|Kistanov Valery. Territorial Diplomacy as a Focal Point in Abe's Foreign Policy|
Territorial Diplomacy as a Focal Point in Abe's Foreign PolicyValery Kistanov
In the first decade of this century, Japan's foreign policy, being a derivative of internal politics and the economy, has been marked by a certain degree of passivity and inability to quickly and effectively meet the challenges facing the country in the international arena. In more than three years that it stayed at the country's helm, the Democratic Party of Japan not only failed to invigorate the country's diplomacy and to bring its foreign policy to a new level, but also made a number of major foreign policy mistakes in its relationships with Japan's major international partners.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come to lead the country again at a time when it faces enormous challenges in the economy, the social sphere, and foreign policy, especially in relations with its neighbors in East Asia. Sharp recent deterioration in Japan's relations with neighboring countries over disputed islands propels the territorial issue to the forefront of its foreign policy.
Of all territorial conflicts with neighboring countries, the biggest headache for the Japanese leadership by far is the dispute with China over sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyutai in Chinese) in the East China Sea. Underlying the conflict over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands are primarily economic and strategic interests of both countries.
This dispute has gained unprecedented intensity over the past three years. Alarmed by the growing economic and military might of its neighbor and its offensive actions in respect of the disputed islands, Tokyo has been seeking every possible means of support on the part of various countries to "contain China."
Japan holds the United States the only guarantee of its military security and territorial integrity, relying on the appropriate security treaty it has with it. While Washington actually holds a dual position vis-à-vis the Japanese territorial dispute with China and emphasizes its neutrality regarding the issue of sovereignty over the Senkaku / Diaoyudao, senior U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that the said islands are included in the scope of the US-Japan security treaty.
Meanwhile, Tokyo makes a special emphasis in its foreign policy strategy on India, a growing economic giant of Asia that the Japanese government regards not only as an economic counterweight to China, but also as its military and political constraint.
Seriously complicating relations between Japan and South Korea is the issue of sovereignty over the disputed islands of Takesmima / Dokdo is the burden of the two countries' historical past.
A vivid manifestation of Abe's "territorial diplomacy" is its policy toward the countries of Southeast Asia. Japan attaches particular importance to relations with those of them who have their own territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Different and diverse as they are, Japan apparently regards Southeast Asian countries as a kind of economic and military-political insurance against "China threat."
During his second term as the country's leader Abe, apparently, is going to promote a new geopolitical configuration under the name of "diamond security." The implication is that it should include Asia-Pacific countries that share "common democratic values." The rhombus is to be formed by Japan, Australia, India, and the United States.
Europe is to play a no less important role in Abe's foreign policy. This role has increased noticeably in light of the "China factor." Some Japanese analysts believe that in its "containment of China" Japan can find partners both in Europe as a whole and in its parts and/or countries.
Putin's expressed intention to seek a mutually acceptable resolution of the territorial issue and to conclude it in a "draw" creates a "territorial déjà vu" of sorts with regard to Russian-Japanese relations during his presidency in the zero years. With his territorial diplomacy, Abe hopes to break through the anti-Japanese territorial front in the Russian direction, a front that has formed spontaneously in Northeast Asia without anyone's coordinated efforts.
The official Moscow visit of the Japanese prime minister and his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 29, 2013, were a milestone in the Russo-Japanese relations.
One of the key issues discussed during the visit was the territorial issue. Given the uneasy attitude to the topic by public opinion in both countries, the term "territorial problem" was not to be found in the joint statement issued at the end of the visit. It is only obvious, however, that no peace treaty between the two countries is likely to be signed without resolving the territorial issue, something on which the Japanese side has been unswervingly insisting. The Japanese media note that the Japanese mostly hope for a political solution to the problem. Overall, Tokyo considers the results of Abe's April visit to Russia as a great success of his territorial diplomacy, especially when considered against the unwillingness of the new leaders of China and South Korea to meet with Abe to discuss their own territorial disputes.
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