Tag Archives: France

Abe visits Europe, May 2014 – some suggestions

Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to visit Europe in May (link). What should he be getting out of this trip?

  1. The idea is to strengthen relations with the European Union , sign a few free trade agreements and finalize the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. Considering Japan’s desire for a more strategic relationship with Europe, why not go a bit further? PM Abe has talked about making some changes in policies that will lead to Japan becoming even more proactive in global peacekeeping efforts, and so far there is little to show for it. UN Peacekeeping is one option, but why not kill two birds with one stone (peacekeeping and Euro-Japan concord) and agree to pursue a Framework Partnership Agreement with the EU that would allow Japanese civilians and members of the Self Defence Forces to participate in EU crisis management missions and operations? Korea is on track to do so, then why not Japan? Approximately two thirds of CSDP efforts are civilian missions, so well within the ‘human security’ paradigm MOFA has supported through the UN. Also, following the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan (an alliance apparently in no hurry to do anything similar again), the EU is still launching missions left, right and centre, and may offer more opportunities for Japan to bond with a European security platform.
  2. To gain international support in light of territorial disputes with China and South Korea and deflect critical remarks from both countries over historical issues, Japan has to start thinking outside the box. This visit is an opportunity to change the narrative from Yasukuni and sex slaves onto something more positive. Abe could counter China’s propaganda offensive by organizing an event in the UK to showcase post-WWII reconciliation between Japan and Great Britain. What if Abe and Cameron together attend a screening of the recent movie based on the true life story of Anglo-Japan reconciliation “The Railway Man”? Abe can give a speech about how Britain and Japan managed to squarely face up to the tragedies of that war and become, united by common values, allies once again. This would have two advantages: (1) refute the image of Abe as being in denial about Japan’s past; and (2) showcase an example of how Japan has managed to rebuild its international relations with an important ally.
  3. Abe is also planning to meet with French President Hollande. This will be interesting because Japan and France have been working hard on their relationship, which is elevated to a 2+2 meeting with a roadmap for security cooperation. This offers a chance to get an indication of which basket (UK, France, EU, V4, NATO) Japan is putting most of its eggs, or if it will continue to distribute them rather evenly across this set.
  4. Abe is set to participate in the Ministerial Council Meeting of the OECD in Paris on May 6 – 7. Events in Ukraine will probably set the atmosphere for this. Russia will be out of the G8. It is a shame for Abe, who wanted to settle the northern islands dispute with Russia and secure an alternative source of hydrocarbon energy supplies from Russia. However, Vladimir Putin has gone too far in Ukraine. Abe has to take a stand on this because (1) that is the essence of his narrative about values (rule of law, democracy, free speech, free market); and because (2) Japan has to back up the present world order in case China starts to feel the rules have changed. OECD is about economies, so maybe hopefully there will be more to talk about than handling the fallout from sanctioning Russia.

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UK, France / Japan leading on Euro-Asia Security cooperation?

220px-TokugawaYoshinobu

The Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu in French military uniform, c.1867.

This blog has paid close attention to the UK-Japan ‘strategic partnership’ (here, here, here), not least because it is starting to look like the most salient feature of Europe-Asia interaction on security.  In the recent Chatham House conference (opening their five-year UK-Japan Global Seminar), British MP Hugo Swire called Japan Britain’s ‘closest partner in Asia’. His counterpart at the Conference, Hiroaki Fujii, had earlier called the UK Continue reading

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Europeans at Shangri-la dialogue achieve Woody Allen’s 80%

scarlett-johansson-woody-allen04Woody Allen said that 80% of life is showing up. By that standard, the various European security actors (EU, NATO, a couple of sovereign states) made the grade at this year’s Shangri-la shindig on Asian security.

EU: Cathy Ashton went (first time) and gave a speech in plenary. It was Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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How does Asia feature in preparations for France’s 2013 Defence White Paper?

200px-Parmesan_Pannacotta_-_Amuse_Bouche_-_Lake_House_Restaurant,_DaylesfordPrior to the release of France’s new White Paper on Defence and National Security (DWP), the General Secretariat for Defence and Security has released an amuse-gueule: “The International and Strategic Evolutions Faced by France“. What does it have to say about Asia?

  • First, it confirms one of the findings of the 2008 DWP, that there is a “progressive shift in the strategic centre of gravity towards Asia”, but notes that this shift has accelerated. Asia “has become the epicenter of the strategic scene”, Continue reading

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A French accent to the European voice at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue

Three European nations – those referred to as ‘the big three’ in the corridors of the EU – spoke for Europe at the recent 2012 Shangri-La Dialogue. The UK sent the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and Director-General, Security Policy. Germany sent their Parliamentary State Secretary for Defence. The most significant showing was France’s  Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who used a speech on Emerging Risks to Global and Asia-Pacific Security to communicate the intention of France, representing Europe more broadly, to step up its involvement in Asia-Pacific security.

France’s rationale was placed in the context of the rising economic importance of the region, the US ‘pivot’, and the inter-dependence of European and Asian security. France’s historical involvement and ongoing ‘territorial and military presence’ were noted to remind the audience that France had never left the region. Then the high rhetorical tone was brought down to earth by an honest acknowledgement that all this had been said before, but now it was “… high time to transform words into action“.

What kind of action does the Minister have in mind? I found three main lines of note: Continue reading

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