Diplomatic Bluebook 2017

Chapter 1

International Situation and Japan's Diplomacy in 2016

In order for Japan to ensure its national interests in the political, security, and economic domain, and to continue to maintain and develop an international order desirable for Japan based on universal values such as freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights, it is essential to conduct strategic diplomacy, while rationally grasping changes in the international situation and responding to those changes.

Below is a broad overview of the international situation surrounding Japan and Japan's diplomacy in 2016.

1.Overview of the International Situation

(1) Changes in the International Situation in the Medium-term

A Change in the balance of power and a diversification of the actors

Since the turn of the 21st century, the rise of the so-called emerging countries, including China and India, and the shift of center of the global economy from the Atlantic to the Pacific is pointed out. Furthermore, when viewing a long-term estimation of population dynamics, relatively high population growth is expected in the African countries1. While the rise of the emerging countries has become the driving power of the global economy, changes are also being brought about in the balance of power.

Aside from state actors international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and multinational corporations have come to serve an even more important role in the international arena, and they have become more influential in the international community. At the same time, there is a growing concern over acts of terrorism by non-state actors.

The change in the balance of power and increasing complexity of the actors in the international arena have changed the ways of leadership and global governance in international order. In addition, there are concerns that they could lead to attempts to change the status quo by force and destabilization of the existing international order.

  • 1 The United Nations website
B Diversification and complexification of threats

The security environment has become complicated with concerns regarding the increase of “Grayzone” situations that are neither pure peace time nor contingencies over territorial sovereignty and interests in the context of a shift in the balance of power and insufficient institutionalization of cooperative security frameworks.

Issues related to the transfer, proliferation and improvement of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, including the possibility of acquisition and use of such weapons by international terrorist organizations, etc., constitute a major threat to the entire international community, including Japan.

Regarding international terrorism, there is a growing concern of large-scale acts of terrorism targeting so-called soft-targets in recent years. Advances in communication tools, including social networking services (SNSs), are also used in the diffusion of ideologies and expansion of the range of activities by international terrorist organizations.

Recent advances in science and technology have created new areas for human activities such as cyber space and outer space. While this presents big opportunities, it brings about new risks and threats, with the establishment of applicable norms under development.

Furthermore, it has been pointed out that innovations in unmanned and automated weapons technology and cyber technology have the possibility of changing the nature of security in the future.

C The emergence of protectionist and inward-looking trends

In the world economy, interdependence has been strengthened more than ever through the development of the global supply chain and financial systems in line with the progress of globalization and technology. While those create further opportunities for growth, they also make it easier for an economic shock in one region or fluctuations in commodity prices and other factors to simultaneously impact other regions and the entire world economy. Furthermore, to facilitate cross-border economic activities even more smoothly, there is an increased need for the maintenance and formulation of an economic order based on rules.

On the other hand, protectionist and inward-looking trends are strengthening against globalization. While the backgrounds of those trends may vary from the increasing domestic income inequality, job losses, the increase in imports, and a rise in migrants, to the global environmental problem, it is to be seen how the anti-globalism movement will impact the trend of the liberal economy which has supported the post-war international economic order.

D Growing concern over global issues

While the proportion of the so-called poorest segment has been decreasing in the world as a whole in recent years, some data indicates that the poorest living on less than 1.9 US dollars a day still account for about 10% of the world's population2. Poverty limits freedom and abundant potential of individual human beings, and concurrently becomes a source of social injustice, political instability and violent extremism.

Furthermore, the number of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and asylum-seekers, has increased in recent years due to such factors as frequent occurrence of new crises and protracted conflicts and persecutions, and the number has now reached approximately 65 million people3, the largest number since the end of World War Ⅱ. The issue of refugees and other displaced persons is a serious humanitarian problem, and has brought about friction in the international community, and there is a concern that the issue will be further prolonged and aggravated.

Furthermore, there is a concern that global warming will have a serious impact on the global environment, including an increase in natural disasters and damages caused by such disasters. The number of people crossing borders has now increased dramatically due to globalization, posing an increasingly serious threat of the outbreak and transmission of infectious diseases. It has also been pointed out that the increase in global population, industrialization and urbanization in the future may aggravate issues over water, food, and health.

  • 2 World Bank website
  • 3 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) website

(2) The Increasingly Severe Security Environment in East Asia

A China's strengthening of military force which lacks transparency and unilateral attempts to change the status quo

Peaceful development of China should be welcomed for Japan and the entire international community. However, China continues to strengthen its military power without transparency, including continued expansions of its defense budgets, and China's defense expenditure has continued to show every year an approximately double digit increase rate from the previous year since 1989. In addition, the organizational structure and equipment of the marine law enforcement agencies as exemplified by the China Coast Guard have been reinforced, while such agencies are not under the command and order of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

China continues actions and unilateral attempts to change the status quo at sea and in the airspace in areas such as the East and South China Sea based on its own assertions which are incompatible with the existing order of international law of the sea.

In the East China Sea, Chinese government-owned vessels have continued to intrude into Japan' territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. Particularly in August, 2016, multiple Chinese government-owned vessels advanced into waters around the Senkaku Islands, and repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters. In addition, China has been continuing unilateral resource development in areas pending the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelves in the East China Sea.

In the South China Sea, China has conducted large-scale and rapid land reclamation, built outposts, and utilized them for military purposes. In 2016, there were developments seen such as test flights to the Spratly Islands carried out by private Chinese aircraft (January and July), the installation of surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island (February), patrols in the airspace above Scarborough Shoal carried out by bombers and other aircraft (August), and the sailing of an aircraft carrier of the Chinese Navy to the South China Sea (December).

In July, 2016, the Arbitral Tribunal rendered the final award regarding the dispute over the South China Sea between the Philippines and China. Rights claimed by China in the maritime area encompassed by the “Nine-Dash Line” were denied, and the illegality of its actions such as land reclamations was confirmed. China, however, continues to make its own assertion, such as rejecting the legally binding force of the award.

The issues of the South China Sea are common interest of the international community, including Japan, which relies on marine transportation for most of resources and energy and attaches importance to the freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as security of sea lanes of communication. The international community is called upon to cooperate to strengthen the rule of law at sea, and maintain and develop the “Open and Stable Seas” (See 2-1-2 (1), 2-1-6, and 3-1-3 (4)).

B North Korea's new level of threat

North Korea has adopted a “byungjin policy” which simultaneously pursues the build-up of nuclear armed forces and economic construction. Despite repeated strong calls from the international community, including Japan, for self-restraint, North Korea went ahead with two nuclear tests, and launched more than 20 ballistic missiles in 2016. Nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea, which are in clear violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and its strengthened capabilities poses a threat of a new level, and significantly undermine the peace and security of Northeast Asia and the international community.

(3) Growing Uncertainty in International Affairs

A The issue of destabilization in the Middle East

The Middle East is located at geopolitically important position and is an important region that supplies energy resources to the world including Japan. Its stability is crucial for the peace and stability of the international community, including Japan. On the other hand, the Middle East is facing several challenges that destabilize the region, such as the prolongation of the Syrian crisis, the existence of violent extremist organizations such as the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” in Syria and Iraq, the occurrence of refugees and IDPs, as well as the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Middle East Peace Process, and the domestic situations of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya.

B Growing concern over violent extremism and international terrorism

The intense activities by international terrorist organizations continue in politically unstable regions with vulnerable governance, such as the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, ISIL continues to pose a serious threat to the international order. They abuse religious ideology to deny existing borders and nation states and recruit combatants from outside the region by propaganda through the internet and other methods. The activities of ISIL have continued to cause serious humanitarian crises including generating a large number of refugees and IDPs.

Furthermore, the threat of international terrorism has expanded beyond its lodgment area into Europe, and the U.S. as well as Southeast Asia and South Asia regions, which are closely related to Japan geographically, politically, and economically. In July, the terrorist attack occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh, claiming Japanese lives.

C The changes in domestic politics of Europe and the U.S.

In Europe, economic disparities within the region, including debt issues and continuing high unemployment rate in the Southern European countries, remain a problem and migrants continue to move from relatively poor nations to wealthier nations within the region. Europe also faces many challenges such as the influx of migrants and refugees mainly from the Middle East and Africa, and growing threats including multiple terrorist attacks. With the background of these movements, the supporters for Brexit secured the majority in the UK's referendum in June 2016, and there is a tendency in many places in Europe of increasing support for political powers which reject the existing administration.

In the U.S., a heated election campaign unfolded in both the primary and presidential elections, with the Republican Party candidate Mr. Trump emerging victorious, garnering wide-ranging support including independent voters, under the slogan of “Make America Great Again,” and “America First.”.

D Growing uncertainty in the global economy and increased protectionism

While the modest recovery of the overall global economy continued in 2016, the impacts of the movements towards the normalization of US monetary policy, the outlook of China and other emerging nations' economies and the uncertainty of the issue of withdrawal of the UK from the EU drew attention.

On the other hand, a growing tendency of protectionism and inward-looking sentiment against globalization and free trade were also seen in some major countries in Europe and the U.S., which affected political situations in several countries in 2016.