Sunday, April 29, 2018

Abe's "diplomatic" accomplishment

As observed by the Shingetsu News Agency
Results: One Year of Moon Diplomacy vs. Six Years of Abe Diplomacy 
Or How was your April 27th?

As reported by Kyodo News

New ‘comfort women’ memorial removed from thoroughfare in Manila under pressure from Japanese Embassy
April 28, 2018

MANILA – A new memorial dedicated to the Philippines “comfort women” forced into Japan’s military brothels before and during World War II was removed Friday night, days after suspicions surfaced that it was being targeted for demolition.

The bronze statue of a blindfolded Filipino woman, erected in December, was removed from Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Workers left behind only debris fenced in by makeshift barriers.

Around two weeks ago, a Department of Public Works and Highways backhoe was seen parked beside the memorial, sparking speculation that it was to be demolished.

Local women’s rights organization Gabriela and cultural group Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran (Unity for Progress) last Wednesday expressed their opposition to removing it, with both groups vowing to write to the government about the matter.

Government workers in the area Saturday morning said the memorial was removed so that pipes could be laid underground.

According to the Japanese Embassy in Manila, the Philippine government notified it before taking the statue away. The issue of the comfort women, Japan’s euphemism for the girls and women, is a sensitive one for Japan, and the embassy had expressed concerns over the statue, one of many sprouting up in South Korea, the United States and elsewhere to memorialize an episode of history Japan would rather forget.

In January, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda visited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to express displeasure over the memorial.

Since then, the Philippine government has been sending mixed messages on whether or not it supports advocacy efforts on behalf of former comfort women.

Duterte said in January that he cannot curtail the freedom of expression demonstrated by the groups who pushed for the statue to be erected. But his Foreign Affairs Secretary, Alan Cayetano, said the Philippines cannot strengthen its relationship with Japan if it keeps inflaming a matter that is considered “settled.”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Monday in Washington, April 30, 2018

CONVERSATION WITH DP SENATOR HIROE MAKIYAMA. 4/30, 10:30am-Noon. Sponsor: Sasakawa USA,. Speaker: Hiroe Makiyama (Democratic Party), Member of the Japanese House of Councillors. Moderator: Tobias Harris, Fellow for Economy, Trade and Business, Sasakawa; Founder, Japan Political Pulse.

END OF AN ERA: HOW CHINA'S AUTHORITARIAN REVIVAL IS UNDERMINING ITS RISE. 4/30, 11:00-Noon, Washington, DC. Sponsor: International and Comparative Law Program and the Research Initiative on Multinational States at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, GW. Speaker: Author, Carl Minzner, Professor of Law, Fordham University.

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SILENT INVASION: THE PRC'S INTERFERENCE OPERATIONS IN AUSTRALIA. 4/30, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsor: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). Author: Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.

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NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMACY IN THE ERA OF SUMMITS. 4/30, Noon-1:30pm. Sponsors: KEIA; Sasakawa USA. Speakers: Jung Park, Senior Fellow, SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies, Brookings; Taisuke Mibae, Visiting Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center, Atlantic Council; Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow, Korea Studies, Director, Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Mark Tokola, Vice President, KEIA; James Zumwalt, CEO, Sasakawa USA. Moderator: Troy Stangarone, Senior Director of Congressional Affairs and Trade, KEIA.

SPACE 2.0: U.S. COMPETITIVENESS AND POLICY IN THE NEW SPACE ERA. 4/30, Noon-3:00pm, Lunch. Sponsor: Hudson. Speakers: Dr. Scott Pace, Executive Director, National Space Council; Hon. Robert McDowell, Former Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission, Partner, Cooley, LLP; Earl Comstock, Director, Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, U.S. Department of Commerce; Dr. Michael Mineiro, Staff Director & Senior Counsel, House Science Committee, Space Subcommittee, U.S. House of Representatives; Kelvin Coleman, Acting Associate Administrator, Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration. Moderator: Dr. Pierre de Vries, Co-Director, Spectrum Policy Initiative, Silicon Flatirons Center.

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LOSING THE HEARTS AND MINDS: AMERICAN-IRANIAN RELATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION DURING THE COLD WAR. 4/30, 1:30-2:00pm. Sponsor: Project on Military and Diplomatic History, CSIS. Author, Dr. Matthew Shannon, Assistant Professor, Emory and Henry College. Moderator: Mark F. Cancian, Senior Adviser, International Security Program, CSIS.

THE KOREAN PENINSULA ISSUES AND US NATIONAL SECURITY. 4/30, 1:00-5:30pm. Sponsor: Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS). Speaker: Oriana Skylar Mastro, Fellow, ICAS, Assistant Professor of Security Studies, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Rachel Oswald, Foreign Policy Reporter, Congressional Quarterly; Synja P Kim, Fellow, President & Chairman, ICAS. Moderator: Sang Joo Kim, Senior Fellow & Executive Vice President, ICAS.

END OF AN ERA: HOW CHINA'S AUTHORITARIAN REVIVAL IS UNDERMINING ITS RISE. 4/30, 1:30-3:00pm. Sponsor: Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS. Author: Carl Minzner, Professor of Law, Fordham University. Moderator: Scott Kennedy, Deputy Director, Freeman Chair in China Studies, Director, Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy, CSIS.

AN ASSESSMENT OF THE INTER-KOREA SUMMIT: VIEWS FROM SOUTH KOREA, U.S., AND CHINA. 4/30, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Stimson. Speakers: Heung-Kyu Kim, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Ajou University, Researcher, Georgetown University; Ren Xiao, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University; Keith Luse, Executive Director, National Committee on North Korea. Moderator: Yun Sun, Co-Director, East Asia Program, Stimson.

COMBATING TERRORISM: NATIONAL, REGIONAL, AND GLOBAL LESSONS FOR THE NEXT DECADE AND BEYOND. 4/30, 2:00-4:00pm. Sponsors: Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies; International Center for Terrorism Studies, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, International law Institute; Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law. Speakers: Michael S. Swetnam, CEO & Chairman, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; Hon. Guy Roberts, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs; Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, College Park, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy, Former Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations; Marvin Kalb, Edward R. Murrow Professor Emeritus, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Senior Advisor, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings; Gen. Alfred Gray (ret.), USMC, 29th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, Senior Fellow & Chairman of the Board of Regents, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Moderator: Yonah Alexander, Director, Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies, Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

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PROMOTING U.S.-INDIA SPACE COOPERATION. 4/30, 3:00-5:30pm, Reception. Sponsor: U.S.-India Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Speakers: Kumar Abhijeet, Assistant Professor, National Law School of India University; Dr. Jossia Joseph, Scientist D, National Institute of Ocean Technology; Srinivasa Raghotham, Assistant Editor, Deccan Herald; Dr. Krishnan Sundara Rajan, Associate Professor & Head, Lab for Spatial Informatics, International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-H) Hyderabad; Nandan Kumar Sinha, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, Department of Aerospace Engineering.

 DIRECTORATE S: THE CIA AND AMERICA'S SECRET WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN. 4/30, 4:30-6:00pm. Sponsor: Dean's Forum, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. Author: Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dean & Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism, Columbia University School of Journalism. Speaker: Shamila Chaudhary, Senior South Asia Fellow, New America, Senior Advisor to Dean Vali Nasr, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Monday in Washington, April 23, 2018

CENTRAL BANK INDEPENDENCE REVISITED. 4/23, 11:00am-1:00pm, Webcast. Sponsor: PIIE. Speakers: Ed Balls, Research Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government, Harvard University; Anna Stansbury, PhD Scholar, Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy, Harvard University; Hon. Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University; Adam S. Posen, President, PIIE.

ADVOCACY FOR SOUTH KOREA’S INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: ESCAPE FROM DEVELOPMENTALISM AND ASIANIZATION OF NORDIC DEVELOPMENT AID WITH TAEKYOON KIM. 4/23, 3:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Institute for Korean Studies, Elliott School, GWU. Speaker: Dr. Taekyoon Kim, Associate Professor of International Development, Former Associate Dean for International Affairs, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University.

AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT: SMART INVESTING FOR GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY. 4/23, 4:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Gilbert F. Houngbo, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development; Karen Brooks, Director, Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, International Food Policy Research Institute; Julie Howard, Senior Adviser, Global Food Security Project, CSIS, Senior Adviser to the Associate Provost, Dean for International Studies and Programs, Michigan State University. Moderator: Johannes F. Linn, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Brookings.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Monday in Washington, April 16, 2018

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BIG IS BEAUTIFUL: DEBUNKING THE MYTH OF SMALL BUSINESS. 4/16, 9:00-10:30am. Sponsor: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Authors: Robert D. Atkinson, President, ITIF; Michael Lind, Visiting Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas. Moderator: Edward Luce, Washington Commentator, Financial Times.
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ALLIED AEROSPACE POWER. 4/16, 9:30-11:00am, Arlington, VA. Sponsor: Mitchell Institute. Speakers: Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff; ACM. Stephen Hillier, Royal Air Force Chief of the Air Staff.
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REPUBLIC IN PERIL: AMERICAN EMPIRE AND THE LIBERAL TRADITION. 4/16, 11:00am-12:30pm, Lunch, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Cato. Author: David C. Hendrickson, Professor of Political Science, Colorado College. Speaker: Michael Mandelbaum, Professor Emeritus, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. Moderator: John Mueller, Senior Fellow, Cato.  

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SOUTH ASIA'S DEVELOPMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF CHINA-INDIA RIVALRY. 4/16, 12:30-2:00pm, Lunch, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Sasakawa USA. Speaker: Keiichiro Nakazawa, Director General, South Asia Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency. Moderator: Amb. James Zumwalt, CEO, Sasakawa USA.
ATAMBAYEV RETURNS: WHAT NEXT FOR KYRGYZSTAN? 4/16, 2:00-3:30pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS. Speaker: Venera Djumataeva, Director, Kyrgyz Service, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Moderator: Jeffrey Mankoff, Deputy Director & Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT IN CONVERSATION WITH JEFFREY GOLDBERG. 4/16, 7:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsors: The Atlantic; Politics and Prose Bookstore; Sixth & I. Speakers: Madeleine Albright, Former US Secretary of State, author Fascism: A Warning; Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief, The Atlantic.

Can Abe stop the Trump-Kim Summit?

Shut out of North Korea summit talks, Shinzo Abe may move to shut them down
By Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University

South China Morning Post
, 15 April 2018

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is alarmed by diplomatic developments related to the denuclearisation of North Korea and is desperate to get involved in the talks so he can sabotage them. Whatever happened to regime change? From Abe’s perspective, treating Kim Jong-un as an equal is rewarding bad behaviour in ways that might imperil Japan’s security. He might find support for his hardline stance from John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, who has advocated attacking North Korea.

But Trump began his presidency by pulling the plug on the Trans-Pacific Partnership anyway, sparking concerns that Trump’s “America first” doctrine would cede power and influence to China in Asia and spark trade wars. Yet, on security, Abe got much of what he wanted, a US leader who would stand up to China and North Korea, and endorse Japan’s concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

But subsequent setbacks for Abe’s personal diplomacy with Trump underscore the risks of relying on an erratic and unreliable leader. First, Trump took aim at China by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that hurt its closest allies more than Beijing. Abe pleaded for an exemption to no avail, but is hoping he can convince Trump to relent when they meet in person.

But it was Trump’s abrupt volte face regarding talks with North Korea that left Abe chagrined and isolated. He was comprehensively outmanoeuvred and upstaged by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy and was marginalised by the summitry of the North Korean leader, who first met South Korean envoys, then China’s President Xi Jinping, and plans to meet Moon on April 27 and then Trump in May or June.

It was a bitter pill for Abe to watch Seoul’s envoys announce to the world from the portico of the White House that Trump had agreed to meet with Kim, after trying so hard to be his Asian interlocutor. Abe had remained steadfast in his hardline anti-dialogue stance and thought he was on the same page as Trump – until he wasn’t.

Abe has remained out of sync, trying to make Japan relevant to a process that he opposes while pushing South Korea and the US to insist on Kim coming clean on the fate of dozens of Japanese kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s who remain unaccounted for.

Abe’s political rise is closely associated with being an advocate for these abductees, and it is an important human rights issue, but other actors prioritise averting cataclysm on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has let it be known that it considers the abductee issue resolved and opposes having it on the agenda. Foreign Minister Taro Kono visited Seoul to lobby for South Korean support but came away empty-handed.

Abe’s stance gains no traction with Korean or Chinese counterparts, who wonder if he is more interested in scuttling the talks than making progress on denuclearisation, a replay of the doomed six-party talks (2003-2009) that Japan held hostage to the abduction issue. Abe’s main concern is that the talks might effectively normalise North Korea’s nuclear capability.

Recent changes in the White House convey even more disarray in Team Trump but may bode well for Abe. Trump fired national security adviser H.R. McMaster and secretary of state Rex Tillerson, voices of moderation on North Korea, and picked hardliners Bolton and Mike Pompeo to replace them. They are likely to be more supportive of Abe on abductees and Trump could use the human rights angle to vilify Kim and derail talks.

Abe’s worst nightmare is that the denuclearisation talks drag on inconclusively, with Kim making some concessions but not handing over the keys to the nuclear vault and in some way normalising North Korea as a nuclear power.

Tokyo does not believe that Kim’s charm offensive is aimed at North Korea unilaterally relinquishing its nuclear arsenal and allowing international inspectors to verify compliance by granting them unfettered access. Trump may hope that can be negotiated, but during his pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago next week, Abe will make the case that this is to fundamentally misread the situation.

Japan worries that some quid pro quo may be worked out that requires reciprocal drawn-out steps by the United States and North Korea to relinquish nuclear weapons, and that part of the deal would require the US to remove the nuclear umbrella of extended deterrence that currently applies to South Korea and Japan. Abe hopes to convince Trump that talks are a waste of time, risky due to unrealistic expectations on both sides, and that Kim is untrustworthy. That should not be too hard.

So while Moon’s peace express is steaming out of the station with everyone scrambling to get aboard, Abe wants to push the emergency stop button on this diplomacy. 

In doing so, he offers Trump a useful escape hatch, enabling him to say he tried diplomacy and blame Kim while resuming the fire-and-fury brinkmanship that he and his new advisers are more comfortable with. US Secretary of Defence James Mattis will have his hands full as the remaining adult supervisor to see what this window of opportunity offers.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Monday in Washington, April 9, 2018

RUSSIA AND THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS AFTER 20 YEARS. 4/9, 9:30-11:00am. Sponsor: Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Marina Agaltsova, Galina Starovoitova Fellow on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Attorney at Law, Human Rights Center; Maria Issaeva, Threefold Legal Advisers, Moscow; Member, Executive board, European Society of International Law; author Lauri Mälksoo, Fellow, Professor of International Law, University of Tartu, Estonia.

THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE: CONFESSIONS OF A NUCLEAR WAR PLANNER. 4/9, 11:30-2:30pm. Sponsors: Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA), Leadership, Ethics, and Practice Initiative, Elliott School, GWU; Nuclear Security Working Group. Author: Daniel Ellsberg.

EXPLORES CHINA’S LEADERSHIP GOALS AND PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS. 4/9, Noon. Sponsor: Public Diplomacy Alumni Association. Speakers: Christopher Walker, Vice President for Studies and Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy; Robert Daly, Director, Kissinger Institute, Wilson Center. Fee.

ITALY’S THREAT TO THE EURO. 4/9, 2:30-4:30pm. Sponsor: AEI. Speakers: Alberto Alesina, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University; Michele Boldrin, Hoyt Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, Department of Economics, Washington University in St. Louis; Erik Jones, Director, European and Eurasian Studies, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University; Desmond Lachman, Resident Fellow, AEI. Moderator: Stan Veuger, Resident Scholar, AEI.

DON'T COPY THAT FLOPPY! CHINESE THEFT OF U.S. MILITARY TECHNOLOGIES. 4/9, 3:30-4:30pm. Sponsor: Organization of Asian Studies, Elliott School, GWU. Speakers include: Terry Dunlap, CEO, ReFirm Labs; Bill Gertz, National Security Columnist, Washington Times, Senior Editor, Washington Free Beacon; Dr. Stephen Bryen, Founder, Defense Technology Security Administration.

WHAT'S NEXT IN THE MIDDLE EAST? PUBLIC OPINION AND THE CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP IN ISRAEL, PALESTINE AND THE UNITED STATES. 4/9, 5:00-7:00pm, Dinner. Sponsors: Elliott School, GWU; OneVoice Movement. Speakers: Dahlia Scheindlin, Policy Fellow, MITVIM Institute; Obada Shtayeh, Regional Director, OneVoice Movement; Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Director, Institute for Middle East Studies, Elliott School, GWU. Moderator: Ned Lazarus, Visiting Professor of International Affairs, Elliott School, GWU.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE FUTURE OF WORK. 4/9, 5:30-7:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Institute for International Economic Policy, Elliott School, GWU. Speaker: Martin Fleming, Chief Economist, Vice President, Business Performance Services, IBM.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Unshared values with Japan

Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy falls short

Japan’s Values-Free and Token Indo-Pacific Strategy

BY James D.J. Brown, associate professor of political science at Temple University, Japan Campus.

THE DIPLOMAT, April 3, 2018

The Free and Open Indo-Pacific has become one of the key concepts in Japan’s contemporary foreign policy. Foreign Minister Taro Kono has included it as one of his six priorities, and Japan has worked hard to convince other countries, including the United Kingdom and France, to endorse it. However, while the principled rhetoric about the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) may sound appealing, Japan’s actions raise questions about whether the strategy is really anything more than window dressing for the pursuit of Japan’s narrow economic and strategic interests.

The main aim of Japan’s FOIP is to promote connectivity between Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This means that the strategy is closely related to promoting free trade, infrastructure investment and development. It is therefore no surprise that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chose the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) as the venue for his first major speech on this topic in August 2016. This economic focus makes FOIP distinct from “the Quad,” a fledgling security dialogue between Japan, Australia, India, and the United States.

Japan’s enthusiasm for FOIP derives from the recognition that, due to its shrinking domestic population, Japanese economic growth will increasingly depend on access to overseas markets. However, the international rules-based order that has made free trade possible is under threat both from an assertive China and from a U.S. administration that appears unwilling to defend the very system that underpins its national prosperity. Washington’s negligence has therefore encouraged Tokyo to do more itself to uphold this rules-based order.

A related motivation is that the Abe administration has identified infrastructure exports as a priority for reviving the Japanese economy. The development of a joint regional infrastructure scheme that is connected with FOIP could therefore assist Japan to expand exports to countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, especially if Chinese competitors are excluded. It was announced in February that just such a infrastructure scheme is already being discussed by Japan, Australia, India and America.

Freedom and openness

Although Japan certainly has its own motivations, FOIP is presented as being for the benefit of all. Specifically, a system in which international maritime areas remain a global commons, which are governed by the rule of law and not might-makes-right, will allow small and large trading states to flourish alike.

Further to supporting the freedom of navigation enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Japan claims that other values are central to FOIP. This was made clear in Abe’s initial TICAD speech in which he stated that “Japan bears the responsibility of fostering the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and of Asia and Africa into a place that values freedom, the rule of law, and the market economy, free from force or coercion, and making it prosperous.”

Abe continued by stressing the role that democratic principles had played in Asia’s growth and that the same values should underpin development in other regions. This “values-oriented diplomacy” was also a feature of Abe’s first administration (2006-2007), when the favored concept was the soon-forgotten “arc of freedom and prosperity.”

Although denied by the Japanese leadership, FOIP is clearly intended as a competitor to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which also seeks to connect Asia with neighboring regions via large-scale infrastructure projects. By emphasizing freedom and openness, as well as higher project standards, Tokyo is attempting to differentiate its strategy from that of Beijing. This rhetoric is also an attempt to give FOIP greater legitimacy, partially compensating for the fact that it is far behind the BRI in terms of financing and concrete achievements.

Tokyo’s superficial values

There is no question that a genuinely free and open Indo-Pacific would be preferable to an initiative dominated by a single authoritarian state. However, to boldly claim a commitment to a values-based foreign policy is to invite a scrutiny that finds Tokyo wanting due to its ambivalent support for international law and democratic values.

With regard to maritime law, while Japan has been outspoken in its criticism of China’s island building in the South China Sea, this has not prevented it from doing something similar at Okinotori, a small atoll located 1,600 km south of Tokyo. The Japanese government has spent over $600 million reinforcing and expanding the small rocks of the atoll in order to keep them above the water line. It now claims that Okinotori is an island and entitled to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone — even though UNCLOS specifically states that only natural islands that can sustain human habitation will generate EEZs.

Japan has demonstrated similar disregard for international law in its continuation of whaling despite a 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice. This found that Japan’s supposed research program in the Antarctic was in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Japan could also be criticized for its absurdist claim that there is no territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands. The reason for this is because Tokyo does not wish to engage in negotiations. Were the Japanese government really committed to the international rule of law, it could invite China to take the case to the International Court of Justice. In fact, this is precisely what Japan demands of South Korea with regard to the disputed territory of Dokdo/Takeshima. Tokyo’s support for international arbitration is therefore highly selective.

Likewise, it is hard to take the Japanese government’s commitment to democratic values too seriously given Abe’s chummy relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, whose “war on drugs” has left more than 12,000 people dead. Also, while the United States has cut aid to both Thailand and Cambodia in response to democratic backsliding, Japan has continued to court these countries for both political and economic reasons.

Most striking has been the Abe administration’s reluctance to criticize Myanmar for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority that is being conducted by the country’s military. Indeed, during a visit to the country in February, Kentaro Sonoura, a special advisor to Abe, stated that the “Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s armed forces] has an important role in consolidating democracy in Myanmar.” He also praised the countries’ ongoing defense cooperation.

Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept could constitute a positive contribution to the whole region if it genuinely offers a more principled and law-based alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. For this to be the case, however, Tokyo must first demonstrate that its commitment to international law and democratic values is more than just a convenient fig leaf.