By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
What a difference a generation makes! Japan’s decision to join negotiations to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership with the United States and other Pacific nations reflects, in part, the sea change in public opinion that has transformed U.S.-Japan relations. A quarter of a century ago, ties between Washington and Tokyo were characterized by public distrust and animosity. Today, there is support for deeper integration of the two economies through greater trade. The upcoming TPP negotiations will be contentious. But the political context in which these talks will take place is far more supportive than ever before.
In the last few decades, despite periodic trade tensions, Americans have generally held a favorable overall opinion of Japan. In 1990, near the high point of the Washington-Tokyo battles over trade in autos, rice and other goods, almost two-thirds of Americans nonetheless thought well of Japan, according to a survey by the Times Mirror Corporation. By 2009, 67 percent of Americans still felt favorably disposed toward Japan, according to the Pew Research Center.
But trade relations have long been a neuralgic irritant in bilateral relations. In 1989, 63 percent of Americans believed Japan practiced unfair trade, while a little more than half wanted to increase tariffs on products imported from Japan. In 1995, 61 percent of the American public approved of President Bill Clinton’s decision to impose import duties on imports of luxury Japanese cars.
By Matthew P. Goodman and Michael J. Green, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew P. Goodman and Michael J. Green are based at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Both have worked on Asia policy in senior positions at the White House. The views expressed are their own.
Since the first merchant ship of the new American republic set sail from New York for Canton in 1784, trade has been at the heart of U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific. Deepening economic exchange with the world’s most dynamic region has not only promoted American prosperity; it has also been an essential underpinning of the U.S. military and diplomatic presence in the region.
This is why President Bush launched the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and why the Obama administration is redoubling its efforts to conclude a TPP agreement by the end of this year as a central part of its “pivot” to Asia. And it is why the administration should welcome Japan, Asia’s second-largest economy and America’s leading ally in the region, into TPP following Tokyo’s historic decision to seek entry into the talks.
By Fareed Zakaria
Beijing’s response to the Obama administration’s initial diplomacy was cool, sometimes even combative. Meanwhile in Asia, many of the continent’s other powers had begun worrying about a newly assertive China. From Japan to Vietnam to Singapore, governments in Asia signaled that they would welcome a greater American presence in the region, one that would assure them that Asia was not going to become China’s back yard.
The Obama administration shrewdly responded with its “pivot” in 2011, combining economic, political and military measures, all designed to signal that the United States would strengthen its role in Asia, balancing any potential Chinese hegemony.
The result of the pivot, however, was to further strain relations with Beijing. Today China and the United States maintain mechanisms, such as the strategic and economic dialogue between senior officials, but they are formal and ritualistic. No American and Chinese officials have developed genuinely deep mutual trust.
For more on this, read the Washington Post column here.
By Shihoko Goto, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Shihoko Goto is the Northeast Asia associate for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Asia Program. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
After seven prime ministers in almost as many years, Japan looks like it may have a leader with more staying power. That alone should be enough motivation for President Obama to be fully invested in his meeting on February 22 with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, with the growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region – from the East China Sea territorial disputes to the North Korea conundrum – it will be in the United States’ best interests to nurture strong personal ties and build a partnership capable of meeting emerging challenges.
As the United States looks to rebalance its military capabilities towards Asia while grappling with ongoing uncertainties about its longer-term defense budget, Japan has increased its defense budget for the first time in 11 years. Granted, the 0.8 percent increase to $52 billion, with a 1.9 percent rise in the Coast Guard budget, is more symbolic than significant. Yet, the nominal increase signals recognition that Japan must step up efforts to build up its defense capabilities in light of the growing threats from neighboring countries. That, in turn, would dovetail with the U.S. pivot to the Asia-Pacific region as it looks to solidify existing alliances not just with Japan, but also with South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asia.
By Mark Valencia, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mark Valencia is a Hawaii-based maritime analyst and political commentator and author of ‘The Proliferation Security Initiative: Making waves in Asia.’ The views expressed are his own.
Enough already! Nasty rhetoric is one thing. But confrontation between warships, including the locking on of fire control radar, is downright dangerous. The implications of an outbreak of military hostilities between China and Japan are too horrific to contemplate, and clearly this level of tension and instability is unacceptable – not only for the parties directly concerned, but for their neighbors and extra-regional partners.
What is needed are some guidelines or an agreed declaration of expected behavior in disputed areas that could avert such confrontations. More specifically, China and Japan need to forge at least a rudimentary “incidents at sea agreement” – and fast!
So what is an incidents at sea agreement (INCSEA) and why would it work? In the late 1960s, there were several incidents between the U.S. and Soviet navies, including planes of the two nations passing particularly close to one another or ships and aircraft making threatening movements – very similar to what has been happening in the East China Sea between China and Japan.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travels to Washington this week to meet with President Barack Obama. This will be their first meeting since Abe was chosen for the second time to be prime minister and Obama secured a second term at the end of last year. But how do ties stand between the two countries?
Both leaders are riding a wave of relative popularity at home, strengthening their hands in dealing with mutual international challenges. And, unlike the Japan bashing days of the 1980s, when fear and resentment poisoned popular sentiment, Americans and Japanese actually like each other now. But public opinion on specific issues in both countries is likely to shape what Abe and Obama can and cannot accomplish.
By James Holmes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College and co-author of ‘Red Star over the Pacific’. The views expressed are his alone.
As tensions rise in Japan’s dispute with China over ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, some might wonder if a spontaneous outburst of violence could pull in the United States, which is treaty-bound to defend Japan. Such an outcome seems doubtful, but it is by no means unimaginable. After all, such skirmishes have certainly been legion. Remember the North Korean seizure of USS Pueblo in 1968, aerial combat between U.S. and Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981, or any number of close encounters between U.S. and Soviet forces during the Cold War. None led to war. From this it’s tempting – and comforting – to conclude that icy rationality always trumps the passions of the moment. On the other hand, this might be one of those statements that’s only true until it’s not.
By Brian Klein, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Brian P. Klein is an economic consultant and former U.S. diplomat who was based in China. The views expressed are his own
In much of the world, the long curve of history continues dragging nations to the brink of conflict. Take Northeast Asia, where recent tensions between China and Japan risk erupting into conflict. The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, home to rocky outcroppings and nearby resource rich waters, have become the latest potential flashpoint.
What started as a manageable confrontation in the East China Sea between Chinese fishing vessels and Japanese Coast Guard cutters has now escalated well beyond a dispute over natural resources. Chinese fighter jets have shadowed Japanese planes in the skies above. Japan has threatened to fire warning shots. A hawkish Chinese general has warned that would be their only shot, while Beijing announced plans to formally survey the islands. The U.S. has weighed in against any unilateral action that challenges Japan's administration of the area.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
Editor’s note: Each day this week, GPS Senior Producer Ravi Agrawal will look at what’s in store for the world in 2013. He begins today with Asia. The views expressed are his own. You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN.
It turns out the Mayans were wrong about the end of the world. Planet earth survived 2012 and is now about to embark on yet another revolution around the sun. But let’s cut the Mayans some slack: they were, after all, projecting thousands of years into the future.
My task is easier. What will the next twelve months look like? What changes are in store for the world of politics and economics?
Asia, with more than half the world’s population, has already begun to usher in 2013. So let’s begin there.
This is the latest in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.
By Nobuo Fukuda, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Nobuo Fukuda is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former Jakarta bureau chief for the Asahi Shimbun. The views expressed are his own.
The victory of Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in this month’s national elections indicated a sense of insecurity will continue to plague Japanese in 2013 on issues ranging from national defense and security to energy and the economy.
The defeat of the incumbent Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had long been anticipated. However, it is an open question whether the opposition LDP would have achieved a landslide victory had it not been for rising tensions between China and South Korea over territorial disputes.
Particularly problematic for Japan was the row with China over the Senkakus, a group of small, uninhabited islands administered by Japan in the East China Sea. Japanese voters were troubled over China’s aggressive tactics in trying to change the status quo of the Senkakus, with fishing boats, patrol vessels and reconnaissance aircraft being sent into the Japanese-administered waters and airspace near the islands almost daily over the past few months.
By Jeffrey Hornung, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey W. Hornung is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, HI and an adjunct fellow with the Office of the Japan Chair at CSIS in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are his alone.
This past weekend, the Japanese public went to the polls in their first election since the March 2011 earthquake that triggered a deadly tsunami and nuclear crisis. While many pre-election polls indicated that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would return to power, the landslide nature of the LDP’s victory over the Democratic Party of Japan took many by surprise. As the president of the LDP, Shinzo Abe is set to become premier on December 26 for his second stint in office. But although Abe’s LDP secured a majority, the victory should not be viewed as a mandate. Abe would be wise not to rush his conservative agenda.
The election for Japan’s Lower House saw 1,504 candidates run for office, the largest number since World War II. While a handful of these were independents, the others were members of a dozen parties. The result was a very crowded field complete with a dazzling array of policy promises varying from abolishing nuclear energy, strengthening prefectural powers, increased public works spending, halting a planned consumption tax hike, and constitutional revision.
By Michael J. Green, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael J. Green is Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Associate Professor at Georgetown University. The views expressed are his own.
With the landslide victory of Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) this past Sunday, the media is atwitter with warnings of dangerous new friction in Northeast Asia. Shinzo Abe, the man about to return to power after resigning as prime minister five years ago, has said he will get tough with China and might reconsider past apologies for some of Japan’s wartime transgressions. If the new government follows through on some of this overheated rhetoric, it could complicate U.S. foreign policy and hurt Japan’s image abroad. But that does not mean that Japan is becoming a dangerous nation. If anything, the growing realism in Japanese security policy should be welcomed by the United States.
With Chinese defense spending increasing at double digits and an aggressive new Chinese maritime doctrine aimed at pressing outward to control what strategists in Beijing call the “Near Sea,” the current constraints on Japanese defense policies pose more risk than any specter of returning Japanese militarism. Japan spends less than 1 percent of GDP on defense and Abe will likely increase that, particularly to support the Japanese Coast Guard, which is currently overwhelmed trying to track the surge in Chinese ships operating in and around not only the disputed Senkaku islands, but the entire Japanese archipelago.