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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 behind this reformatting is China, which is conducting offensive activities in the East China Sea, laying claims to most of the South China Sea, and also strengthening its military presence in the Indian Ocean. It is for this reason that the term "Indo-Pacific" was actively used by the United States with the coming to power of President Donald Trump. So, during Trump's trip to Asia in November 2017, he repeatedly used this term and never once used the definition of "Asia-Pacific region." It should be noted, however, that the concept of "Indo-Pacific" in accordance with the catch phrase "everything new is well forgotten old" is actually not such a fresh verbal invention in the field of geopolitics.

The US Pacific Command developed this geopolitical concept during the Cold War. Then, in order to counter the growing presence of the Soviet Union in Asia after the withdrawal of Great Britain from the regions to the East of Suez, this command in 1972 decided to expand its activities to the Indian Ocean and began to consider the two great oceans as a single strategic theater of military operations, calling it "Indo-Asian -Pacific ". At the present time, when the PRC has come to replace the USSR, which has sunk into oblivion, as the main rival force of the United States in the world, this concept is again in demand. But not with an anti-Soviet, but with an anti-Chinese "stuffing". At the same time, the current Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe took on the role of the main reanimator of the Indo-Pacific concept.

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

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 out that it is a geopolitical and economic counterbalance to the growing Chinese influence and presence in Eurasia and Africa within the framework of the initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping "One Belt, One Road". This mega-project, according to the plans of its Chinese architects, should connect Asia with Europe and Africa through sea and land transport corridors and, thus, revive the ancient Silk Road on a modern basis. It can be seen from the attached diagram that the Indo-Pacific region, being constructed by Japan and the United States, is actually superimposed on the areas of the routes of the future "One Belt and One Road" 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 the isolationist Trump would reconsider the "Turn to Asia" policy of his predecessor as President Barack Obama. Therefore, through diplomatic channels, the Japanese prime minister brought this strategy to the attention of the current American leader. Much to the delight of the Japanese, Trump adopted it, and, as noted, used it during his Asia tour last year.

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

Given the growing influence of Beijing in the international arena, on the one hand, and relatively declining, especially after Trump came to power, the presence of the United States on it, on the other hand, in its Indo-Pacific strategy, Japan, along with India, assigns an increasing place to Australia. Australia is an ally of the United States and has coastlines in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The strengthening of Tokyo's relations with Canberra is facilitated by the fact that the current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, unlike his predecessor in this post, Tony Abbott, has taken a course of some distance from China. True, this course has certain limits, since China is Australia's largest trading partner. Japan and Australia are also united by the desire to preserve the projected powerful trade union in the region - the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after Trump pulled the United States out of it early last year.

As the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in February 2018 to Brunei and Singapore showed, Tokyo assigns an important place in its Indo-Pacific strategy to Southeast Asia and the ASEAN countries. It is in this region in the near future that Japan will test various aspects of this strategy in practice, first of all, 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, on the initiative of the Japanese side, the topic of "Free and open Indo-Pacific region" was also actively discussed.

However, it should be emphasized that Japan's attempts to involve the ASEAN countries in its strategy of containing China meet with conflicting responses from these countries. While states that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and some others, support this strategy, Thailand, Cambodia and a number of others are very wary of it. Such a mixed reaction of the ASEAN member states is due to the varying degrees of their involvement in territorial conflicts with China and their great dependence on it in the economic sphere. This does not yet allow Japan to form a united "anti-Chinese front" in the bosom of ASEAN. On the whole, a fierce competition for economic and political heights in this leading integration structure in Asia is currently unfolding between Japan and China.

One of the new manifestations of Japan's foreign policy is the attempt to shift its anti-Chinese focus to the Indian Ocean. In particular, in advancing its Indo-Pacific strategy, Tokyo attaches great importance to the Republic of Maldives, located on a chain of islets close to important sea routes in this ocean. At present, amid an internal political crisis in this country, a struggle has unfolded between India and China for economic and political dominance in it. 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 visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Taro Kono to this country in March.

It should be noted that, unlike a number of other Asian countries, the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in was wary of the term “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” promoted by Japan due to the fact that it has openly anti-Chinese content. In particular, Seoul officially disavowed this term, which was included in the joint US-South Korean statement following the visit of US President Donald Trump to Seoul in November last year. This position reflects Seoul's ongoing rapprochement with Beijing and its desire, at least symbolically, to distance itself from the US and Japanese containment strategies for China.

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.

Basically, the Indo-Pacific strategy was generated by the growing contradictions between the old Asian power - Japan and the new - "Rising China". It is obvious that the goal of the strategy is to contain the growing military power and economic influence of the PRC in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. However, the implementation of this strategy may be a serious obstacle in the form of a strong economic tie of its potential participants to China and their unwillingness to spoil relations with it.

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

Chinese experts also point to the need to prevent the implementation of the Japanese strategy. In particular, Wu Zhenglong, a senior fellow at the China Foundation for International Studies, has consistently pursued this idea in his research. For example, in his article, "Stop Trying to Implement the Indo-Pacific Strategy," he says: "The Trump administration recently touted the idea of ​​a free and open Indo-Pacific." The purpose of this is to rally countries of the same value around the United States in order to contain China's rise and development. However, this concept is not sufficiently developed. "And in an article entitled" Reanimated "Four" - a dangerous signal "the scientist condemns the actions of Japan and the United States to create an anti-Chinese coalition of Japan, the United States, 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 strive to maneuver between the two centers of economic and military power - Japan and China, based primarily on their own interests. And Japan itself is currently, in parallel with the formation of an anti-Chinese coalition, persistently seeking ways to reduce tensions in relations with its great neighbor.

Taking into account the fact that in the Indo-Pacific region, in addition to China and Japan, the United States, India, which is strengthening its role in the international arena of ASEAN, as well as leading European countries are trying to defend their interests, it is in this region of the planet that in the foreseeable future will largely be determined the balance of power in the world arena as a whole.
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