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Japan’s Foreign Relations: Issues and Key Policies

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Key Issues with Japan’s Relations with other Asian Countries

            There are key issues in Japan’s relations with other Asian nations. It can be said that these key issues may be economic or political in nature. The drive for economic supremacy as and the “gloomed” foreign relation of Japan in the past are the main obstacles for the normalization of foreign relations with other Asian countries. For example, postwar relations between Japan and the Peoples’ Republic of China underwent several changes.

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Bilateral relations between the two countries resulted into a trade totaling about $900 million and the regular exchanges of labor power (concomitantly skills).[1] When China became a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the frequent visits of US presidents, Japan became determined to normalize its relationship with China. Normalizing relations with China would provide a backbone to economic development of the two countries as well as sustained security in the region. Japan though is yet to achieve this normalization process.

China’s rise as an economic power became a manifesto of threat to Japan’s position in the region. Thus, in recent years, the total capital exchange between the two countries is declining.

            Japan’s relation with North Korea had not improved in the last 10 years. North Korea’s inclination to manufacture more nuclear arms capable of reaching cities in Japan had strained the relationship between the two countries. Japan was “forced” to take side with the United States. This is not a simple show of Japanese dependence to the United States. Historically, the US pledged the defense of Japan in case of attack by foreign nations (in exchange for abolishing Japan’s armed forces). Japan’s relation with the “brother” country of North Korea though improved. The rise of South Korea as a Tiger country resulted in the intensification of free trade between the two countries. Tariffs and other special taxes were abolished by the Japanese government in order to foster greater trade with South Korea (S. Korea also relieved Japanese goods coming to the country from high tariffs). Japan’s relationship with Southeast Asian countries improved in the last 50 years. Poverty continues to rise (on a grand scale) in SE Asia. It is estimated that about 50% of the SE Asian population are below the poverty line. Thus, in order to compensate Japanese atrocities during the Second World War, Japan pledged to provide aid to these countries (Official Development Assistance). Japan also pledged to provide investment in these countries. These investments would create more jobs and infrastructure in SE Asian countries.[2]

Historical Issues between Japan and other Asian Countries

            Japan’s relation with other Asian countries is strained by some historical issues. In the past, Japan regarded Korea as a personal colony. Korean treasures were forcibly taken by Japanese soldiers to Japan as a show of conquest. Many Korean nationalists (headed by Syngman Rhee) were shot in the streets of Korea’s major cities by Japanese soldiers. Thus, the Japanese treatment of Korea prior and during the Second World War resulted in deep-hatred for the Japanese by Koreans. In China, Japanese soldiers ruthlessly massacred villages and communities in order to instill fear and aggravation to the Chinese people. The so-called “Rape of Nanking” provides a clear example.[3] The Japanese military commander of Manchuria (the Japanese established a puppet Chinese government in Manchuria called Manchukuo headed by Henry PuYi) ordered the Japanese First Army to storm the city of Nanking. Civilians found in the field of battle were to be shot. The old and the children were not exempted from this butchery. Thus, when the Chinese army was defeated in Nanking, women were raped, children and the old mutilated, and houses burned. This incident is still fresh in the minds of many Chinese, especially those who survived in the war. Recently, when the Japanese prime minister visited the graves of fallen Japanese “heroes” during the Second World War, several countries sent a diplomatic protest to the Japanese government. These countries loathed the “respect and dignity” shown by the Japanese government to the “monsters of the 20th century.”

            The close alignment of Japan to the United States also provided a strain in Sino-Japanese relations. During the Maoist era, China directed a non-alignment relation with the United States; this also applied to Japan. China saw the close relationship of the two major economic powers as an extension of imperialism. Although Japan tried to reach the Chinese government in its investment projects, it was largely ignored. All these historical issues which are inherent in Japan’s relations with Asian countries should become a major concern for the Japanese government. Japanese economic status depends largely on its foreign direct investments in these countries (as well as its security). Thus, if these issues are not resolved, Japan would certainly face an economic debacle. Its relationship with the United States then should be balanced with the need to cooperate economically with other Asian countries. This cooperation should be characterized with “respect for sovereignty” as well as clear evaluation (by the Japanese government) of Japan’s pre and post-war foreign relations.

Japan’s Foreign Aid Program

            The institutionalization of the so-called ODA (Official Development Assistance) of the Japanese government was a general strategy to preserve Japan’s economic status in the region. Added to that, ODA serves as a manifestation of the international community (through Japan) to other Asian nation to abide by the rules of international diplomacy. In 1989, the Japanese government decided to suspend the 5-year 5.4 billion dollars (USD) package of yen loans to the Chinese government (for capital outlay) as a response to the massacre at Tiananmen Square.[4] The brutal suppression of the Chinese government of the Beijing Wall Movement sent shock waves throughout the world. Japan decided to shift a significant portion of that package to Eastern Europe. This part of the package would be utilized for the development of post-Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

This action of the Japanese government though was a reaction to peer pressure from other major powers. Japan was reluctant and ambivalent over the suspension because that would harm Japan’s economic interests in the region. After a year, the Japanese government decided to resume its aid payments to China. In the same year, the Chinese government sent diplomatic delegates to Europe and the United States to settle the incident. The major powers decided an open and unbiased negotiation over their diplomatic affairs; that is, domestic problems should primarily be the main concern of the nation at stake. However, other countries can send observers to ensure that the rules and policies promulgated in the UN General Assembly are followed. In a way, the international community (through the suspension of the 5-year package loan of Japan) was able to pressure China to abide by the rules of international diplomacy (the handling of domestic affairs).

            ODA also serves as a means to preserve Japan’s economic status in Asia. Because the Japanese constitution does not allow the rebuilding of a Japanese armed force, ODA became a convenient alternative to military means in dealing with neighboring development countries. Added to that, the corporatist nature of the Japanese state provided the framework for extending Japanese investment in many Asian countries.[5] Japanese aid serves as a means to increase the propensity of the “donor” country to accept Japanese investments. These investments are transformed into liquid capital assets capable of reproducing in the “donor” country. The implication: the overall Japanese output (GNP) increases at the expense of the donor country. Needless to say, the “donor” countries do not view this “aid” as a form of economic oppression. They perceive it as a means to recreate their own capital outlay.

Bibliography

Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Information Bureau, Diplomatic Bluebook for 1971: Review of Foreign Relations, Japan Reference Series (chapter 2, section2), retrieved 23 October 2007, < http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/other/bluebook/1971/1971-contents.htm#CONTENTS>

Katada, Saori, Why did Japan suspend Foreign Aid to China? Japan’s Foreign Aid Decision-making and Sources of Aid Sanction, Social Science Japan Journal Vol. 4(1), 2001, pp. 39-58, retrieved 23 October 2007 < http://ssjj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/4/1/39.pdf>.

The History Place, The Rape of Nanking, 2000, retrieved 23 October 2007, < http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/nanking.htm>.

[1] Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Information Bureau, Diplomatic Bluebook for 1971: Review of Foreign Relations, Japan Reference Series (chapter 2, section2), retrieved 23 October 2007, < http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/other/bluebook/1971/1971-contents.htm#CONTENTS>

[2] Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Public Information Bureau, Diplomatic Bluebook for 1971: Review of Foreign Relations, Japan Reference Series (chapter 2, section2), retrieved 23 October 2007, < http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/other/bluebook/1971/1971-contents.htm#CONTENTS>
[3] The History Place, The Rape of Nanking, 2000, retrieved 23 October 2007, < http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/nanking.htm>.
[4] Saori Katada, Why did Japan suspend Foreign Aid to China? Japan’s Foreign Aid Decision-making and Sources of Aid Sanction, Social Science Japan Journal Vol. 4(1), 2001, p. 39, retrieved 23 October 2007 < http://ssjj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/4/1/39.pdf>.

[5] Saori Katada, Why did Japan suspend Foreign Aid to China? Japan’s Foreign Aid Decision-making and Sources of Aid Sanction, Social Science Japan Journal Vol. 4(1), 2001, p. 41, retrieved 23 October 2007 < http://ssjj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/4/1/39.pdf>.

 

Cite this Japan’s Foreign Relations: Issues and Key Policies

Japan’s Foreign Relations: Issues and Key Policies. (2016, Jun 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/japans-foreign-relations-issues-and-key-policies/

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