March 31, 2015

Japan Leads a New Asian Order

By Richard Fontaine

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress later this month will mark the first time a Japanese leader has spoken before America’s premier venue for foreign leaders. But it almost didn’t happen. Korean-American organizations and at least one veterans’ group pressed Congressional leaders to condition Mr. Abe’s invitation on his repudiation of Japan’s wartime conduct, including its employment of “comfort women.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, Tokyo’s efforts, so-called history issues threaten to dominate much of the prime minister’s coming visit. That would unfortunately obscure a much more interesting set of developments in East Asia. The real story of Japan and its neighbors is not history but security.

Spurred on by China’s rising assertiveness and defense capabilities, Japan’s growing domestic appetite for a more “normal” international orientation, and the waning of postwar restrictions on its military activities, Tokyo has in recent years established an unprecedented pattern of security cooperation with its neighbors. Japan’s worries about the durability of America’s presence in Asia contribute to its desire to deepen and diversify regional defense ties, as does its impulse to balance deep economic integration with China with a more autonomous security policy.

Read the full piece at The Wall Street Journal.

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