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Japan's anti-Japanese strategy

How the Land of the Rising Sun Forms a Coalition to Detain the Celestial Empire

Recently, in foreign political and political circles, as well as in the media, the term "Indo-Pacific region" is increasingly encountered. This new concept is replacing the more familiar and long-established phrase "Asia-Pacific region" (ATR). However, this neologism is not so much geographic as geopolitical. Behind it lies the fact that after the end of the Cold War, the tectonic shifts in the economy and the fundamental changes in the geopolitical landscape based on them are taking place in the basin of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These phenomena give rise to the desire to consider the basins of the two great oceans as a single economic and geopolitical space, and also to plan them as a general theater of possible military clashes of the world's leading powers.

Japan's anti-Japanese strategy
Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Valery Kistanov

Head of the Center for Japanese Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies
All these changes, in one way or another, are primarily connected with the growth of economic power, political influence and military potential, as the Chinese themselves say, of "the rising China". They are also due to the strengthening of the economic and military presence in the international arena of the future economic giant - India and the relative weakening of Japan - until recently the economic locomotive of Asia. At the same time, the Land of the Rising Sun remains the most reliable military and political support of the United States in the region, or, as the then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone figuratively put it, during the Cold War period, an "unsinkable US aircraft carrier". For its part, in its foreign policy, Japan strongly supports a powerful naval presence in the region of the United States. As a result, the balance of forces in the triangle Japan-China-India is currently being reformatted, and with the participation of the United States in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins as a whole.

According to Japanese and other foreign experts, the main driving force of this reformatting is China, which conducts offensive operations in the East China Sea, claims to much of the South China Sea, and also strengthens its military presence in the Indian Ocean. It is for this reason that the term "Indo-Pacific region" was actively used by the US with the coming to power of President Donald Trump. So, during Trump's trip to Asia in November 2017, he repeatedly used the term and never used the definition of "Asia-Pacific region". It should be noted, however, that the concept of the "Indo-Pacific region" in accordance with the catch phrase "everything new is a well-forgotten old" is in fact not such a fresh verbal invention in the sphere of geopolitics.

The Pacific Command of the United States developed this geopolitical concept even during the Cold War. Then, in order to counter the growing presence of the Soviet Union in Asia after the British withdrawal from the regions to the East from Suez, this command in 1972 decided to expand its activities to the Indian Ocean and began to view the two great oceans as a single strategic theater of war, calling it "Indo-Asiatic -Pacific. " At present, when the PRC came to the fore as the main rival force of the United States in the world, the CPR came to replace this concept, which again proved to be in demand. But not with anti-Soviet, but with anti-Chinese "stuffing". At the same time, the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, assumed the role of the main reanimator of the Indo-Pacific concept.

The strategy of the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region" appeared initially in Abe's speech entitled "Merging the Two Oceans". With it, he spoke during his first prime ministerial term in the Indian Parliament in August 2007. In this speech, the Japanese Prime Minister proposed that Japan and India as "equally thinking democratic maritime states" contribute to freedom and prosperity in "a wider Asia". "Wider Asia," according to the Japanese leader, should also include the United States, Australia and other Pacific countries. After coming to power for the second time in 2012, Shinzo Abe developed the Indo-Pacific concept. He widely announced his new strategy at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), held in Kenya in 2016.

To date, the strategy of the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific region" has taken a key place in Abe's foreign policy. Its goal, according to the Japanese Prime Minister, is to develop the international maritime order in the region in accordance with the rule of law. The "merging" of the two oceans economically, in his opinion, should give a synergetic effect for the economic development of their areas.

Official Tokyo emphasizes that this strategy is not directed against any particular country. However, there is no doubt that it is designed to counterbalance the activities of China throughout the Indo-Pacific region. With all the current alarmist rhetoric in Tokyo about the nuclear missile potential of North Korea, it is to this day that China has officially been designated in Japan as the "main threat" to Japan's security. During the Cold War, this "honorable" role was assigned to the same Soviet Union by Japanese politicians. The anti-Chinese background of the strategy of the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region" is not hidden by the Japanese media.

Specifying the nature of Abe's Indo-Pacific strategy, Japanese political scientists point to the fact that it is a geopolitical and economic counterweight to the growing Chinese influence and presence in Eurasia and Africa as part of President Xi Jinping's "One Belt, One Way" initiative. This megaproject, according to the plans of its Chinese architects, should connect Asia with Europe and Africa through sea and land transport corridors and, thereby, revive the ancient Silk Road on a modern basis. From the attached scheme, it can be seen that the Indo-Pacific region, constructed by Japan and the USA, actually overlaps the areas of passage of the routes of the future "One Belt and One Way" of China.

According to Japanese analysts, the Quartet of the countries comprising Japan, India, Australia and the United States, which form the so-called "Democratic diamond of Asian security", should become the "supporting structure" of Abe's strategy. Indeed, if you look at the map, then with some imagination you can imagine a diamond, the tops of which are the listed states.

According to Japanese newspapers, Abe feared that inclined to isolationism Trump would revise the policy of "Turn to Asia" of his predecessor as US President Barack Obama. Therefore, through diplomatic channels, the Japanese prime minister brought to the attention of the current American leader this strategy. To the great pleasure of the Japanese, Trump took it into service, and, as already noted, used during his last year's Asian tour.

One of the priority directions for the Japanese leadership of the Indo-Pacific strategy should be a comprehensive rapprochement between Japan and India, taking place at such a pace that it is time to talk about the piling of two oceans - the new Tokyo-New Delhi axis. This rapprochement, not least, is due to the "Chinese factor".

Given Beijing's growing influence in the international arena, on the one hand, and on the decline, especially after Trump's rise to power, the USA, on the other hand, Japan, along with India, places an increasing place in Australia in its Indo-Pacific strategy. Australia is an ally of the United States and has a coast, both in the Pacific and in the Indian Oceans. Strengthening the relationship between Tokyo and Canberra contributes to the fact that the current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in contrast to his predecessor, Tony Abbott, took a course toward some distance from China. True, this course has certain limits, since China is Australia's largest trading partner. Japan and Australia are united by the desire to preserve the projected powerful trade association in the region - the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after Trump began withdrawing the US from the beginning of last year.

As the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in February of 2018 showed in Brunei and Singapore, Tokyo places an important place in its Indo-Pacific strategy for Southeast Asia and the ASEAN countries. It is in this region that in the near future Japan will try out various aspects of this strategy, in particular, such as building infrastructure and ensuring the so-called "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea. During Kono's visit, in addition to bilateral problems, the initiative of the Japanese side also actively discussed the theme of the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region".

However, it should be emphasized that Japan's attempts to involve the ASEAN countries in its containment strategy China find contradictory responses from these countries. If states that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and some others, support this strategy, then Thailand, Cambodia and a number of others treat it with great caution. Such a disruptive reaction of the ASEAN member countries is due to their different degree of involvement in territorial conflicts with China and its heavy dependence on the economy. This does not yet allow Japan to form in the bosom of ASEAN a single "anti-Chinese front." In general, at present, a fierce competition for economic and political heights in this leading integration structure in Asia is unfolding between Japan and China.

One of the new manifestations of Japan's foreign policy are attempts to shift its anti-China focus to the Indian Ocean. In particular, in promoting its Indo-Pacific strategy, Tokyo attaches great importance to the Maldives, located on a chain of islets near important sea lanes in this ocean. At the present time, in the conditions of the internal political crisis in this country, a struggle for economic and political domination has begun between India and China. Japan also intends to gain a foothold in this small state located in a strategically important place in the Indian Ocean. This is evidenced by the March visit to this country by the Foreign Minister of Japan, Taro Kono.

It should be noted, unlike a number of other Asian countries, the administration of South Korean President Moon Zhe Ina cautiously accepted the term "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region", promoted by Japan, due to the fact that it has openly anti-Chinese content. In particular, Seoul officially disavowed this term, which entered into a joint US-South Korean statement following the visit of US President Donald Trump to Seoul last November. This position reflects the current rapprochement between Seoul and Beijing and its desire, at least symbolically, to distance itself from China's containment strategy pursued by the United States and Japan.

Thus, judging by everything, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's aggressively propelled in all azimuths, the strategy of the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region" is becoming the core of Japan's foreign policy for the foreseeable future. And the nucleus of the strategy of Tokyo itself would like to make a "democratic quartet" of countries in Japan, the United States, India and Australia.

At its core, the Indo-Pacific strategy is generated by the growing contradictions between the old Asian power - Japan and the new - "rising China". Obviously, the strategy's goal is to contain the growing military power and economic influence of the PRC in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. However, the implementation of this strategy may prove to be a serious obstacle in the form of strong economic linkage of its potential participants to China and their reluctance to spoil relations with it.

In addition, Beijing itself, playing in advance, is already trying, with the help of economic and political levers, to do everything possible so that the strategy of the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region" promoted by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe remains on paper. To this end, it provides Asian countries with generous economic and financial assistance.

The need to prevent the implementation of the Japanese strategy is indicated by Chinese experts. In particular, the senior researcher at the China Foundation for International Studies, Wu Zhenglong, consistently pursues this idea in his research. Thus, in his article titled "Stop trying to implement the Indo-Pacific strategy," it says: "The Trump administration recently praised the idea of ​​a free and open" Indo-Pacific region. " The purpose of this is to rally countries with similar values ​​around the United States in order to contain the rise and development of China. However, this concept is not sufficiently developed. "And in the article titled" The Reanimated Quartet "is a Dangerous Signal, the scientist condemns the actions of Japan and the United States to create an anti-Chinese coalition within Japan, the US, India and Australia and predicts their failure.

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that many players on the geopolitical chessboard in the Indo-Pacific region in the coming years will seek to maneuver between the two centers of economic and military power - Japan and China, based primarily on their own interests. Yes, and Japan itself is currently in parallel with the knocking together of the anti-Chinese coalition, and is aggressively seeking ways to reduce tensions with its great neighbor.

Given that in the Indo-Pacific region, except China and Japan, the United States, India, which strengthens its role in the international arena of ASEAN, as well as the leading European countries, try to defend their interests, it is in this region of the planet that in the foreseeable future will be largely determined balance of power in the world arena as a whole.
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