, Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee, ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, Australia-Japan Research Centre, and Japan Institute.

The program is supported by the Australia-Japan Foundation at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade