International Situation and Japan’s Diplomacy in 2011 | CHAPTER 1

Summary > CHAPTER 1 : Overview International Situation and Japan’s Diplomacy in 2011

Chapter 1 : Overview

International Situation and Japan’s
Diplomacy in 2011

 In 2011 the world underwent various convulsions such as political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa along with the European sovereign debt crisis. The international community has been changing dynamically including the advancement of information and communication technologies, diversification of the actors taking part in international activities, and the rise of the emerging countries.
 Japan experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. This massive disaster obviously imposed problems Japan is going to face in the future. On the other hand, the support and encouragement that Japan and its people received from all over the world showed their trust to Japan, as it has been making efforts in the field of international cooperation over more than 60 years since the end of World War II. This helped the Japanese people recognize anew the high esteem and expectations for Japan and its people. At the same time, it also was a year in which Japan’s accountability to the international community was called into question in 2011 relating to the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
 Reconstruction from the earthquake is the top priority for Japan. At the same time, it is essential for Japan’s reconstruction and peaceful prosperity to secure peaceful and stable environment in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. It is essential for Japan to respond to the solidarity the world showed Japan in the aftermath of the disaster with pride and confidence, such as to address global issues using its distinctive conceptual power.
 In order to pursue proactive diplomacy, it is necessary to accurately analyze the state of global affairs. Below, we will discuss an overview of the changes in the international environment in part one and the foreign policy that Japan is going to carry out in part two.


                        Victory lap by Nadeshiko Japan, the women’s national soccer team, with a banner after
                        the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 (Photo: ©J-LEAGUE PHOTO)

1. State of Affairs: Changes in the International Environment

(1) Increasing Globalization and Interdependence

 Advance in the technologies supporting interaction, such as transportation technologies and information and communication technologies (ICT) represented by the Internet, and decrease in cost of their use are encouraging the exchanges of people, goods, capital, and information on a global scale (globalization). Globalization has open and positive nature: it accelerates economic growth and enables sharing of commercial practices across national borders, introduction of new ways of life, and exchange of culture and ideas. Exchange of information and economic interaction with counterparts with whom some years ago one could interact only in limited frequency and scale have become normality. Especially in economic aspects the degree of interdependence among a variety of actors is increasing.
 Since relations of interdependence have grown more complex across national borders, the influence that one situation has on others, the speed of conveyance of such influence, and the degree of damage when technologies are put to malicious use have grown to unprecedented levels. That is, in today’s international community, the technologies supporting interaction can bring benefits while they could cause transnational problems, and their management has become a major issue.

(A) Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

 Among the technologies supporting interaction, the advancement of information and communication technologies in recent years stands out in particular. As seen in the example of Social Networking Services (SNS), which makes it easy to interact through the Internet and have been identified as one important factor making possible the political changes in the Middle East and North Africa, they are having a major impact on politics and society in each country, and moreover on the international affairs. These technologies also support the free movement of capital.
 Advances in information and communication technologies have made it possible for countries, companies, and individuals to process and exchange large volumes of information. As a result, even individuals and small groups can now cause considerable damage by using technology for acts of terrorism and other crimes or by carrying out cyber terrorism and other crimes or by carrying out cyber attacks harmful to technology itself. Also, growing dependence on technology is leading the increase in the number of cyber attacks on countries and private enterprises. While information and communication technologies should be free to use in principle, it is also clear that the abuse of such technologies needs to be prevented. While some countries guard against the influence of the Internet and strengthen their controls over it, Western nations such as the U.S. campaign the ‘Internet freedom’. As such, how to reconcile freedom of information infrastructure including the Internet has become a matter of discussion in the international community. As a result of the Wikileaks incidents in 2010, even countries with liberal Internet policies have faced the issue of how to reconcile values such as the public’s right to know and democratic control of diplomacy on the one hand and the need to maintain confidentiality by administrative institutions on the other.

(B) Deepening Interdependency and Growing CrossBorder Issues

 While globalization has a positive aspect of encouraging cross-border activities and growth especially on the economic front, it involves also a negative aspect of making the effects of a crisis in one country on other countries the broader-ranging and more direct, as seen in the European sovereign debt crisis. The effects of crisis not only spread broadly within Europe but also extended significant impact on the economies of countries outside the region, through trade, investment and the financial markets.
 In today’s world, where interdependence is deepening, it is almost impossible for an economy to be fully self-sufficient, completely separated from the world market. While worldwide distribution of mass-produced industrial products and falling local prices for domestically produced goods resulting from opening up of national markets are phenomena that already have been observed for several centuries, today it is not just the prices of goods but also those of services and labor that are adjusted by international market mechanisms. Capital, seeking production bases with more advantageous conditions, has both vitalized the regional economies in which it is invested and has accelerated the speed of changes in income levels. While the results have included favorable changes such as expanded opportunities for growth, they also have included problems such as growing domestic income gaps in both developing countries and developed countries, resource shortages as a result of massive growth in the scale of economic activities by human being, and destruction of environment. The international community needs to cooperate to address such problems. Furthermore, traditional nation-centric approaches are insufficient for resolving cross-border problems, making it important to spotlight the roles played by various actors such as individuals and companies, and the impact on diplomatic policies from not just nations but such actors as well.

(C) Diversification of the Actors in the International Community

Advances in technologies and decreases in the cost of their use have given greater influence than before to a variety of actors other than states. For example, some multinational corporations surpass small and medium-sized states in their economic size, and their claims have considerable influence on the world’s economy, for example by influencing state policies. In addition, the media, research institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other organizations are also increasing their presence in the international community, using characteristics such as the high level of transmission capabilities. On the other hand, even national security is threatened by terrorism or crime committed by non-state organizations or individuals.
 While various organizations and individuals have gained considerable capabilities and contribute to the development of society, terrorism and crime threaten at the same time the security of states. On the other hand, so-called fragile states, which lack even their fundamental governance capabilities such as maintaining internal security, can be sanctuaries for terrorists and organized crime and become causes of threats to international security as a whole.
 Sovereign states remain major actors in the international community, and interstate confrontation and cooperation still affect most to the stability of international community. However, power is diffusing from states to non-state actors, and they are playing more and more important roles in decision-making in the international community. In addition, religion is also becoming a factor with considerable influence on the international affairs, as seen in recent fragment cases where incidents occurring in one country trigger popular protest in other countries particularly in the Islamic world. Diplomacy is expected to understand precisely the movements of not only states but also these various actors, and to coordinate and utilize the diverse roles that they play.

(2) Changes in Power Relations among Nation States
(A) Seeking a New International Order

 Having overwhelming power, the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the U.S after the Cold War maintained the international order to some degree. While the U.S. holds relative superiority in today’s international community, the rising power of non-state actors and changes in international power relations such as the rise of emerging countries have led to a continuing loss of the efficacy of existing decision-making methods in the international community. For example, differences in the positions of developed countries and emerging countries such as China, India, and Brazil have become the primary cause impeding new agreements in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
 In light of such reality, in addition to traditional bilateral relations and frameworks for cooperation within the United Nations (UN) system, new multilateral cooperation, which selectively forms cooperative relations in accordance with specific purposes, tends to intensify. Attempts at integration and cooperation are being actively pursued in individual regions around the world not to mentioning the situation in Europe, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Asia. In the case of the so-called “Arab Spring” as well, the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the African Union (AU) are making various efforts. In the future, the role played by such multilateral cooperation is likely to attract attention toward formation of a new international order.

(B) The Rise of the Emerging Countries

 From the start of the Industrial Revolution until the latter half of the 20th century, a limited number of countries capable of obtaining efficient production technologies and investing in such technologies succeeded in economic growth while occasionally using colonies and developing countries as supply sources of labor and resources and as markets for their products. However, since the latter half of the 20th century, and particularly since the end of the Cold War, it has empirically become clear that the most effective means of growth is to introduce technologies and capital whether domestic or foreign, and many less industrialized countries have started on the path of economic growth through accumulating capital and technologies as production bases for multinational corporations and utilizing their labor forces and, if available, resources. When this took place in populous countries, new economic powers emerged. These emerging countries have come to have greater influence in maintenance and formation of international order as their international political presence has increased, backed by their economic power.
 On the other hand, as the political systems and economic structures of individual emerging countries vary, and individual positions towards each international issue and the interests they focus on differ, they cannot be considered as one group. While the Group of Seven (G7) and later the Group of Eight (G8) has played leading roles in discussion of various economic and other international issues since the 1970s, the G20, established in response to the financial and economic crisis and including emerging countries in its membership, has come to play a major role since 2008 in areas such as macroeconomic policy coordination, as “the premier forum for international economic cooperation”. This can be said to be an example in which the international community being reflected in its decision-making systems the reality of the rise of the emerging countries. Since it is expected that the share of the emerging countries in the world economy will increase further in the future, there is a need to think strategically about how to build a new world order with the participation of contribution by emerging countries while each pursues its own different interests.

(3) The Current Situation in the Asia-Pacific Region
(A) Increasing Importance of the Region

 As the worldwide changes mentioned above, the Asia-Pacific region is realizing remarkable economic growth, today serving as the center of world economic growth while the U.S. and Europe, who have played central roles in the world economy until now, are relatively decreasing their predominance. The middle class1 in Asia is estimated to grow from its current size of approximately 950 million people to roughly 2 billion in 2020, and it is expected that the economic importance of this region will continue to increase in the future. Above all, China is recording remarkable growth, as it is expected to hold a middle class of 970 million people, which is roughly e.g. half of this Asian middle class. At the same time, the Asia-Pacific region also continues to contain traditional security threats and destabilizing factors rooted in relations among countries. First of all, there is military concentration in this region. The total troops in the countries and regions of the Asia-Pacific numbers approximately 6.7 million, equivalent to about three times the total forces of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states excluding the U.S.. In addition, more than one-half of the world’s nuclear-armed countries and regions2 are located in this region. Further problems in this region include North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles, build-up of China’s military capability which lacks transparency, and its vigorous maritime activities, and the activities of the Russian military in the Far East. In addition, unresolved territorial issues remain in this region.
 In contrast to the advancement of economic integration and cooperation in the diplomatic and security fields among European countries, some problems directly related to the peace and prosperity of the international community continue to exist in the Asian region. For this reason, the region has come to be recognized as the new focus of attention in international security. As exemplified in the discussions at the ARF and the EAS in 2011 for the solution of various problems among countries in the region, countries are striving to secure peace and stability in the region. The announcement by U.S. President Obama in November 2011 to review the U.S. diplomatic and security priorities and to make the U.S. presence and mission in the Asia-Pacific a top priority also symbolizes the increasing importance of the region.

1 As used here, “middle class” refers to the class with annual household disposable income between USD 5,000 and USD 35,000.
2 The U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, India, and Pakistan. Since it announced nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, North Korea here is considered a region having nuclear weapons.

(B) Maritime Issues

 Against a backdrop of deepening interdependence in the international economy, intensifying competition to secure resources on a global scale caused by vigorous economic activities on a global scale along with advances in technologies for maritime resource development resulting from technological innovation, maritime-related issues are becoming increasingly conspicuous among other causes of tension in the region in recent years. For example, in the South China Sea, where issues concerning sovereignty have already existed there was a cable-cutting incident between vessels of Chinese authorities and a Vietnamese resource survey ship in May 2011. In response to such incidents, a variety of efforts are being made between China and ASEAN to avoid destabilization of the security environment in the region. In July 2011 China and ASEAN agreed on guidelines for the implementation of the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” of 2002. Likewise, the EAS in November, the first summit in which the U.S. and Russia took part, adopted a declaration by leaders confirming that the international law of the sea contains crucial norms that contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. In addition to the declaration, the statement by the chair at the EAS included the importance of promoting maritime dialogue and cooperation.

(C) Situation in North Korea

 North Korea’s development of nuclear and ballistic missile problems poses a threat not only to the region but also to the international community as a whole. Japan, in close cooperation with countries concerned including the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK), has demanded North Korea to take specific actions toward denuclearization, including cessation of uranium enrichment activities, which are a violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the joint statement of the Six-Party Talks.
 The abduction issue of Japanese citizens by North Korean is a matter of grave concern to the international community as it is not only an issue concerning Japanese sovereignty and the lives and safety of its citizens but also an issue relating to universal values as an infringement on fundamental human rights. The Government of Japan unites in its efforts for the return of all abductees to Japan as early as possible
 In December 2011, the death of Kim Jong-il, National Defense Committee Chairman was announced. In response to this new situation, the Government of Japan will continue to thoroughly prepare for contingencies while closely observing the situation in close cooperation with other countries concerned.