Skip to main content

Strategic Possibilities and Limitations for Abe’s Japan in Southeast Asia

John Lee

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire for Japan to play a more proactive role in strategic affairs stems largely from not just his concern about the nature of China’s rise but the challenge to the post-war liberal regional order that the latter’s rise and behaviour presents. Any disruption to that order is perceived to be extremely detrimental to Japan’s core national interest.
  • The concern with reinforcing and strengthening the existing regional order is causing Japan to take far greater strategic interest in Southeast Asia – and also reflects lessons learnt from Abe’s first time in office (2006–07.)
  • The increased Japanese strategic interest in Southeast Asia is welcomed by all key states in Southeast Asia and the United States, meaning that the growing Japan-Southeast Asian strategic dynamic is mutually reinforcing.
  • Japanese desire to play a more proactive strategic role in Southeast Asia needs to be understood alongside its post-war constitutional limitations. While relaxation of military equipment and technology export policy may be highly significant, constitutional limitations are likely to preclude direct Japanese military involvement in Southeast Asian conflicts.
  • There is strong potential and promising possibilities for Japan to play a more proactive multilateral role in Southeast Asia through its standing and participation in regional institutions (especially ASEAN-led or backed institutions) that will further Tokyo’s objectives and advance the strategic and security goals of key Southeast Asian states.
  • Japan’s capacity to significantly enhance its strategic role in the region ultimately depends on the success of Abe’s domestic reforms.
View PDF

Related Articles

This Is How China Is Slowly Creeping into Latin America

Sean Kelly

Beijing has discovered a slick and sophisticated way to increase its influence in the region...

Continue Reading

President Trump Disappointed That China is Allowing Oil to go Into North Korea

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs

On December 24th, Rebeccah Heinrichs appeared on Fox News to discuss President Trump's comments on the Chinese allowing oil to go into North Korea. ...

Watch Now

U.S. should aid religious minorities abroad directly, without going through the UN

Nina Shea

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy Report unveiled this week makes it a priority to “protect religious freedom and religious minori...

Continue Reading