Diplomatic Bluebook 2018

Chapter 1

International Situation and Japan's Diplomacy in 2017

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 fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law, 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 2017.

1.Overview of the International Situation

The security environment surrounding Japan is facing extremely severe conditions, including the increasingly tense situation in North Korea. Furthermore, as a backlash to the advance of globalization, protectionism is rising even in countries that have been enjoying the benefits of free trade. Such an inward-looking tendency is becoming conspicuous in Europe as well. In addition, the international order based on fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law which have underpinned the peace and prosperity of the world, including that of Japan, is being challenged by attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion and the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.

(1) Changes in the International Situation in the Mid to Long-term

A Change in the Balance of Power

Since the turn of the 21st century, the rise of the so-called emerging countries, including China and India, and the shift of the center of the global economy from the Atlantic to the Pacific is pointed out. 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.

Furthermore, non-state actors including international terrorist organizations are wielding greater influence in the international community. Simultaneously, examples of state actors themselves utilizing military means by methods that are difficult to identify definitely as “armed attack” and cases involving intervention in democracy from foreign countries through the manipulation of information and other methods are also being pointed out.

B Diversification and Complexification of Threats

The security environment has become complicated with concerns regarding the increase of “gray-zone” situations that are neither pure peacetime nor contingencies over territorial sovereignty and interests in the context of insufficient institutionalization of cooperative security frameworks, especially in the Asia region.

As can also be seen from the unprecedented frequency of ballistic missile launches, nuclear tests and other provocations by North Korea, 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 terrorist organizations, etc., constitute a major threat to the entire international community, including Japan.

Regarding 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 being used in the diffusion of violent extremism, one of the primary causes of terrorism, and the expansion of the range of activities by terrorist organizations.

Recent advances in science and technology are invigorating activities in new spheres such as cyberspace and outer space. While this presents big opportunities, it also 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 Global Economic Trends (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 innovation such as digital technology. While these 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 crossborder economic activities even more smoothly, there is an increased need for the maintenance and formulation of an economic order based on rules. In the short term, the global economy in 2017 is on a track to recovery, but downward risks continue to exist in the medium to long-term in the form of financial fragility, geopolitical tension, political uncertainty and other factors.

On the other hand, mounting protectionist and inward-looking trends in the U.S. and major countries in Europe run counter to globalization, and these tendencies remain pronounced. 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. In Europe, the influx of migrants and refugees is slowing, but at the same time no improvement is being witnessed in the economic disparity between the south and the north. In the U.S., President Trump reemphasized his “America First” campaign policy, and the protectionist trend has grown stronger, including moves to encourage consumers to buy American goods and companies to hire Americans.

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 population1. Poverty limits freedom and the 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 occurrences of new crises and protracted conflicts and persecutions, and the number has now reached approximately 65.6 million people2, 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.

As a means of addressing these problems, it will be important to steadily implement the “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” It is said that promoting the SDGs will generate a value of 12 trillion US dollars and create 380 million jobs worldwide, and momentum is being witnessed on all fronts, including not only national governments but local governments, business communities and civil society.

  • 1 World Bank (WB) website
  • 2 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) website
E The Situation in the Middle East Faced with Destabilizing Factors / The Escalation of Terrorism and Violent Extremism

The Middle East is located in a 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 are destabilizing the region, including the existence of violent extremism such as the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” mass flows of refugees and their influx into neighboring regions, the prolongation of the Syrian crisis, the Iraq situation, the Middle East peace process, the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the situation surrounding Qatar, and the domestic situations in Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.

Although the territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria has shrunk, the return or relocation of foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) who had been under the influence of ISIL to their home countries or to third countries has spread the threat of terrorism, and this threat is also growing in Asia. In May 2017, a group self-professed to be “ISIL East Asia” occupied a part of the Marawi City in the Philippines. While the military operations have been completed, there is still a need to continue closely monitoring the situation in Mindanao including the Marawi City.

(2) The Increasingly Severe Security Environment in East Asia

A The Unprecedented, Grave and Imminent Threat of North Korea

It is no exaggeration to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is most severe since the end of World War II. In 2017, North Korea conducted the sixth nuclear test, and launched more than 15 ballistic missiles, including the two that flew over Japan. North Korea's growing nuclear and missile capabilities pose an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat towards the peace and stability of Japan and the international community.

B China's Strengthening of Military Force which Lacks Transparency and Unilateral Attempts to Change the Status Quo

The peaceful development of China should be welcomed by Japan and the entire international community. However, China continues to expand its defense budgets and strengthen its military power without transparency. China continues actions and unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion 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, amid the ongoing intrusions by Chinese Government-owned vessels into Japan's territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, Chinese naval vessels and aircraft have been conducting intense activities. In addition, China has been continuing unilateral development of resources in the maritime areas pending delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelves. Furthermore, in recent years China has been carrying out numerous surveys in the territorial waters around Japan, including the East China Sea, without Japan's consent, or surveys that differ in the details of those agreed upon.

In the South China Sea, China has conducted large-scale and rapid land reclamation and built outposts on the disputed features, and utilized them for military purposes. From 2016 to 2017, there were developments seen such as test flights to the Spratly Islands carried out by private Chinese aircraft, the deployment of surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, patrols in the airspace above Scarborough Shoal carried out by bombers and other aircraft and the sailing of an aircraft carrier of the Chinese Navy to the South China Sea. According to an announcement by a U.S. think tank, China is steadily moving to transform the disputed features in the South China Sea into military bases, and the total area covered by permanent facilities that completed or commenced construction in 2017 has reached around 290,000 square meters3.

With regard to the dispute between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea, China continues to make its own assertions concerning its territorial rights in the South China Sea, including rejecting the legally binding force of the final award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal, which confirmed the illegality of China's land reclamations and other actions in July 2016.

  • 3 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)