Japan and the Asia Pacific Contestation

Japan and the Asia Pacific: 

Asia pacific, which presently seems to be the center of economic cooperation and contestation is home to a number of states, most of which are vital economic engines of the world. One of these economic engine just so happens to be Japan which is the third largest economy of the world presently ranked after China and the United States of America. Recently, major dramatic shifts have been seen in the region that Japan lies in because of China who is contesting with the United States for domination and engaging many along with the US economic rivalry.

Japan also happens to be among the nations being rivaled by China. Countries and their partners affected by these strategic shifts are increasingly resisting the expansion of China’s comprehensive national power. Such resistance began before the global pandemic COVID-19 emerged but has accelerated subsequently. As a result, the Asia pacific has become the dominant global strategic focal point.


At its most basic, the region is where China is competing against growing economic, political and military resistance from the US, India, Japan, Australia and others. However, those countries resistance lacks uniformity, despite growing efforts to create and reinforce alliances and partnerships.

Japan’s Asia-Pacific security policy: 

If we look back a century back into Japanese history we see how the nation suffered through a nuclear calamity and took a fresh start in the global arena while abiding by the imposed sanctions for participating in the losing side of the war. Following the war, being an island nation with minimal resources Japan did not lose its focus upon its maritime affairs and to be a trading nation it developed and worked on its ship building industries and fishery sector to trade and survive.

As for its maritime security, Japan was demilitarized as a consequence of losing the war and was sheltered by Pax Americana for its security which helped it focus more on its economy and prosperity. However recent developments, China’s hostility and economic contestation in the region has compelled the nation to review its security and work on its military.

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Japanese political leadership has an uneasy relationship with the Self-Defense Forces. The military is poorly paid, with little effective communication and cooperation, either among its own branches or with its closest ally, the US. Japan therefore feels relieved to be a part of the QUAD, which is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

Japan’s role in Asia-pacific: 

Japan is considered an important participant in the contesting and cooperating Asia pacific of today. It in a vital member for those who want to contain and deter the rising China like the United States or India. Meanwhile the alliance of such powerful nations is held important to Japan as it itself has bitter relations with China, Japan not only has historical, economical or geostrategic rivalry with China but also has claims on the disputed territory of Taiwan, which is seemed to be a bone of contention between the two states.

Japan therefore to deter China and to ensure its own economic prosperity has expanded the concept of Asia pacific to Indo pacific by including India to the arena, another bitter rival of China. While Japan allying with India considers the relationship to be a geostrategic security for itself, it is being backed by the United States to play its role in the intensifying competition of power and domination and slow the being forecasted power transition from United States to China.

Japan and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

The TPP is a developing regional free trade agreement (FTA). It was initially formed as an FTA between Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, and Brunei, the TPP however currently stands to be an agreement under negotiation amongst the original four states and also the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The present 12 TPP partners have conducted rounds of negotiations and now aim to work together on a comprehensive arrangement to liberalize trade and to cover wide range of trade and trade-related activities.

Japan’s membership in the TPP was the subject of debate within the Japanese political leadership and among additionally the Japanese stakeholders. Japan saw much of internal opposition to the idea by the farmers and healthcare providers especially who had reservations of foreign adverse influence on rice and pharmaceuticals.

The Japanese acknowledging the issues still opted for the idea as it was a window to grow economically. The United States promised to support Japanese entry to the TPP, provided Japan addresses some of the issues that hindered in the way of confidence building for trading.

Firstly the beef sector restrictions, secondly the US auto market restrictions and thirdly the insurance and express delivery issues.

Japan in response addressed the first two issues and worked collectively on the third.

A large segment of the U.S. business community approves the Japanese participation in TPP, provided Japan can resolve long-standing issues on access to its markets for US goods, services, and agriculture.

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Strategic Challenges: 

The theme of the current global affairs that befalls mankind seems to be only describable as transitional, indirect and unpredictable. The world currently sees a possible transition of global dominance from United States to China and as many scholars believing in the power transitions theory put forward the idea that it is most evident that during the power transition process the two rivals might confront each other and cause a conflict.

In the current nuclear age state prefer proxy wars fought through other states and diplomacy and camp politics in contrast to the traditional arsenal warfare. Japan, holding a strategic importance and relations can be most possibly put into a fight between two giants and can affect the results of the confrontation. Henceforth Japan faces some strategic challenges in the region which are discussed below.

Rise of china: 

China seems to exhibit a policy of assertiveness and hostility in the area of maritime security. The reclamation and militarization activities on the disputed islands in the South China Sea are intended to reinforce its claims. As China continues with its assertive policy, this will cause greater discomfort within its neighbors, including Japan and ASEAN.

US Presence and Commitment in East Asia: 

The second challenge for japan is to keep the United States interested and entertained in East Asia. US is still leading the economic, political, military and IT domains globally but there are indicators of weakening and failure present in the structural power and position it hold in the global arena. Japan is seen in dire need of US in the region to contain or engage with china and help japan no develop a security dilemma or be pushed around by china.


To conclude, japan is a vital and prominent actor in the region of East Asia which just so happens to be the center of economic and political activity in the world of today, and so for that reason by engaging carefully in the race japan can benefit from this gold mine.

Japan, in order to benefit from the situation at hand must at all cost avoid any destabilizing behavior related to the unresolved historical legacy issue. It must also avoid defining its strategy in clear anti-China sentiments. Furthermore Japan and ASEAN should ensure a convergence of interests in the creation of a regional order that is favorable to the interests of both parties.

For Japan, it should look out for increasing accommodation from ASEAN states so incase if US is not present to help japan is not left stranded and has a few options to benefit from.

All in all japan is at a defining moment in history where any decision can not only change the course of the nation but also the whole region, it must therefore be careful and diplomatic in its ways of dealing with all the stakeholders and ensure its best interest while maintain regional and global order

This Article is written by Insia Nadeem, who is studying at the department of International Relations, NUML Islamabad. The views expressed in this article does not represent the views or opinion of the youth diplomacy forum. These are authors’ own views! 

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