Warships of the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, German Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and US Navy sail in formation to kick off JMSDF-led AnnualEx (AE) military exercise, Philippine Sea, Japan, 21 November 2021 (Photo: US Navy/Eyepress).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

Australia has become Japan’s most important security partner after the United States. Japan is the world’s third largest economy and central to outcomes in Australia’s broader neighbourhood and globally.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison hosts Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a virtual leaders’ summit today to consolidate the deepening security relationship, the leaders will need to reimagine the relationship to tackle the many shared challenges to regional peace, prosperity and stability they both face.

As reported in the Australian Financial Review the long-anticipated Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) will be signed today and enable both countries’ defence forces smoother and more timely access to operate in the other country. The RAA gives Australia a status shared only by the United States in Japan and comes at a time of increased anxieties about China’s use of its growing military influence and a more complex security environment.

A shared interest in a free, open, inclusive, resilient and prosperous region extends the agenda for Mr Morrison and Mr Kishida well beyond security cooperation to deepening the two countries’ Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which builds on decades of cooperation and regional order building.

The strategic priorities include keeping the United States locked into the Western Pacific militarily and economically, collectively shaping Chinese behaviour and enmeshing both the United States and China in new multilateral rules that secure open and contestable markets.

Buttressing the multilateral economic order to create space for China, the United States and other large rising countries in South and Southeast Asia is a priority for Australia and Japan today. That requires strengthening and building a security architecture around the US alliance framework that embeds mutual assurances about the use of political power across the region. The US alliance framework is but one important aspect of security in our region. Security pursued without economic integration …continue reading


Candle lanterns float on the water of a pond at Alton Baker Park at the conclusion of the annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki. (Photo: REUTERS/USA Today Network).

Author: Christophe Meyer, Stephen Cullis and Daniel Clausen, Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies

Traditionally, diplomacy has been the domain of countries. But the 21st century has seen a rise in innovative diplomacy from cities. Cities have shown that they are capable of acting on the global stage by leveraging their resources as hubs of globalisation, forming networks and coalitions with other cities and focussing on issues in which they have unique experiences or expertise.

Japan’s Nagasaki is an important example of a city engaged in global activism and activity. Despite its modest population of approximately 430,000, the city’s historical importance is unmistakable. As the only city during Japan’s Edo Period (1603–1868) that was open to the Western world, it possesses a unique cosmopolitan identity within the nation. Its local culture continues to boast a mix of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and other international influences.

As one of only two cities to suffer the tragedy of a nuclear bomb blast, Nagasaki, along with Hiroshima, also serves as a distinctive source of moral authority on nuclear abolition and non-proliferation.

Nagasaki is active in global advocacy for the abolition of nuclear weapons through the Mayors for Peace organisation, in which it serves as a vice president city. Nagasaki is active in city diplomacy on both the domestic and international fronts through its promotion of peace tourism, research on nuclear abolition, its sister-city relationships and activities that emphasise its history as an open city to the world.

Nagasaki’s impact is clearly visible in its role in the Mayors for Peace initiative. The origin of this organisation can be traced to 1982 during the second UN Special Session on Disarmament when Mayor Takeshi Araki of Hiroshima called on cities to come together to abolish nuclear weapons. At that same session, Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima …continue reading


Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R) and an adjoining solar power farm are pictured in Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, 6 March 2021 (Photo:Reuters/ Yuka Obayashi).

Author: Cheng Cheng and Andrew Blakers, ANU

Hydrogen is frequently touted as a major player in decarbonisation, and it is. But it will only be used at scale much later, and at a much lower level than solar and wind.

Countries including China, Japan, South Korea and Australia have established national plans to facilitate hydrogen development. Some of the discussion associated with these plans has been unbalanced.

Clean hydrogen is made via the electrolysis of water using electricity derived mostly from solar and wind. Claims have been made that massive new industries will be built around the export of hydrogen-rich chemicals. But good solar and wind resources are far more widely available than oil, gas and coal. Most countries can generate most of their required electricity and produce most of the clean hydrogen they need themselves.

About three-quarters of global emissions can be eliminated simply through the generation of zero-emission electricity from solar photovoltaics and wind, coupled with the electrification of land transport (electric vehicles) and heating (electric furnaces and heat pumps). These are off-the-shelf technologies that are already deployed at a large scale. Electric vehicles and heat pumps are two times and three to seven times more energy-efficient than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and heat from hydrogen-burners respectively. Renewable electrification of transport and heating is happening far faster than utilisation of clean hydrogen because it is much cheaper.

About three-quarters of the new electricity generation capacity installed globally each year is now solar photovoltaics or wind (the figure is 99 per cent in Australia). Costs of solar photovoltaics and wind are low and continue to fall. In most countries, solar and wind are now the cheapest sources of electricity available ever. Storage, transmission and demand responses can readily …continue reading


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at the premier's office in Tokyo on 2 December 2021 (Photo: Kyodo via Reuters).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Japan’s Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai, who runs the Uniqlo clothing chain, declared that his company wouldn’t be choosing between the United States and China in an interview with financial daily Nikkei Asia last week. ‘Japan can’t survive without being an open country’, Yanai said. Japanese companies caught between the United States and China ‘need to acknowledge that Japan has nothing. Japan has no choice but to make money in markets across the world’.

Yanai’s decision to make no comment on whether the company uses cotton from Xinjiang is emblematic of his approach to geopolitical affairs. ‘I want to be neutral between the United States and China’, he said. ‘The US approach is to force companies to show their allegiance. I wanted to show that I won’t play that game’.

When it comes to the economic crunch point, what’s good for Uniqlo is probably also good for Japan. But the Japanese government is yet to define a pathway through US–China rivalry and political assertiveness that might make Yanai’s posture a viable national strategy.

The Japanese prosperity that has come with globalisation and technological advancement has fundamentally changed the regional and global balance of power. The rise of China as the world’s second largest and soon to be largest economy poses a major challenge to the established global order.

The whole region is navigating these tricky changes, but Japan is in the cockpit.

The pressures on global markets and political and multilateral institutions and systems are unprecedented. China’s political system amplifies the uncertainty the region faces about how tensions with Beijing can be dealt with. Political and military power has followed China’s economic power, and the country is no longer hiding its strength and biding its time.

China is Japan’s and Asia’s largest trading and economic partner; Japan is the …continue reading


A golden ray of salty hope shines from across the Pacific.

December 21 was a dark day in Japan, and not just because, as the winter solstice, it marked the low point of daylight hours. There was also an emotional darkness clouding the nation’s hearts, as on that day, McDonald’s Japan announced its decision to suspend sales of medium and large-size orders of French fries at its restaurants across the country.

For the last two years, whenever we’re deprived a source of joy, we’re quick to assume the coronavirus is to blame, and indeed, pandemic-related disruptions of the supply chain are part of the problem. The potatoes McDonald’s Japan uses for its fries are grown in the U.S. and shipped via Canadian ports, and a three-nation voyage is a difficult thing to coordinate in the current health climate. Monthlong flooding in Canada’s British Columbia, which includes Vancouver and its spud-shipping port, was also a major factor.

Eventually, the anguished cries of fry fans grew loud enough that they were heard by American businessman Ryan Peterson, who tweeted about the situation on December 23, one day before McDonald’s was halting sales of everything but small-size fry orders.

One of the fun things about working at Flexport is that for any company in the world you want to learn about, someone at Flexport understands their operations at an incredibly granular level. This morning I’m learning about McDonald’s french fry shortages in Japan…????

— Ryan Petersen (@typesfast) December 22, 2021

Peterson isn’t just any businessman, though. He’s the CEO of San Francisco-based international freight forwarding/customers brokering company Flexport, which puts him in a unique position to help find a solution to Japan’s potato problem. Six days later came a follow-up announcement that …continue reading


A cargo ship carrying containers is seen near the Yantian port in Shenzhen, 17 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Martin Pollard).

Author: Kristen Hopewell, UBC

As its economic weight grows, China’s growing participation in bilateral and mega-regional trade agreements will pull countries closer into its orbit, cement its position in regional and global supply chains, and bolster its growing dominance in the Asia Pacific region. Such initiatives will also accelerate the shift in global economic power from the United States and Europe to China. Not only has China become the world’s largest trading nation, but two-thirds of the world now trade more with China than the United States.

Beijing is capitalising on the vacuum left by the abdication of US leadership in the Asia Pacific. Since pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2017, Washington has lacked a coherent economic and trade strategy for the region. This has left the field open to China, which has benefitted from US disengagement and the Trump administration’s alienation of close allies. Despite US President Joe Biden’s commitment to international cooperation and rebuilding US alliances, his administration appears to have no plan to reverse the damage caused by his predecessor or reengage with Asia.

China has welcomed the opportunity to deepen its trade and investment ties with countries in the region. Last year, China and 14 other countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement covering nearly a third of the world’s population and economy.

The trade pact will reduce tariffs, harmonise and streamline customs procedures, and strengthen Asian supply chains. Its primary significance lies in replacing the patchwork of bilateral agreements with a common set of rules, including a unified rules of origin framework, making it an important step towards deepening regional economic integration.

The agreement is expected to generate $US209 billion in economic gains, with the majority of those accruing to its …continue reading


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (L) listen to questions by opposition Japan Innovation Party new leader Nobuyuki Baba at Lower House's plenary session at the National Diet in Tokyo on Thursday, 9 December 2021 (Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO via Reuters Connect)

Author: Madoka Fukuda, Hosei University

Since Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took office in September 2021, Japan’s policies toward China and Taiwan have been attracting attention from other countries in the region. Will the Kishida administration change Japan’s policy toward China and Taiwan from those of his predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga?

The current discussion about Kishida’s stance towards China focuses on several factors. These include Kishida’s position as the leader of the traditionally progressive Kochikai faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the growing influence of Komeito within the ruling coalition and Kishida’s picks for his cabinet appointments.

But it is not these personal and partisan factors that have determined Japan’s China policy in recent years. Instead, it has been international and domestic factors. As long as these factors remain unchanged, Japan’s new administration is unlikely to make any major changes in its policy toward China and Taiwan. Japan has no choice but to emphasise deterrence against Chinese threats while continuing dialogue with China.

The most important security factor is the competitive relationship between the United States and China. While the United States and China are mutually demonstrating an attitude of dialogue, there is no prospect of resolving their fundamentally competitive relationship. Japan’s position between the United States and China cannot be neutral and it places greater importance on its alliance with the United States.

In a situation where the Biden administration aspires to confront China with its allies, Japan’s options are limited. Japan will probably choose to align with the United States and other like-minded countries to enhance its deterrence against China. In this context, Japan will continue to stress the importance of ‘peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait‘ and may further promote cooperation with Taiwan for this purpose.

Another important factor is economic …continue reading


Kobayashi Takayuki Minister for Economic Security arrives at the Japanese Prime Ministers Office (Kantei) before the first Cabinet meeting of the newly appointed Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. Tokyo, 4 October 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Stanislav Kogiku/AFLO).

Author: Toshiya Takahashi, Shoin University

Economic security is becoming crucial to Japan’s national security portfolio. In October 2021, the Kishida government created a ministerial position for economic security. One month later, it decided to subsidise half of the estimated US$7 billion investment by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to construct a semiconductor plant in Kumamoto prefecture.

The government is discussing a new ‘economic security law’ to submit to the National Diet in 2022, which would strengthen supply chains and protect Japanese patents. This legislation is targeted at China’s increasing economic clout over Japanese companies and the risk of trade disruption as experienced when China halted shipments of rare earth elements in 2010 and during the shortage of medical supplies at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan’s economic security used to be identified with resource security due to its economic dependence on the import of natural resources such as crude oil and food. This vulnerability became clear during the two oil shocks in the 1970s. A 1980 report of comprehensive security listed — in tandem with military power — energy and food security as key pillars of Japan’s security.

In the face of China’s increasing economic influence and Japan’s relative decline in industrial competition, Tokyo’s approach to economic security has changed. Leading proponents of a stronger national security posture include former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) secretary general Akira Amari, former prime minister Shinzo Abe and other policymakers connected to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

They approach China’s economic coercion from a national security perspective, pointing to the risks of disrupting of semiconductor supplies from Taiwan, export restrictions on rare-earths, purchases of Japanese companies and land, and economic espionage. They also seek to enhance Japanese competitiveness in key industries through state intervention.

This policy orientation began well before Kishida’s premiership. Under former prime minister Shinzo …continue reading


A dense layer of smog covers the Japanese capital, Japan, 13 January 2021 (Stanislav Kogiku / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect)

Author: Jun Arima, University of Tokyo

As the world enters the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement, countries are increasingly under pressure to announce their 2050 carbon neutrality goals and update their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for 2030. As of March 2021, more than 120 countries have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050. Last October, former prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced that Japan would aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Three months before Suga’s announcement in July 2020, Japan entered a process of formulating the Sixth Strategic Energy Plan, which seeks to introduce new energy sources that will underpin its new NDC. A cabinet-approved version was submitted at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow.

Formulated in 2015, Japan’s previous NDC pledged a 26 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2013 levels by 2030. Under this target, Japan’s total power generation was made up of a 44 per cent share of non-fossil fuels (22–24 per cent from renewables, 20–22 per cent from nuclear). This energy mix fulfilled three requirements: restoring energy self-sufficiency to around 25 per cent (surpassing pre-2011 Fukushima disaster levels), lowering electricity costs and setting a GHG reduction goal that was comparable with other developed countries. This NDC was designed to reduce fossil fuel imports and accelerate the adoption of renewable energy through Japan’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) policy.

The 2030 target was formulated based on a bottom-up approach. The 2030 GHG emissions target was to be pursued with certainty, as it was calculated against existing policies and technologies. On the other hand, the 2050 goal was based on a top-down approach and committed Japan to an 80 per cent reduction in GHG emissions. It was regarded as a ‘vision’ or ‘aspirational direction’ amid multiple uncertainties. The differentiated use of the words ‘target’ and ‘goal’ further reflect the …continue reading


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during the opening of the 13th Asia Europe Meeting held virtually, Phnom Penh, Cambodia 25 November 2021 (Photo: REUTERS/Cambodian Government)

Authors: Shada Islam, College of Europe, Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, EU Centre, Singapore and Bart Gaens, Finnish Institute of International Relations

The 13th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) on 25–26 November 2021 confirmed ASEM’s ambitions to become the ‘institutional home of connectivity’. The summit issued an outcome document on ‘the way forward on ASEM connectivity’, describing connectivity as the basis for regional economic integration by facilitating the exchange of information and improving the planning of activities. The summit chair’s statement emphasised quality infrastructure investment in line with agreed international standards.

These are good initiatives, but they are not enough to ensure that global connectivity actors work together transparently to fund much-needed infrastructure projects in Asia and Europe — rather than fund damaging and wasteful geopolitical rivalries. As a next step, ASEM should kickstart work on a multilateral framework for connectivity, accompanied by a connectivity code of conduct for those involved.

As meeting of 53 partners from the Eurasian continent, ASEM has placed connectivity high on its agenda since 2014. At the 10th ASEM Summit in 2014,leaders highlighted the ‘significance of connectivity between the two regions to economic prosperity and sustainable development’. The 11th ASEM Summit in 2016 established the ASEM Pathfinders Group on Connectivity (APGC), agreeing on a definition for connectivity in 2017. Connectivity is understood as a process that brings countries, people and societies closer together, as well as a means through which to foster deeper political, economic and social ties.

ASEM’s focus on connectivity is justified. The Asian Development Bank predicts that Asia alone must invest US$26 trillion between 2016 to 2030, or US$1.7 trillion per year, to maintain growth momentum, eradicate poverty and respond to climate change. Connectivity can improve people’s lives, boost mobility, improve competitiveness and enhance trade and …continue reading