Think Tank (2/2024)
Professor Kitaoka Shinichi
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Recent Developments in Japan’s Security and Foreign Policy
14 Mar 2024

RSIS hosted a seminar by Professor Kitaoka Shinichi , S. Rajaratnam Visiting Professor of Strategic Studies, Emeritus Professor of the University of Tokyo and Rikkyo University, and Special Advisor to the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); on 14 March 2024. Delving into history, Prof Kitaoka highlighted Japan’s trajectory from defeat and occupation to its current stance on security and international relations and shed light on the evolving landscape of Japan’s security and foreign policy.

Prof Kitaoka explained that the aftermath of World War II saw Japan devastated by heavy bombing, culminating in surrender and subsequent occupation by the United States. He said that under US guidance, Japan underwent significant reforms, including the framing of a pacifist constitution in 1946, notably Article 9, renouncing war as a sovereign right of the nation.

Prof Kitaoka highlighted that despite the constitutional constraints, Japan’s security policy has undergone subtle shifts over the years. The reinterpretation of Article 9 in 1954 allowed for the establishment of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), albeit with limitations. Challenges such as territorial disputes with Russia and China’s assertiveness have prompted Japan to reassess its defence posture.

Prof Kitaoka further added that recent administrations, particularly under Prime Ministers Abe and Kishida, have taken steps to adapt to the evolving security environment. The establishment of the National Security Council and the partial lifting of the arms export ban reflect Japan’s commitment to enhancing its defence capabilities while fostering cooperation with allies.

In parallel, Japan’s foreign policy has pivoted towards the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), aimed at safeguarding maritime security and promoting economic prosperity. This approach, however, faces competition from China’s Belt and Road Initiative, necessitating closer collaboration with like-minded partners.

Moreover, Japan is recalibrating its engagement with the global South, recognizing the diversity of perspectives within these regions and the need to address historical imbalances. Initiatives such as the JICA Development Studies Program underscore Japan’s commitment to fostering equitable development worldwide.

Prof Kitaoka concluded by saying that Japan’s security and foreign policy landscape is evolving in response to dynamic geopolitical challenges. As it navigates these complexities, Japan remains committed to upholding the principles of peace, stability, and cooperation in the region and beyond.

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