Japan invites European comeback to Asian Security role, and seeks to join FPDA

Shinzo Abe--621x414Now Japan’s Prime Minister (again), Mr Shinzo Abe is inviting a European security ‘comeback’ to Asia (full text can be read here ©2012/Project Syndicate) -

“I would also invite Britain and France to stage a comeback in terms of participating in strengthening Asia’s security. The sea-faring democracies in Japan’s part of the world would be much better off with their renewed presence. The UK still finds value in the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. I want Japan to join this group, gather annually for talks with its members, and participate with them in small-sized military drills. Meanwhile, France’s Pacific Fleet in Tahiti operates on a minimal budget but could well punch above its weight.”

This came in an OpEd entitled “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond” (four points are Australia, India, Japan, Hawaii) that Abe published since being re-elected. It raises the alarm on China seeking to dominate the South China Sea, making it a  ‘Lake Beijing’ and identifies the expansion of the country’s strategic horizons as “Japan’s top foreign policy priority” – hence the appeal to India, Australia as well as FPDA members and France to join Japan in resisting the threat from China. Abe identifies the China threat in remarkably blunt terms.

Compared to his first term, the changes in this list is interesting. His tour around the four points of the ‘diamond’ puts emphasis on India, which is consistent with his past strategic thought (the ‘quadrilateral initiative’ including India, Australia, Japan and USA). Sticking with the Democracy theme, he includes Australia. Finally, Abe returns to the old US alliance in the penultimate paragraph (after all, Hawaii is the fourth point of his Diamond). So much for continuity. In 2007, Abe broke new ground advocating better links between Japan and NATO, but not much came of it. He now seems to be shifting expectations from Euro-Atlantic institutions to a Euro-Asia-Pacific institution, and bilateral relations. The really new element here is inviting Britain & France (‘not Europe’) to get involved, and seeking to put Japan’s partnership with Britain into a multilateral institutional form for the first time since the Anglo-Japan alliance that expired around a century ago. This seems to mirror recent moves from London (also see here, here and here) – How will Cameron and Hague respond? Watch this space. How will Australia and NZ and the SE Asian members of the Five Power Defence Agreements react? Stay tuned.

[Sincere thanks to James Rogers for the tip on Mr. Abe's OpEd - how did I miss this?]

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Japan invites European comeback to Asian Security role, and seeks to join FPDA

  1. It says more than dozens of books that Japan urges France and the UK. Obviously, “Europe” or “EU” doesn’t matter. So the call for France and the UK has been made. However, will they come? I doubt.

    Have look in this RAND study (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1196.html). They analyse the future of European defence budgets very well, but the outlook for Europe is not too good.

    True, France has its Pacific colonies, however, as far as I know, only one larger France surface warship (frigate?) warship is based in the Pacific. Along with the size of the French territories that means nothing. Britian has few hunderd Gurkhas in Brunei and occassionaly sends a frigate for a port visit.

    Put it context to the cases RAND makes, France and Britain can be happy if they are to sustain this kind of presence during the next years. If Britian and France contribute to regional security in East Asia or the Indo-Pacific, it will be more a symbolic presence as a political support for allies like the US, Australia, Singapore, et. al. But not more. The money is missing and budget situations only get worse.

    Nevertheless, we will see where Britains sends its Queen-Elizabeth Carriers, once they are in service, to support Uncle Sam. Such a support would be necessary, because US capabilities shrink and Britian will remain one of few European countries able to express solidarity with the US not only by words, but rather by doing something

  2. “In 2007, Abe broke new ground advocating better links between Japan and NATO, but not much came of it. He now seems to be shifting expectations from Euro-Atlantic institutions to a Euro-Asia-Pacific institution, and bilateral relations. The really new element here is inviting Britain & France (‘not Europe’) to get involved, and seeking to put Japan’s partnership with Britain into a multilateral institutional form for the first time since the Anglo-Japan alliance that expired around a century ago.”

    Hague will respond well I imagine, it was his idea to reframe british diplomacy through bilateralism rather than multilateralism.

  3. David Fouquet

    The US and Japan have intensified their appeals for reenforcements from the distant NATO Alliance and Europe in the distant Asian maritime disputes.
    New appeals for NATO and European involvement surfaced in recent days from new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. They arrived in the form of a letter in mid-January delivered to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen by a Japanese envoy, http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T130117004450.htm and in a speech at King’s College, London, by the Pentagon chief on January 18. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130118/DEFREG02/301180017/Panetta-NATO-Needs-Join-U-S-Rebalance-Asia-Pacific
    The contents of the Abe letter have not been made public yet, but had been reported to have been delivered by Japan’s Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Katsuyuki Kawai, also a ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, during a visit to Britain, France and Belgium between Jan.15-20.
    In the letter, Abe was said to call for stronger Japan-NATO cooperation in the face of China’s rising maritime power. The letter reportedly said China is violating Japan’s “territorial waters” and “airspace” frequently near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands; and China’s increasing maritime power and Pyongyang’s behavior have intensified the security situation in East Asia.
    Abe says in the letter that Japan is ready to “assume a more active role in securing stability and prosperity in East Asia” and Japan will share with NATO an understanding on the regional strategic environment.

    No reaction was immediately forthcoming from NATO, but in the past Rasmussen has been said to have downplayed the prospects of any NATO involvement in the US “pivot” to Asia. More recently he had also rejected any direct Alliance involvement in the latest military intervention in Mali.

    Other NATO officials had been cool to the prospects of being instrumentalised in that South China Sea or East China Sea disputes.

    Panetta said ” I strongly believe that Europe should join the United States in increasing and deepening defense engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.” In a wide-ranging address on NATO, Panetta underlined that “[T]he United States and Europe should work together and ensure our efforts are coordinated through regular consultations between European and U.S. defense officials focused on Asia-Pacific security issues” He also added “The bottom line is that Europe should not fear our rebalance to Asia, Europe should join it.”
    These come at a time when US conservative sources have questioned the resolve of the incoming US Secretaries of State and Defence to carry out the shift of US priority toward Asia. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324624404578255382220771310-lMyQjAxMTAzMDIwMTEyNDEyWj.html?mod=wsj_valetbottom_email&mg=ep64-wsj

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