Asia: Japan in 2016

Asia: Japan in 2016A series of earthquakes struck Kumamoto in Japan’s southwest in April, triggering fears of a repeat of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. Kumamoto city is located 115 kilometres (72 miles) from the Sendai nuclear power station, the only nuclear plant in operation at the time of the earthquake. The most recent…

Japan’s Female Troika: Potential Prime Ministers

Japan’s Female Troika: Potential Prime MinistersIn fewer than two months over the summer, Japan’s famously male-dominated political system elevated three ambitious women into positions that could become stepping-stones to the prime minister’s office.  Although Japan is now flanked by neighbors such as Taiwan and South Korea, both with women presidents, no Japanese woman has ever served as prime minister, or…

Tension Grows Between Japan and China over Islets

Tension Grows Between Japan and China over IsletsTokyo has delivered a humiliating public protest to China’s ambassador for the intrusion of a vast “fishing fleet” escorted by a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands, known as the Daioyus to the Chinese. Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game…

Japan Enters South China Sea Dispute

Japan Enters South China Sea DisputeIn the coming months, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is set to issue its judgment on the case brought by the Philippines that challenges China’s claims in the South China Sea. Beijing appears to be anticipating an unfavorable ruling and is reaffirming its stance on the illegitimacy of the UN tribunal. Beijing…

Obama to go to Hiroshima

Obama to go to HiroshimaFor years, even as wartime animosities were transformed into friendship, no US President has ever visited Hiroshima, site of the first atomic bombing (Jimmy Carter visited after he left the presidency).  They were deterred by what might be called the “Truman Question.” It goes like this: “Mr. President, if you had been president in 1945,…

Japan PM Abe’s Influence Grows Across ASEAN

Japan PM Abe’s Influence Grows Across ASEANIn Southeast Asia, Japan can be said to enjoy unrivaled popularity. According to the 2015 Pew Global Attitudes survey, an average of about 80 percent of respondents surveyed across four Southeast Asian countries said they hold a favorable view of Japan. While China’s expanding military footprint in the disputed South China Sea has a headline-grabbing…

Shinzo Abe Gets Fresh Wind in his Sails

Shinzo Abe Gets Fresh Wind in his SailsThis has been a tough summer for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His public approval polling numbers took a dive as tens of thousands besieged parliament to protest passage of a pair of security bills allowing Japan to cooperate more fully with allies. His pet project, bringing the Olympics to Tokyo in 2020, took a…

Will the Waters of the East China Sea Start to Boil?

Will the Waters of the East China Sea Start to Boil?As the world’s attention has been focused on China’s provocative land reclamation projects in the South China Sea and their implications for potential conflict, the situation in the East China Sea has been relatively quiet so far this year, which may be a comfortable delusion. The last major provocation was in November, 2013, when China…

Japan’s Security Pact: Long Hot Summer

Japan’s Security Pact: Long Hot SummerDuring his spring visit to the United States, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood in the well of the House of Representatives and promised: “I will pass national security legislation by the end of summer.” He was referring to a new law and amendments to nearly a dozen other laws relating to the deployment of…

Tokyo Dips Toe in Dangerous Waters

Tokyo Dips Toe in Dangerous WatersIn late March, Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, paid a state visit to Japan, his first journey outside of Asean, since taking office the previous October. Only a few years ago, such a trip would have been dominated by trade, trade, trade. Those elements were present in Widodo’s trip to be sure, but the biggest…
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