Japan's diplomatic skills are being tested over how it will participate in the United States' newest policy to deal with China.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has finalized a comprehensive strategy for the Indo-Pacific. At its center is its response to the country seen as its greatest competitor, China.
Beijing is attempting to expand its sphere of influence with its power in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and is using military might to intimidate Taiwan. Human rights violations of ethnic minorities within its borders are also under scrutiny.
The U.S.' new Indo-Pacific strategy seeks to work together with allies and other friendly nations within and outside the region in every field of militaristic, technological, economic and diplomatic areas to counter China. Its aim is reportedly not to pressure China to change, but to realize an advantageous situation for the U.S. and its allies.
To avoid overlooking activities that threaten safety in the region, Japan should actively cooperate as a U.S. ally.
The new strategy is based on a new founding principle of integrated deterrence; that is, a system of deterrence built among many countries. Multiple nations, not just the United States, will have a role to play. What's important when it comes to cooperation is discerning what activities are conducive to national interests.
With the Taiwan emergency and other factors in mind, the expectations for Japan are reportedly that it will contribute militarily. Certainly, if a contingency does arise, then Japan will not be able to stay detached from events.
Domestically, there is much discussion over whether Japan should acquire mid-range missile technology and the ability to attack enemy bases. But there is a danger that debate goes ahead with the foregone conclusion that Tokyo, being pressured by Washington seeking to raise Japan's defensive capabilities, will arm itself with missiles without properly examining their efficacy.
If Japan initiates an arms buildup while willfully ignoring its fundamental defense-only policy, it could trigger a region-wide race to expand military capabilities.
Within Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party are some voices fanning a sense of crisis with the view that "an emergency for Taiwan is an emergency for Japan." But it is Japan's role to exhaust every diplomatic avenue available to prevent any such emergency from happening. Improving diplomatic power will require giving more focus to Asia. Japan has a history of supporting this region which, despite political instability, has great economic momentum.
There is room for Japan to wield its soft power in infrastructure, and infectious disease and climate change countermeasures. The country can certainly make a greater contribution than China when it comes to quality.
Increasing the ranks of your allies to avoid war; the pursuit of this kind of diplomatic strategy will lead to stability in the Indo-Pacific.