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Japan’s Grand Strategic Choices in a Changing Asia

Jun 23, 2016 - Jun 24, 2016

Einstein Project East Asia Security Workshop 2016

It is often argued that Tokyo’s new muscularity in its security policy is derived directly from Beijing’s new assertiveness in regional affairs. Fewer analysts have paid attention to another, equally critical element of Japan’s evolving grand strategy: changing perceptions of U.S. commitment and capabilities. Concerns about the relative decline of the United States and the possibility of U.S. retrenchment from its global role have also motivated Japanese foreign and security policy behavior in East Asia and beyond. By establishing regional strategic partnerships that include security as well as economic and diplomatic elements, the Japanese government has begun generating and deploying a fuller spectrum of strategic tools to position it to achieve its longer term foreign policy goals. These new tools and relationships also provide for a greater degree of strategic autonomy for Japan. By embracing the U.S. strategic pivot over the short to medium term, Japan will enjoy a window of opportunity where it can more confidently implement strategic partnerships with regional players without excessive fear of Chinese reprisals, and without raising US suspicions that Japan is trying to side-line it in the regional order.

This workshop will explore and articulate areas where Japan is pursuing its own independent interests as refracted through Tokyo’s perceptions of a relative decline in U.S. capabilities and commitments to East Asia alongside a more assertive China. Two sessions are designed to enhance understanding of how Japan might leverage its own resources and efforts—and, in the short- to medium term the US-Japan alliance-- to achieve its grand strategic and security goals. 

Richard J. Samuels and Corey Wallace, Co-organizers, Einstein Visiting Fellow Project East Asia Security