Japan Foreign and Security Policy

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York and the Pentagon, Japan pledged its support to the USA; With the passing of an anti-terror law in October 2001, a fundamental modification of the country’s security policy was made: the Japanese “self-defense forces” were given logistical help for American-led troops – especially the refueling of their warships in the Indian Ocean – in the international fight against the Terrorism made possible (with the exclusion of a deployment in combat zones). In December 2001, the restriction to non-military tasks when participating in UN peacekeeping operations was lifted. In September 2002, Koizumi visited as the first Japanese prime minister – despite a lack of diplomatic relations – North Korea. From August 2003, Japan took part in the six-nation talks to resolve the American-North Korean nuclear conflict. At ASEAN States promoted Japan for a comprehensive economic partnership. In July 2003, Parliament approved the sending of Japanese soldiers to Iraq as part of a peacekeeping mission, which was implemented on January 26, 2004 after several delays (from June 30, 2004 Japanese troops in Iraq became part of the multinational armed forces). For the reconstruction of Iraq, Japan committed itself at an international donor conference in October 2003 to provide US $ 5 billion (second largest donor after the USA). However, the death of two Japanese diplomats (December 2003) and the kidnapping of three Japanese hostages (April 2004) in Iraq intensified domestic political criticism of the Koizumi’s approval of the Iraq mission. This was finally ended in December 2008.

Relations with China experienced another crisis in spring 2005 when it – justified v. a. with a trivialization of the war crimes of Japan during the occupation of China (1931–45) in new Japanese school books – to violent anti-Japanese protests, among others. came in Beijing and Shanghai; The deeper background for the tensions was provided by the ambivalent relationship between the two countries – shaped on the one hand by the intensive economic cooperation (Japan as China’s most important investment and trading partner), on the other hand by the historical burdens and the regional and international competitive situation (including the dispute over dismantling) of raw material deposits in the East China Sea, Chinese rejection of the permanent seat sought by Japan on the UN Security Council). Since 2007, the Fukuda government has been making new efforts to improve relations and expand cooperation between Japan v. a. with South Korea and the PR China. In 2010, relations with China worsened after the collision of a Chinese trawler with two Japanese Coast Guard ships in the disputed sea area of ​​the East China Sea in the area claimed by the two states Senkaku Islands. The conflict intensified in 2012 when the Japanese government decided to purchase the islands from private Japanese ownership into state ownership. However, the two countries are endeavoring in different discussion groups not to let the tensions escalate further.

Relations with Russia are still strained by the unresolved dispute over the Kuril Islands. Several meetings between Russian President Putin and Japan’s Prime Minister Abe (including in December 2016) did not result in a decisive breakthrough on this issue.

On December 26, 2012, the parliament elected Shinzō Abe, who had already been Prime Minister in 2006/07, to succeed Noda as head of government. LDP and NK formed a coalition. Both parties thus had a two-thirds majority in the lower house. After the upper house elections on July 21, 2013, the governing parties were able to unite the majority of the seats in the second parliamentary chamber. After an increase in the consumption tax in April 2014 from 5 to 8% and a significant economic deterioration, the government’s previous economic policy was called into question. With this in mind, Prime Minister Abe resigned held early elections in November 2014. In the elections on December 14, 2014, the governing coalition was able to maintain its two-thirds majority. The elections for the upper house on July 10, 2016 were successful for the governing parties. They were able to win 70 of the 121 seats available for election.

Against the background of foreign policy tensions with North Korea and improved polls, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had early elections scheduled for October 22, 2017. The governing coalition was able to defend its two-thirds majority by winning 313 seats (LDP: 284, NK: 29). Shortly before the election, the newly established opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (KDP; Rikken Minshutō) and the Party of Hope (Kibō no Tō) won 55 and 50 seats, respectively. In August 2020, Abe announced that he was stepping down as party chairman and prime minister for health reasons. On September 16, 2020, the Japanese parliament named Yoshihide Suga as his successor.

On July 1, 2014, the government decided on a controversial reinterpretation of the post-war constitution, which expanded the role of the military. With this cabinet decision, according to internetsailors, Japan should be able to fight alongside allies on the basis of a right to “collective self-defense”, even if the country itself was not attacked. Thousands of people demonstrated in front of the seat of government against this reorientation of the security policy without a constitutional amendment. On July 16, 2015, the House of Commons passed appropriate security laws underpinning this departure from Japan’s basic pacifist orientation as set out in Article 9 of the Constitution. On September 19, 2015, the House of Lords also approved the new security laws.

Japan Foreign and Security Policy