The Evolution of Japanese Security Policy


Image: AP / Itsuo Inouye

Policy Paper

by Barry Cooper
CGAI Fellow
December, 2016


Table of Contents

Executive Summary 

At the end of the Pacific War, the United States wrote a new constitution for Japan that included an article compelling their defeated adversary forever to renounce war as an instrument of state policy. Today, in response to changing economic and geopolitical realities, Japan had the most effective military forces in Northeast Asia. This paper discusses the reasons for the change and how Japan was able to interpret constitutional pacifism so as to respond to the political necessities created by its confrontational neighbours. The “view from Tokyo” presented in this report will be of interest to Canadians not least of all because it differs from the more familiar “view from Beijing.” Japan today is a stable democracy and a natural trading partner for Canada. Understanding the evolution of Japanese security policy will assist Canadians in understanding the evolution of postwar Japan.



As part of a “strategic communications” program, along with three colleagues, I was a week-long guest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) early in 2016. We received briefings in Tokyo from senior MOFA officials, cabinet secretariat officials, think-tank and academic scholars, and from officials at the Japanese Ministry of Defence, along with a large number of documents describing Japanese foreign and defence policy positions. The following is a report on what a reasonably well informed non-specialist learned from a brief but intense visit; it may be characterized as a “view from Tokyo” for Canadians. The focus is on Japanese foreign and defence policy, not domestic politics or economic policy.

I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, who clearly were experts on Japan, for their very helpful and generous comments.


Context: Geopolitical History

Japan, as every other country, has been conditioned by geography both in terms of constraints and opportunities that sometimes appear to political leaders as imperatives. Japanese history, including its current history, has been a response to fundamental and relatively permanent geopolitical realities.

Geographically, Japan consists of four mountainous home islands, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido, and 6800 smaller ones. The population is concentrated on the costal strips of the home islands and three major plains in central Honshu. Without an internal river system, Japan has relied on maritime technology to link the Seto Inland Sea, separating the three home islands, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, with the coastal settlements. The home islands are some 800 km from China; Korea is 190 km away from Kyushu – five times the width of the English Channel. The northernmost Hokkaido is close to sparsely populated Sakhalin. In short, for much of its history, Japan has been relatively isolated.

Geographic remoteness from other countries and cultures has influenced two seemingly contrary trends in Japanese history and foreign relations: sometimes Japan sought to enhance its isolation by excluding or limiting the access of foreigners to Japan; at other times the Japanese adopted and adapted foreign practices with enthusiasm. Combined with a maritime culture, when Japan has looked outward and has been expansive, it has pursued its strategic objectives initially at the expense of its nearest neighbours, the Koreans. From the Japanese perspective, Korea has been a glacis against Chinese, Mongol, and Russian threats.

As most other countries, Japan has had to respond to events outside its control, notably in modern Japanese history, the arrival of European powers in East Asia from the seventeenth century on. More recently, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Japanese geopolitical imperatives that began with the defence of the home islands expanded to include the control of maritime approaches and then to policies designed to acquire strategic goods, particularly after Japan began to industrialize and do so in the absence of domestic raw materials. The latter developments led to opportunistic invasions of Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, Siberia, and eventually to the confrontation and conflict with the United States. The decisive American victory in the Pacific War temporarily extinguished Japanese sovereignty; the “MacArthur Shogunate” eliminated any Japanese threat to American strategic objectives, which included control of the Western Pacific by the United States Navy (USN). The alliance with the United States has been, from the Japanese perspective, a quasi-constant element in their foreign and security policy even though American attention in the postwar era has wandered from the Western Pacific to Europe to the Greater Middle East, and back to the Pacific.

As part of their postwar strategy, the US imposed on Japan a pacifist constitution, Article IX of which, entitled “Renunciation of War,” declared that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.” In order to accomplish that objective, “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” One reason for the relative ease of the Japanese acceptance of pacifism was, no doubt, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the widespread destruction of Japanese cities by more conventional Allied bombing attacks, and the occupation of the country by US troops. In recent years, however, first during the Cold War, and then in the post-Cold War period, Article IX has undergone a complex evolution in response to an economically and technologically driven imperative to “normalize” Japanese defence and security policy.

The loss of the Pacific War did not alter Japan’s geopolitical condition, though initially, the postwar period did change the focus of Japan’s response to that condition. The first postwar election was won by Yoshida Shigeru, who gave his name to the Yoshida Doctrine. The central feature of this “doctrine” was that the United States would provide Japan with external security. This enabled Japan to emphasize economic recovery and then economic growth that would eventually restore Japan to great-power status. And great-power status implied a commensurate military capability. Yoshida was not, therefore, a pacifist, despite his tactical embrace of a pacifist constitution.1 As part of that strategy, Japan returned to the problem of securing resources, this time with American help rather than their opposition. Like the German Wirtschaftswunder, the Japanese postwar economic miracle was remarkable. The Americans provided Japanese manufacturers with technology and markets and tolerated Japanese protectionism. Forced savings and the revival of the vertically and horizontally integrated zaibatsu, cartels, now called keiretsu, company groups, along with an autonomous bureaucracy and the lengthy rule of the Liberal Democratic Party, eventually restored the earlier “Iron Triangle” of political and economic rule. By the late 1960s Japan had the second largest capitalist GDP in the world, and its investments flowed in the same directions as they had done during the early decades of the twentieth century: Taiwan, Korea (now South Korea), and Southeast Asia. By the 1980s, the keiretsu supply-chains had created something like the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of which the Japanese military had dreamed during the 1930s. In other words, the Yoshida Doctrine looked to be a tremendous success. There were, however, three distinct flaws. The long-term problem was that, as the Japanese economy prospered, it grew increasingly dependent on foreign raw materials, as in the 1930s, only now it had no military way to mitigate or manage its vulnerability. That problem is being addressed today.

The second flaw in the Yoshida Doctrine was that, despite Article IX, the rest of the world had not renounced war. Specifically, the Cold War, including the shooting war in Korea, changed the security context. As early as 1953, US Vice President Richard Nixon declared that the pacifism enshrined in the Constitution was a “mistake.” Two years before, in 1951, the Treaty of San Francisco restored Japanese sovereignty and the 1960 Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security established a new security framework reflecting a new reality and within which Japan existed for the next half-century.2

The American alliance and the dominant place of the US Navy in the Western Pacific secured the home islands and their maritime approaches and enabled the Yoshida Doctrine to work successfully. Even before Nixon’s remark about Article IX, the Americans had begun the process of “normalization” of postwar Japanese military capability when, in 1950, General Douglas MacArthur authorized the creation of the Japanese Police Reserve Force, the precursor to the Japanese Self-Defence Forces (JSDF), to ensure domestic security. We discuss some of the details of this process in the following section.

The third flaw in the Yoshida Doctrine as it was understood in operation, if not in the mind of its author, was that the Cold War came to an end. The collapse of the Soviet Union was shortly followed by the collapse of the Japanese economy. As the protégé came to rival the mentor, the Americans saw less reason to continue its preferential policies, especially after 1989. The Americans put pressure on Japan to open its financial and consumer markets, which the Japanese resisted. The result was the “Lost Decade” of recession, growing deficit and debt, and a general economic malaise. Between 2003 and 2007, the Japanese economy improved, but the recovery was reversed in the recession that began in 2008. That is, the end of the Cold War did not stimulate a creative Japanese response to changing economic and geopolitical realities in Northeast Asia.

Some observers have argued that the “Iron Tringle” of the Liberal Democratic Party, the bureaucracy, and the keiretsu is responsible for continuing economic problems because these institutions and organizations have been unable or unwilling to change. The result has been to prolong economic dependence on the US even after American interests had shifted. Others have cited short-term domestic political constraints, including the unpopularity of necessary tax increases or other economic dilemmas, such as are posed by a national debt that has reached about 245% of GDP, and low global economic growth. Japan is also constrained by a longer-term demographic problem.3 Given these recent and post-Cold War challenges, Japan has nevertheless made significant creative responses to the new security environment. Most obviously, if the foregoing analysis of Japan’s geopolitical history is valid, the country will have to adjust its relationship to China and to the new expectations of the United States regarding its allies in the Western Pacific –which, of course, is also a response to growing Chinese power.


New Strategic ContextNew Strategic Context

The previous section, on the geopolitical history of Japan, combined the semi-permanent aspects of the geography of the country with its contingent historical development. A major political problem for postwar Japan has been to reconcile a pacifist constitution with security vulnerability that came with its having become an economic superpower. As the victor in the Pacific War, the United States inevitably has played a major role in Japanese security, but prior to 1941, Japan had prosecuted a more or less successful war against several of its neighbours, including China. The economic and military growth of the PRC, no less that the memory of Japanese military activity during the 1930s and early 1940s, has ensured considerable ambivalence on the part of Japan’s neighbours regarding the “normalization” of Japanese security policy, which, in turn, has meant that Japanese foreign policy is a complex balancing act between an (almost) irresistible force and an (almost) immovable object. If the Trump Administration does change US priorities in the Western Pacific, Japan will be faced with more security problems, to be sure, but also with new diplomatic and military opportunities.

The immobility of the Japanese constitution, centred on Article IX, has been interpreted as a consequence of “the weight Japanese tradition assigns to documents and positions of authority; according to Japanese custom, the higher the authority, the less it should be changed.”4 By this logic, since the Constitution is the most authoritative legal document in Japan, it is the least likely to be changed through amendment. On the other hand, early in August, 2016, Emperor Akihito hinted at abdication, which is prohibited under Article I and which act would, therefore, require a constitutional amendment.

The forces requiring changes in Japanese defence and security policy have been alluded to in the previous section. For example, from 1950 until the mid-1970s, China, North Korea, and the USSR all maintained an adversarial but not confrontational posture toward Japan. The Soviet Union was more focused on its western front against NATO; the military power of China and Korea was chiefly ground-based and Japan was isolated by a natural moat. During the later 1970s, this arrangement began to change; the USSR augmented its Pacific Fleet, particularly its nuclear ballistic-missile submarines and Kiev-class aviation cruisers.5 They also relocated fighter aircraft to the east and expanded their amphibious capabilities on the Kurile Islands.6 Moreover, Japan, not China, was the target of this buildup.7 Meanwhile, American attention turned increasingly towards the Middle East.

Japan’s response was to accept more responsibility for its own defence, starting with the acquisition of advanced F-15 interceptors, new submarines, and guided-missile destroyers. In 1978 Japan signed the Guidelines for Defense Cooperation, which expanded theatre operations by the JDSF from the home islands to provide “peace and stability” operations throughout East Asia. Increased joint naval exercises with the USN followed and in 1981 Japan declared it would patrol its maritime approaches out to 1,000 nautical miles.8 These modifications in policy were accompanied by additional Guidelines after 1978 that in turn effectively modified the 1960 Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

The operationalization of the Treaty and Guidelines took the form of a joint Japanese-US Security Consultative Committee (1990) and in 2010, National Defence Program Guidelines, which further modernized security procedures.9 By 2015, according to Wright, “the basics” of “normalization” were in place.10 Two other milestones are worth noting. In 1992 Japan passed the International Peace Cooperation Law, which allowed the country to contribute personnel as well as money to support UN-sanctioned peacekeeping operations.11 A second change, in 2007, elevated the Defence Agency into the Ministry of Defence and thus bureaucratically equal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – though in the eyes of MOFA, the Defence Ministry remained a junior partner.

Japan, in other words, has effectively repealed Article IX. It has done so, moreover, without a formal amendment and often without any serious court challenges. The term of art used to describe this aspect of the process of “normalization” is “reconstruction” or “reinterpretation.” It began in 1954 when Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama distinguished between the plain meaning of the text and a pre-existing and, he argued, universal right to self-defence more fundamental than the law of the constitution.12 Each time a Liberal Democratic government announced a change in the direction of “normalization” there was opposition, sometimes accompanied by demonstrations. In all cases, the government replied by justifying the changes as fulfilling the defensive necessities under new circumstances.13 Not everyone has been convinced. As Katahara observed, in an emergency the JSDF “might be obliged to take extralegal action.”14

The most recent attempt to avoid extralegal, which is to say, potentially illegal, action by the JSDF was the announcement by the Abe government in July 2014 of yet another flexible constitutional interpretation: henceforth Japan could participate in collective self-defence without violating Article IX. In reality, collective self-defence meant that if a third country attacked “a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan,” such as the US, Japan could engage in collective self-defence with that ally. This declaration was incorporated in the 2015 Guidelines, which explicitly detailed how Japan and the US would cooperate after an attack on Japan and added space and cyber as two additional arenas of cooperation.15 Whether this new doctrine means the abandonment de facto of Article IX or simply recognizes what has also been in place for at least a decade has been hotly debated.16 The external stimulus for these changes were obvious enough: perceived threats from North Korea and more remotely from China, in the context of uncertainty regarding the future reliability of the American commitment to their defence. Before discussing the areas of confrontation, a brief notice of new Japanese military hardware is in order.

During the Cold War, Japanese anti-submarine and anti-mine technologies and capabilities were clearly within both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. A defensive focus has excluded such offensive weapons as fixed-wing carrier aviation, nuclear attack submarines, a dedicated amphibious force, large airborne forces, cruise missiles, and so on. Generally speaking, the Americans provided the sword and Japan the shield. But as we have noted, Japan has gradually altered its military posture; under the heading of “normalization,” this change has been reflected in the new types of equipment the JSDF have acquired and new capabilities they have developed. In 2008, for example, the Air Force acquired its first aerial refueling tanker. In 2011, Japan ordered 42 Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightening II multirole stealth fighters. In January 2016, Japan unveiled its first domestically produced stealth military plane, the experimental Mitsubishi X-2. The goal is to have it replace the F-2 fighters, derived from the General Dynamics F-16, by the late 2020s.17 The X-2 is intended to defend Japan against China, but also, eventually, by actively supplying Viet Nam, Taiwan, and the Philippines with fifth-generation aircraft, help counter a Sinocentric order in the Western Pacific. Some Japanese journalists have called it the “Zero of the present era,” after the Mitsubishi fighter of World War II.

The most interesting development has been in the area of naval aviation. The new Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers” (27,000 tons, fully loaded) were introduced in 2013 as a replacement for the smaller Hyuga-class (19,000 tons). Both classes are, in fact, carriers and are called destroyers because carriers are considered offensive weapons platforms and so prohibited by the Constitution. Even though they are said to be anti-submarine and border-surveillance vessels, the Izumo-class can support such fixed-wing aircraft as the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and the F-35B, the short take-off, vertical-landing (STVOL) variant of the F-35. As The Washington Post observed, on the launch of JS Izumo, it “raised eyebrows in China and elsewhere” because it bears a strong resemblance to a conventional aircraft carrier.18 The Economist noted that, with a 248 meter (814 foot) flight deck, with minor modifications it could be used for ordinary fixed-wing aircraft. This would make it virtually indistinguishable from a power-projecting strike carrier.19

To round out the new configuration of the Japanese SDF, we might note that the Western Army Infantry Regiment has been transformed into a specialized formation capable of amphibious operations –with the help of joint training exercises with the US Marine Corps.20 When asked about this new assault capability Japanese Ministry of Defence officials said it was trained to re-take islands after a foreign power illegally occupied Japanese territory, not for offensive action, which, we were once again told, was prohibited by the Constitution. That remark raised eyebrows around the briefing table.

Japan has long maintained anti-ship batteries along the coast, particularly in the north to counter threats to Hokkaido from the Soviet Union. Some of this 30-year old equipment has been redeployed to the East China Sea “first island chain” along with new, supersonic anti-ship missiles and what are, in effect stealthy cruise missiles. The objective, again in concert with the USN, is to create a Japanese version of the “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) that China is developing in order to push the USN farther offshore. By erecting modern anti-ship batteries along some 200 islands in the East China Sea, China will still be able to transit the “first island chain” but will do so in the sights of Japanese missiles.21 It almost goes without saying that anti- ship missiles, particularly stealthy cruise missiles, need very little modification to turn them into land attack cruise missiles.

In sum, as Japan has modified its security policy and reinterpreted its doctrines regarding the use of military force and has operationalized those changes by acquiring more offensive capabilities. Should the JSDF acquire land attack cruise missiles, which are unambiguously an offensive weapon designed for long-range force projection against distant targets, the eclipse of Article IX will be complete. To date these changes have been undertaken in the context of acquiring greater interoperability with American forces; if the US reduces its presence in the Western Pacific as President-Elect Trump has hinted they might, this greater offensive capability is bound to alarm its regional competitors as well as its potential enemies. Let us now consider the several areas of confrontation that Japan currently faces.


Areas of Confrontation


Masashi Nishihara, of the Research Institute for Peace and Security, and former president of the National Defence Academy, presented a paper to us on “The Present and Future Trajectory of Sino-Japanese Relations.” The most striking aspect of his analysis was the difference between friendly economic and cultural relations and confrontational political ones. China is Japan’s largest trading partner; Japan is China’s second largest, after the United States. There are 890 flights a week between the two countries. Estimates of tourist visits vary between three and seven million a year, about equally divided between Chinese visiting Japan and Japanese visiting China.22 Political relations tell a much different story.

The long-term strategic problem simply reflects the overriding importance of water, not land, in the geopolitical reality of Asia. From the Sea of Japan to the East and South China Seas, to the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, salt water, and the struggle to control it has been the foundation of many competing national strategies.23 Naming rights count, as do whether a protrusion above the sea is an island, an atoll, a rock, or something else. On such often recondite but always fundamental questions access to resources, no less than political stability, depend.

So far as China is concerned, their industrialization required they secure their maritime approaches for exactly the same reasons these same bodies of water matter to Japan. To state the obvious: securing free passage through the South China Sea is of vital national interest to both countries. China, however, views this body of water in terms of its own sovereignty, not maritime law.24 Japan (and the United States) are more concerned with freedom of navigation and the interpretation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In other words, there is a more or less permanent (or at least long-term) conflict between the regional geopolitical strategies of China and Japan – to say nothing of the global geopolitical strategy of the United States, that it attempts to maintain naval superiority worldwide.

As tributary to Chinese geopolitical aspirations, in 2013 President Xi proposed to President Obama that they divide control of the Pacific Ocean. The implication for Japan was that American troops and the Seventh Fleet, home-based at Yokosuka, would be withdrawn from Japan, which would severely weaken the alliance between the two countries. A year later President Xi suggested at a conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia that Asian security issues should be discussed only by Asians. Partly in response to these Chinese initiatives, the US Navy has deployed elements of the third Fleet, home-based in San Diego, to the Western Pacific. Historically when Third Fleet ships crossed the International Date Line they came under the operational control of Seventh Fleet commanders. The new arrangement is intended to enhance cooperation of the two major components of the American Pacific Fleet. Perhaps more to the point, the combined Third and Seventh Fleets constitute over two-thirds of American combat vessels, which, despite US interests elsewhere, ought to indicate continuing American concerns regarding both Japan and China.25

The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MOD) has been more forceful in its description of Chinese challenges than MOFA.26 Despite the advocacy of “peaceful development,” a MOD document declared, China “is poised to fulfill its unilateral demands without compromise.” Hence the increase in Chinese military spending that has enhanced their strategic capabilities, specifically their ability to project power at sea and in the air, especially over shared maritime approaches. Japanese concerns, including their concern over Chinese cyber capabilities, were enhanced as a result of Chinese lack of transparency regarding every aspect of their military affairs. The MOD document pointed to four new Chinese policies that were especially troubling. The visit of Song-class submarines to Sri Lanka and the declaration of an “East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone” were of relatively minor significance.

Chinese “land reclamation projects” in the South China Sea were more important. The response to China’s creation of artificial islands, however, was rather imaginative. Instead of diplomatic protest or another futile legal wrangle, Japan made a similar claim (disputed by China and Korea) to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the remote Okinotori atoll, which is located directly south of Japan in the Philippine Sea, nearly 600 km southwest of Iwo Jima, about half way between Taiwan and Guam. Japan has encased the now badly eroded atoll with steel and concrete in order to preserve about 10 square meters on three rocks (down from five rocks in 1970), above high tide. This enabled Japan to claim a 200-nautical mile EEZ that covers a surface area larger than Japan’s land mass. The Chinese consider Japan’s action hypocritical, but also want to have Okinotori declared a non-island in order to reduce Japanese administrative control to 12 nautical miles, thus affording the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) an opportunity to map the nearby seafloor in order to anticipate USN submarine movements. Probably the most important area of disagreement with China concerns the Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese call Diaoyu Islands. These islands have been Japanese possessions since 1895 and had never been disputed until 1971, when a UN report noted that the islands and the nearby ocean floor had great hydrocarbon potential.27 The US Energy Information Administration estimates the East China Sea holds about 200M barrels of oil and between 30 and 60B cubic metres of natural gas. That amounts to around two months’ worth of Japan’s oil requirements and six months of its natural gas demand, which suggests that hydrocarbon resources, to say nothing of fish, are not really at the centre of the conflict. Moreover, China has established several drilling platforms in undisputed Chinese waters, at least one of which is equipped with military-grade surface radar, which provides them with enhanced awareness of surface activity in the East China Sea. In other words, whatever the economic potential, the islands are strategically important to both countries simply because they lie between Taiwan and Okinawa.

Both countries have undertaken additional moves to enhance their geopolitical interests. Since 2010, when a Chinese fish boat rammed two Japan Coast Guard vessels near Senkaku, tensions have been building up. This act prompted the Japanese government to purchase three of the islands from a Japanese private citizen, which led to anti-Japanese demonstrations in China and considerable physical damage to Japanese companies there. In December 2012, a Chinese reconnaissance aircraft penetrated Japanese airspace above the islands and Japan scrambled interceptors from Okinawa. A few weeks later a Chinese frigate locked its firing radar on the Murasami-class destroyer, JS Yudachi.28

Since 2015, Japan has developed diplomatic agreements and security protocols with Viet Nam and the Philippines to enable the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) to undertake enhanced patrols in the South China Sea. China has expressed disapproval and alarm at this activity and, in response, has increased its own presence in the East China Sea, particularly around the Senkaku islands with numerous over-flights and the use of Coast Guard vessels –or rather, of frigates transferred to the China Coast Guard– to penetrate the 200-mile Japanese EEZ. These vessels have much of their armament removed (or replaced with water cannons) but are fast and have military-grade hulls that are effective in “shouldering” other countries’ coast guard vessels. New, purpose-built China Coast Guard cutters are in the 12,000 to 15,000-ton range, far larger than Japan’s 6500-ton Shikishima-class. Indeed, they are larger in bulk than Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers of the USN. In response, Japan permanently increased the number of F-15 fighters in Okinawa and prepared to mobilize JMSDF vessels to assist the Japan Coast Guard if needed. For the first time, China sent a navy frigate (not just a China Coast Guard vessel) close to the Senkaku Islands in June, 2016. Three Russian naval vessels, including an Udaloy-class destroyer, sailed through the 24-mile zone about the same time. The Chinese action has been interpreted as a response to the JMSDF agreements with Viet Nam to make port calls at Cam Ranh Bay and rotate sailors through bases in the Philippines. Partly, no doubt, in response to the possibility of a rapid escalation of confrontation to conflict in the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, the two countries recently established a hotline between Tokyo and Beijing.29  A final area of Japanese concern over China reflected internal Chinese economic difficulties. These problems have led the Chinese government increasingly to centralize power in Beijing. Japanese officials were particularly concerned that China would promote its domestic nationalism, as part of the program of centralized management of its own problems, and do so at the expense of Japan. Anti-Japanese “spontaneous demonstrations” are hardly unknown in China. What came as a surprise was the vehemence of Japanese criticism of President Xi’s 2015 speech praising the victory of the People’s Liberation Army over the Imperial Japanese Army. “Japan never surrendered to the Chinese Communists,” we were twice told. “Japan surrendered to the Kuomintang and to the United States.”


The confrontation with Russia antedated the Cold War by nearly a century. In 1855 the treaty of Shimoda, which initiated diplomatic relations between Russia and Japan, established Sakhalin as a joint condominium and divided the Kurile Islands between the two countries. Twenty years later, with the Treaty of St. Petersburg, Japan gave up all rights to Sakhalin and Russia did the same to the Kuriles. After their victory in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, a key turning-point in Japanese and regional military history, Japan took over the southern half of Sakhalin. During the Civil War following the Bolshevik Revolution, Japan occupied territory in eastern Siberia but left in the mid-1920s. A brief border skirmish in 1939 was followed by the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact of 1941. The Soviets renounced the Pact on August 4th, 1945; on August 14th Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration and capitulated the next day. During the last two weeks of August, the Soviets occupied the Kuriles, including Kunashiri and the Habomai group is islets, visible for Hokkaido across the Nemuro Strait (12 km. wide in the south), and within two years the Soviets had forcibly relocated about 17,000 Japanese, mostly to Hokkaido.

Owing to lacunae and drafting ambiguities in the texts of several World War II documents, from the Yalta and Potsdam Declarations (1945) and the Treaty of San Francisco (1951), the four “southern Kuriles”, as the Russians call them, remained under de facto Soviet and Russian control, although Russian de jure sovereignty has been actively disputed by Japan and not acknowledged by the US. Japan accordingly refused to sign a peace agreement with the Soviets because they objected to the occupation of what Japan calls their “Northern Territories.”30 The Russians, who viewed Japan as part of a threatening US alliance, saw no reason to sign either. The Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956 ended the state of hostilities between the two countries, but postponed settlement of the Kurile dispute until a formal peace treaty was concluded.

Despite a few economic concessions by Russia during the early 2000s to permit Japanese fishing inside their EEZ, nothing fundamental has changed until very recently. Indeed, in 2011 the Russians increased their military presence in the islands. In 2013, Russian Su-27 fighters penetrated Japanese airspace and JASDF F-2s were scrambled in response.31 That same year, however, also saw movement towards another kind of normalization with Russia. Increased trade and expectations of further increases gave both countries reasons to change their posture with respect to one another. Specifically, after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, Japan changed its energy consumption pattern and began investing in Russian energy companies. On the Russian side, they had begun exporting oil eastward and had made plans to construct a natural gas pipeline to China.

Obviously, Japan could use Russian hydrocarbons. In addition, Japan’s political interests would be served by providing Russia with a market alternative to China and Russia was in search of such alternatives. These economic opportunities were discussed early in 2013 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin along with ways of resolving the dispute over the Kuriles. But the Russian annexation of Crimea and Russian support for the 2014 uprising in eastern Ukraine, which were followed by economic sanctions, temporarily ended discussions and ramped up Russian military activity.

At the time of writing, November 2016, rumours of a possible agreement over the Kuriles and an accompanying peace treaty have been reported in the Japanese press as being items high on the agenda for the next Abe-Putin summit scheduled for December 15th, 2016.32 The basic deal is the same as it was conceived in the past: resolution of the Kurile question in exchange for Japanese investment, an obvious win-win. But we are discussing the geopolitics of Northeast Asia where things can never be so simple.

To begin with, an agreement by Japan to invest in Russia may create considerable opposition from the United States, if the Trump Administration seeks to continue sanctions. Japan may argue that an agreement would secure their northern flank and provide the Japanese with greater opportunity to act in the South and East China Seas, which would be of assistance to the Americans. The Japanese could also remind the Americans that China has no desire to see a rapprochement between Japan and Russia, and would prefer to see divisions both between Russia and Japan and between Japan and the US. Moreover, if the new administration does abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and if US-Russia relations warm under President Trump, cooperation between Russia and Japan would be easier to accomplish. That would include resolving the Kurile dispute and slowing the growing closeness between China and Russia.

For their part, the Russians have several times made clear that Russian public opinion is strongly against surrendering any territory to any other country. Putin can, in truth, say that he has little room to maneuver. Japan has accordingly made two concessions. The first is that, because the Russians see the acquisition of the Kuriles as a prize of war, the Japanese will no longer speak of the islands as being “returned” or “given back.” The Japanese now speak of the islands as being “handed over” or even “voluntarily returned.” A second Japanese concession is that, instead of discussing the transfer of four islands, they are looking to acquire only two, the smaller Shikotan Island and the Habomai group of rocks and islets, leaving the disposition of the two large islands, Etorofu and Kunashiri, for future discussions. With or without anti-ship missile systems, negotiations over Etorofu (the Russians call it Iturup) promise to be difficult. This northernmost of the Southern Kuriles lies between two offshore passages that are ice-free all year and provide the Russian Pacific Fleet with direct access to the ocean from Vladivostok and the Sea of Okhotsk. Perhaps the best Japan can expect is to acquire the smaller islands, leaving later negotiations to deal with Kunashiri. Whether Russia would ever hand over Etorofu (Iturup) seems highly questionable.

Korean Peninsula

The United States, Japan, and Japan’s Northeast Asian neighbours agree that a nuclear-weapons-free Korean peninsula is a good idea. That said, there is no consensus on how to achieve it or what a suitable policy towards North Korea ought to be. There is not even agreement on how to define the North Korean problem or to understand the behaviour of the North Korean regime. One thing, however, is clear: threats, sanctions, and isolation of North Korea may in the past have retarded the development of their nuclear arsenal but have hardly stopped it; nor have intermittent efforts at reconciliation and dialogue. Moreover, the North Koreans see no reason to discontinue their WMD program. On the contrary: Libya provides a negative example of what happens to a regime that foregoes WMD development –a decade after giving up such development, Moammar Gadhafi was dead; India and Pakistan provide a positive model of how to keep WMD and maintain international diplomatic acceptance as a legitimate regime. In that context, then, a nuclear-armed North Korea can be taken as a given for the foreseeable future.

The Japanese perspective on North Korea is straightforward: “The development of WMD and missiles by North Korea constitutes, coupled with its provocative words and actions, including missile attacks against Japan, a serious and imminent threat to the security of Japan.”33 In particular, the Japanese are concerned about North Korea’s diversifying their offensive capabilities into submarine-launched missiles and about steps the North Koreans have taken to improve their survivability after launching an attack. Many western experts would agree with the official Japanese position that North Korea is not developing WMD as a bargaining chip to be exchanged for political or economic concessions, but are developing a deterrent in order to maintain the existing regime. As a consequence, the Japanese security concerns and associated initiatives are focused on negotiating with South Korea where they see greater opportunities to shape future policy.

The context for Japanese-South Korean or Japanese-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations is both historical and geographical. So long as North Korea acts as a barrier to continental Asia, Japan, and the ROK are both essentially islands. They are exposed to the same maritime vulnerabilities and produce competing products for the same markets. Sitting as a bridge between Japan and China, Korea has merited the name Hermit Kingdom for hundreds of years because it sought to wall itself off from its two more powerful neighbours (and the West) and professed friendship with both so as to be swallowed by neither. From the perspective of North America, military and security cooperation between the two Northeast Asian capitalist democracies against the threats posed by North Korea and China look beneficial to both the ROK and Japan. That is not how it looks either from Tokyo or from Seoul.34 In 1998 and 2006 Japan was alarmed at North Korean missile launches; the ROK continued its “Sunshine Policy.” One explanation that is occasionally invoked to account for the relatively low level of security cooperation between Japan and the ROK in the post-Pacific War and post-Cold War period has been called the “history problem.”35

There are several areas of disagreement between the two countries. Probably the most conventional dispute concerns the Takeshima Islands and rocks, which the Koreans call the Dokdo Islands. The economic importance of the fishing grounds is outweighed by the symbolic importance of about 46 acres poking above high tide. This was exemplified when the Koreans named the first of four amphibious assault ships and helicopter carriers “Dokdo” (18,000 tons).36

The history of the islands is rather opaque. In the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco between Japan and the Allies, Japan renounced any control over its former colony, excluding three named islands over which they kept control, but the treaty did not include Dokdo/Takeshima. The Koreans then asked that Takeshima be included on the grounds that their initial occupation by Japan in 1905 made them the “first victim of Japan’s invasion” of Korea five years later. The Japanese claimed to have occupied terra nullius in 1905, which made their ownership legal.37 The Americans replied to the Korean request with the observation that “this normally uninhabited rock formation was according to our information never treated as part of Korea, and since about 1905, has been under the jurisdiction of the Oki Islands Branch Office of Shimane Prefecture of Japan. This island does not appear ever before to have been claimed by Korea.” 38

In January 1952, South Korea unilaterally announced the “Syngman Rhee Line” or “Peace Line” delimiting Korean maritime sovereignty. It included Takeshima. This act led to the arrest of Japanese fishermen, the dispatch of Japan Coast Guard vessels to protect them, and to occasional firefights following the occupation of the islands by Korea Coast Guard forces. Japan proposed the dispute be referred to The Hague Court for adjudication, but the ROK declined to participate. For the past generation, the dispute has been used by nationalist politicians in both countries for their own domestic political purposes.

A second, even more symbolic dispute concerns the Yasukuni Shrine, which since 1853, at the time of the Meiji Restoration, has been dedicated to Japanese war dead. By including convicted war criminals from the Pacific War, the shrine had become a controversial symbol of Japan’s imperial and wartime past. Unlike memorial cemeteries, Yasukuni is not a graveyard but enshrines or consoles the spirits (eirei) of the war dead as well as honouring the individuals who died (kensho). This double purpose has led to a number of different interpretation of the shrine in Japan. In South Korea, the understanding tends to focus on the individuals who are honoured, not the consolation of their spirits. Accordingly, the South Koreans are inclined to see Japanese support of Yasukuni as “historically” insulting to them.39 More recently there has been a kind of reconciliation regarding both symbolic or “historical” questions and more commonsensically strategic ones. On 28 December, 2015 Japan and South Korea announced they had “finally and irreversibly” resolved the outstanding issue of “comfort women.”40 The Japanese government apologized and promised a billion-yen contribution to a fund established in South Korea to assist the surviving women. South Korea agreed not to revisit the issue. Supporters of the agreement argued that it would contribute to the normalization of relations between the two countries. Japanese critics said it had already been dealt with fifty years ago in the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and by subsequent declarations and apologies in 1992 and 1993. Critics in South Korea said it was not a clear enough apology and was undertaken without consulting the remaining survivors. Domestic political divisions in both countries further confused the issue.41

On 2 November, 2015, Shinzo Abe and ROK President Park Geun-hye met in Seoul, the first bilateral summit in three and a half years. Despite the “history problem” and with American encouragement (some might call it pressure), Japan and South Korea have been moving in the direction of rapprochement. Chinese economic strength and the ability to turn it into military power is the obvious common interest shared by the United States, Japan, and South Korea.42 At the same time, South Korea has been able on the basis of its own economic and military capabilities to forge its own path, balancing a complex relationship between its two large neighbours and the US even while maintaining a suspicion of the intentions of all three.43



Japan, like China, has vulnerable sea lanes, particularly for exports to Europe and energy imports from the Middle East, most of which transits the 850 km-long (530 miles) Strait of Malacca, which narrows to 2.8 km (1.5 miles) in the Phillips Channel, south of Singapore. Notwithstanding the parchment barrier provided by Article IX of the Constitution, Japan has responded to its geopolitical constraints chiefly by providing a refurbished Maritime Self-Defence Force with more hands-on experience in the Strait, the Indian Ocean, and with UN operations as part of Combined Task Force 150 off the coast of Somalia.

A longer-term threat to military and security “normalization” is demographic. The Japanese population is aging and shrinking. The foreseeable consequences include declining economic, political, and military capabilities. Whether Japan follows a path of slow decline into an isolated welfare state or uses its military power to obtain the necessary labour and raw materials to sustain itself are the two starkest and most opposed alternative courses for the future. Japan has shown no inclination to open the country to foreign workers to deal with its demographic shortfall, nor to integrate sufficient numbers of women into its workforce.

On the other hand, when the United States imposed trade relations on Japan during the 1850s following Commodore Perry’s expedition, the Japanese responded with the political centralization of the Meiji Restoration, which was followed by a rapid period of modernization and creative expansion that led to the stunning victory in 1905 against Russia but eventually to defeat in the Pacific War. One might anticipate another creative response to the present demographic challenge, perhaps centred of robotics, “Abenomics,” and military normalization. Or, perhaps, the Japanese will do something entirely unforeseen at present.

A second opportunity for security evolution came with the American focus on the Greater Middle East, from the Levant to Afghanistan, during the 1990s and 2000s. Japan was handed increased responsibility and with it came a need for increased capability to contribute to regional security. Chinese power, of course, but also the behaviour of North Korea, meant that Japanese rearmament was not perceived in the West as destabilizing. There remain, however, several sovereignty issues that are unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future. The only obvious rational policy regarding them, therefore, is to manage the confrontations with Korea, China, and Russia. That seems to be what the JSDF and MOFA are doing. The continued American involvement in Syria and on-going problems with Russia mean that the “pivot” to Asia (later called a “rebalance’) announced by the Obama administration in the fall of 2011 is a lot more modest in reality than once it seemed on paper. For Japan, the implication is that they are going to be increasingly on their own. This process seems likely to continue under a Trump administration, though a fundamental change in American strategy in Asia seems unlikely in the extreme. The end of grand multilateral schemes such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) does not seem to imply the end of bilateral economic and security arrangements, particularly for Japan. The Japanese saw the TPP as a way of resisting Chinese economic hegemony and they are not likely to welcome the Sino-centric Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. This leaves open the possibility to stronger, not weaker, bilateral deals with the United States –and Canada.

Even so, the Japanese National Security Strategy, released in February 2015, reaffirmed US-Japanese cooperation in the context of a globalized and interdependent international community. These two somewhat antithetical trends suggest the Japanese expect more of what they call “grey zone” situations in their own defence periphery. The immediate implication has been to accelerate the modernization of Japan’s military capabilities: not castles of steel, as was done a century ago, but stealth and precision. One might, therefore, anticipate the accelerated development of an advanced domestic computer industry. But in order to maintain its technological edge over regional rivals, Japan will have to modify one or another elements of the Iron Triangle of essentially single-party rule, bureaucracy, and keiretsu as well as elements of its traditional job market. The objective would not be to compete head-to-head with China but to become more agile and dynamic.

Finally, there is the question of Canada-Japan relations. Occasionally we were told that Canada and Japan had much in common. In one obvious sense that is true: both countries have but one ally that counts. Canada, however, exists in a friendly and stable part of the world whereas Japan is bounded by three confrontational nuclear powers with large military capabilities. No such threats apply to Canada. Officials several times mentioned that many Japanese view Canada’s relationship with China as “too tight.” Canada thus needs to say who its friends in Asia are; it is not clear why China should head the list, certainly not to the Japanese. Nor was it clear to the Japanese that Canada should not rock the boat because of trade with the PRC. Of course it was true that when the Government of Canada has expressed its reservations – over the Chinese human rights record, for example – it has been severely criticized as much by China as by Canadian business interests who thought their deals might be endangered. But this “Bombardier factor,” one senior official said, was “ridiculous.” China, he pointed out emphatically, is one of Japan’s largest trading partners and they have many more areas of confrontation with the PRC than Canada does.

This official went on to say that, leaving aside potential Canadian hydrocarbon exports to Japan, the rule of law, and especially the law of the sea, is important not only in the South China Sea, where Canada has been deafeningly silent (and where Canada has no direct interests) but also for the future of the Arctic Ocean. Whether Canada continues a relatively short-sighted (not to say pusillanimous) policy regarding China remains to be seen. One thing this “strategic communications” visit made unambiguously clear is that, despite Japan’s close alliance with the United States, they are keenly aware that Canadian foreign policy with respect to Japan could be greatly improved.


End Notes

1 See Yoshida Shigeru and Hiroshi Nara, Shigeru: The Last Meiji Man, (Lanham, Rowan, and Littlefield, 2007). See also, Paul Midford, “The Logic of Reassurance and Japan’s Grand Strategy,” Security Studies, 11: 3 (2002), 1-43; Christopher P. Twomey, “Japan, The Circumscribed Balancer: Building on Defensive Realism to Make Predictions About East Asian Security,” Security Studies, 9:4 (2000), 178-219; Tsuyoshi Kawasaki, “Postclassical Realism and Japanese Security Policy,” Pacific Review, 14:2 (2001), 221-240; Eric Heginbotham and Richard J. Samuels, “Mercantile Realism and Japanese Foreign Policy,” International Security, 22: 4 (1998), 171-2-3; Jennifer M. Lind, “Pacifism or Passing the Buck? Testing Theories of Japanese Security Policy,” International Security, 29 (2007), 92-121.
2 See Eiichi Katahara, Japan: From Containment to Normalization, (Palo Alto, Stanford University Press, 2001), 72-3. For the postwar era and occupation, see John W. Dowa, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, (New York, Norton, 1999) and Toshio Nisi, Unconditional Democracy: Education and Politics in Occupied Japan, 1945-1952, (Palo Alto, Stanford University Press, 1982).
3 The most alarming demographic projection indicated that the total population would fall by 25% by 2060 and the working-age population by 50%. As long as there are no seismic changes in the external political environment, most observers expect the Japanese government to be capable of managing this transition. But obviously Japan has little influence over what its neighbours may do and those factors are the focus of this report.
4 John C. Wright, Japanese Use of Force: Refinement and Normalization Amid Growing Regional Instability, (Calgary, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, 2016), 40.
5 See David A. Winkler, Cold War at Sea: High Seas Confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, (Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 2000), 142.
6 See Larry Niksch, “Japanese Attitudes towards Defense and Security Issues,” Naval War College Review, 36 (1983), 57-72.
7 Derek Da Cunha, Soviet Naval Power in the Pacific, (Boulder, Lynne Rienner, 1990), 94. See also: Norman D. Levin, The Strategic Environment in East Asia and US-Korean Security Relations in the 1980s, (Santa Monica, RAND, 1983); Kensuke Ebata, “Soviets Simulate Attack on Japan,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, (28 September, 1985) 664; John Welfield, An Empire in Eclipse: Japan in the Postwar American Alliance System, (London, Athlone, 1988).
8 Thomas B. Modly, “The Rhetoric and Realities of Japan’s 1,000-Mile Sea Lane Defense Policy,” Naval War College Review, 38:1 (1985), 25-36.
9 See Eiichi Katahara, “Japan’s Strategic Response,” in Purnendra Jain and Peng Er Lam, eds., Japan’s Strategic Challenges in a Changing Regional Environment, (Singapore, World Scientific Publishing, 2012), 3-24.
10 Wright, Japanese Use of Force, 19.
11 See Milton Leitenberg, “The Participation of Japanese Military Forces in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations,” Asian Perspective, 20 (1996), 5-50. These troops were chiefly engineers; other countries undertook force protection. At the time Canadian diplomats welcomed the addition of Japan to the small contingent of competent peace-keeping and peace-support countries. See Brian L. Job and Masashi Nishihara, “Canada-Japan Security Cooperation Study: The Agenda,” (The Job-Nishihara Report). Available at: (11/27/2016).
12 See Katahara, Japan: From Containment to Normalization, 73-4.
13 For a discussion of the security debates, see Richard J. Samuels, Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of Asia, (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2007). MOFA provided copies of the 2008 “Report of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security.” See also Eiichi Katahara, ed., East Asian Strategic Review, (Tokyo, National Institute for Defense Studies, 2015), “Introduction: East Asia in 2014,” 25-36, and Ch. 1, “Japan: Revising Security Legislation and the Japan-US Defence Cooperation Guidelines,” 37-58.
14 Katahara, Japan, 75.  15 We were also provided with a translation of the “Cabinet Decision on Development of Seamless Security Legislation to Ensure Japan’s Survival and Protect its People,” July 1, 2014. See also Jennifer Lind, “Japan’s Security Evolution,” Policy Analysis, 788 (2016). Available at: (03/08/2016).
16 See Alexis Dudden, “A Push to End Pacifism Tests Japanese Democracy,” Current History, 114 (2015), 224-8. See also Jonathan Soble, “Japan’s Parliament Approves Overseas Combat Role for Military,” New York Times, 18 September, 2015). Available at: (10/17/2016).
17 AP, “Japan Unveils First Stealth Fighter,” National Post, 29 January, 2016.
18 “Japan Unveils New Carrier-Like Warship,” The Washington Post, 6 August, 2013. See also “Japan Commissions Helicopter Carrier Izumo,” (25 March, 2015) We were shown a photograph of an Izumo-class carrier mock-up that carried F-35B fighters.
19 “Wide-Mouthed Frog: Japanese Security,” The Economist, 408:8848 (10 August, 2013), 35.
20 Franz-Stefan Gady, “Japan’s Elite Amphibious Assault Force Trains with US Marines,” The Diplomat, 28 January, 2016. Available at: (10/29/2016).
21 Reuters, “Exclusive: Japan’s Far-flung Island Defense Plan Seeks to Turn Tables on China,” Available at: (10/29/2016); Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki, “Japan Plans Missile to Test Chinese Strategy in East China Sea,” Financial Times, (17 August, 2016). Available at: (10/29/2016).
22 Nishihara, “The Present and Future Trajectory of Sino-Japanese Relations: A Japanese Perspective,” IESA Seminar, January 13, 2016. See also The Current Japan-China Relations, (Tokyo, MOFA, 2016); Katahara, ed., East Asian Strategic Review, Ch. 3 “China’s Xi Jinping’s Administration: Proactive Policies at Home and Abroad,” 97-132.
23 This observation, evident from looking at a map, has been the basis for several recent books by Robert D. Kaplan. See: Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, (New York, Random House, 2010); The Revenge of Geography: What the Map tells us about the Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate, (New York, Random House, 2012); Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, (New York, Random House, 2014).
24 This is why China rejected the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 in the dispute brought to The Hague by the Philippines.
25 Mina Pollmann, “US Expands Third Fleet’s Role in Western Pacific,” The Diplomat, 11 May, 2016.
26 See Defense of Japan, 2015, (Tokyo, Ministry of Defence, 2015).
27 See “The Senkaku Islands,” (Tokyo, MOFA, 2014).
28 Sheila A. Smith, “A Sino-Japanese Clash in the East China Sea,” Contingency Planning Memorandum, No. 18 (New York, Council on Foreign Relations, 2013). Available at: (11/10/2016).
29 See Ankit Panda, “Japan-China Maritime Crisis-Management Talks are on the Horizon,” The Diplomat, 16 March, 2015. The discussions over the hotline are conducted in English. Our Japanese hosts suggested, mischievously, that the Chinese command of English has improved since the hotline was installed.
30 See Japan’s Northern Territories: For a Relationship of Genuine Trust, (Tokyo, MOFA, 2006).
31 In 2003 Japan scrambled fighters in the north against Russian aircraft 124 times; by 2014 this had risen to 473 times. For comparison, in 2008 Japan scrambled fights in the south against Chinese aircraft 31 times; by 2014 the number had risen to 464, and by 2015, to 571. See Marius Grinius, South China Sea and the New Great Game, (Calgary, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, 2016), 7.
32 See Linda Sieg and Nobuhiro Kubo, “Japan’s Abe seeks Breakthrough with Russia on Long-Disputed Islands,” World News, 26 September 2016. Available at: (10/21/2106); “Government to Speed up Northern Territories Talks before Putin’s Japan Visit,” The Japan News, (by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 19 October, 2016). Available at: (10/21/2016); “Japan may Ink Peace Treaty with Russia without Settling Ownership of Disputed Isles,” The Japan Times, (19 October, 2016). Available at: (10/21/2016). Abe and Putin also met one-on-one in Lima at the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation  summit in November, 2016. Later that month Russia deployed anti-ship missile systems on Etorufu Island and Kunashiri Island.
33 Defense of Japan: 2015. See also Katahara, ed., East Asian Strategic Review, Ch. 3, “The Korean Peninsula: A Consolidated Kim Jung Un Dictatorship and South Korea’s Delicate Diplomatic Wobbling between the United States and China,” 59-96.
34 See D.C. Kang, “Between Balancing and Bandwagoning: South Korea’s Response to China,” Journal of East Asian Studies, 91:1 (2009), 1-28.
35 See Ji Young Kim, “Rethinking the Role of Identity Factors: The History Problem and the Japan-South Korea Security Relationship in the Post-Cold War Period,” International Relations of the Asia Pacific, (2015). Available at: doi:10.1093/irap/lcv007 (10/23/2016).
36 Japan named its second Izumo-class “helicopter destroyer” (27,000 tons) Kaga, which was also the name of a carrier that took part on the attack on Pearl Harbor.
37 See Seokwoo Lee, “The 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Territorial Disputes in East Asia,” Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, 2:1 (2002), 94-6, and M. Erika Pollmann, “The Politicization of the Liancourt Rocks Dispute and its Effect on the Japan-South Korea Relationship,” Pacific Forum: Issues and Insights, 15:10 (October, 2015. Liancourt Rocks is the Anglo-French name for the islands, named for a French whaler that nearly ran aground there is 1894.
38 These and other quotes are taken from the MOFA document, “Takeshima,” dated March 2014.
39 For a thorough discussion of different Japanese interpretations of the shrine and the contrast with the more or less unanimous Korean one, see Kei Koga, “The Yasukuni Question: Histories, Logics and Japan-South Korea Relations,” The Pacific Review, 29 (2016), 331-59.
40 This common euphemism for prostitutes refers to an indeterminate number of women (estimates range from 20,000 to 400,000) forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1930s and 1940s.
41 See Choe Sang-Hun, “Japan and South Korea Settle Dispute over Wartime ‘Comfort Women’” New York Times (28 December, 2015). Available at: (10/29/2016); BBC News, “Japan and South Korea agree WW2 ‘comfort women’ Deal” 28 December, 2015. Available at: (10/20/2016).
42 A tangible example of Japan-ROK security cooperation was the announcement on 27 October, 2016 that the two countries would directly share intelligence information about North Korean weapons and other capabilities. Previously the two countries exchanged information only through the American Department of Defense. The catalyst for this new cooperation was the North Korean nuclear tests in early September. See “South Korea, Japan to Resume Talks on Military Information-Sharing Pact,” The Japan Times, (28 October, 2016). Available at: (10/28/2016).
43 See James L. Schott and Duyeon Kin, “Getting Japan-South Korea Relations Back on Track,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, (9 November, 2015). Available at: (10/23/2016)  


About the Author

 Barry Cooper, a fourth generation Albertan, was educated at Shawnigan Lake School, the University of British Columbia and Duke University (PhD, 1969). He taught at Bishop's University, McGill, and York University before coming to the University of Calgary in 1981. He has been a visiting professor in Germany and the United States. His teaching and research has tried to bring the insights of Western political philosophers to bear on contemporary issues, from the place of technology and the media in Canada, to the debate over the constitutional status of Quebec and Alberta, to current military and security policy. Cooper has published 30 books and over 150 articles and papers that reflect the dual focus of his work; most recently (with Lydia Miljan) he wrote Hidden Agendas: How Canadian Journalists Influence the News published by UBC Press (2003). In the spring of 2004, New Political Religions: An Analysis of Modern Terrorism was published by the University of Missouri Press. In 2009 he edited Tilo Schabert’s How World Politics is Made: France and the Reunification of Germany. He publishes a regular column in the Calgary Herald and other CanWest Global papers.

Cooper has lectured extensively in Europe, the United States, India, Australia and China. He has received numerous on-going research grants from public and private Canadian, French, German, and American granting agencies. In addition he has received two major awards, the Konrad Adenauer Award from the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, and a Killam Research Fellowship.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.


Canadian Global Affairs Institute

 The Canadian Global Affairs Institute focuses on the entire range of Canada’s international relations in all its forms including (in partnership with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy), trade investment and international capacity building. Successor to the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI, which was established in 2001), the Institute works to inform Canadians about the importance of having a respected and influential voice in those parts of the globe where Canada has significant interests due to trade and investment, origins of Canada’s population, geographic security (and especially security of North America in conjunction with the United States), social development, or the peace and freedom of allied nations. The Institute aims to demonstrate to Canadians the importance of comprehensive foreign, defence and trade policies which both express our values and represent our interests.

The Institute was created to bridge the gap between what Canadians need to know about Canadian international activities and what they do know. Historically Canadians have tended to look abroad out of a search for markets because Canada depends heavily on foreign trade. In the modern post-Cold War world, however, global security and stability have become the bedrocks of global commerce and the free movement of people, goods and ideas across international boundaries. Canada has striven to open the world since the 1930s and was a driving factor behind the adoption of the main structures which underpin globalization such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and emerging free trade networks connecting dozens of international economies. The Canadian Global Affairs Institute recognizes Canada’s contribution to a globalized world and aims to inform Canadians about Canada’s role in that process and the connection between globalization and security.

In all its activities the Institute is a charitable, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization that provides a platform for a variety of viewpoints. It is supported financially by the contributions of individuals, foundations, and corporations. Conclusions or opinions expressed in Institute publications and programs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Institute staff, fellows, directors, advisors or any individuals or organizations that provide financial support to the Institute.


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