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EU-Japan Security Cooperation: Trends and Prospects

Liselotte Odgaard

EU-Japan Security Cooperation: Trends and Prospects
By Emil J. Kirchner and Han Dorussen
Routledge, 222 pages, $140

An edited volume on EU–Japan relations is very timely. On February 1 2019, the EU–Japan Strategic Partnership provisionally entered into force between the two entities that already have strong economic relations. The partnership agreement is the first ever bilateral framework agreement between the EU and Japan. It provides a framework for enhanced political cooperation and joint action on issues of common interest on bilateral as well as regional and global challenges. These developments indicate the growing importance of a relationship in the security sphere that has largely gone under the radar in the academic community, although the conditions for joining forces to carry more weight across a wide range of issues have already been put into place.

The book on EU–Japan security relations edited by Emil Kirchner and Han Dorussen is organised thematically, addressing a wide range of key topics on the traditional and non-traditional security agenda, such as non-proliferation, military relations, terrorism, climate issues, migration and economic security. The individual chapters are for the most part written by two authors, one from the EU and one from Japan to ensure that the analyses include a perspective from both sides of the relationship. The main aim of the book is to map the scope of EU–Japan cooperation across a broad range of security issues between 1990 and 2017. It identifies four factors that influence the extent of cooperation in the relationship: internal developments in the EU and Japan, external influences, institutional aspects, and the role of events in driving cooperation. The analytical framework laid out by Emil Kirchner in the introductory chapter provides a thorough discussion of the methodological and theoretical choices made by the authors to ensure a rigorous and systematic comparative analysis across different security sectors. The broad and rigorous framework means that the book is well-suited for an undergraduate or postgraduate course teaching the basics of the EU–Japan security relationship. Similarly, analysts and policy-makers looking for a basic introduction to the relationship are well served by this edited volume.

The book provides a lot of detail about the relationship across time and sectors and different types of threats and internal and external factors affecting the threat perceptions of the EU and Japan and their relationship. All of the chapters identify an underdeveloped potential for more EU–Japan security cooperation. The chapter on regional security by Thomas Diez and Jun Tsubouchi clearly lays out the differences in threat perception and accompanying policy responses that explain why institutional EU–Japan security cooperation remains limited and is premature compared to a much-needed dialogue on understandings of regional security. Nicola Casarini and Michito Tsuruoka provide an interesting analysis of why, despite the absence of disagreement between the EU and Japan on proliferation issues, their different geopolitical priorities mean that cooperation on non-proliferation challenges has been limited. Sebastian Harnisch and Ken Masujima provide a nuanced analysis of how human security became an established policy concept in EU–Japan relations, both in word and deed. Thomas Christiansen, Jean-Christophe Defraigne and Hiromasa Kubo analyse the important issue of the economic security dimension in EU–Japan relations. They show how policy shifts in the United States, material developments in the respective economies and societies and an increasingly less stable global environment have facilitated convergence in EU and Japanese views on threats to their economic security. The result has been much closer cooperation.

The very broad thematic treatment of EU–Japan security relations comes at the cost of clarifying what is special about the relationship. As one would expect, the editors conclude that EU–Japan relations is significantly affected by external powers such as the United States, Russia and China. Equally, it is not surprising that EU–Japan security cooperation varies across different fields, or that EU–Japan cooperation on non-traditional security issues are more affected by values and policy choices than by internal and external factors in the relationship itself. These conclusions are well-known.

Addressing fewer, broader and more hypothetical research questions might have allowed the authors to bring out new knowledge about what is significant and special in EU–Japan relations rather than merely confirming insights we already had. Building on the basic introduction given by this edited volume, it would be interesting to see the authors address research questions such as how come the EU and Japan seem highly committed to strengthening their security cooperation despite their seemingly very different geopolitical agendas, or to what extent has the enhanced US focus on national interest protection in a narrow sense pushed the EU and Japan to strengthen cooperation on traditional security issues such as maritime policies and non-proliferation. Also, the basic research question’s focus on cooperation means that the conclusions become obvious. Two actors that are so different in geopolitical outlook, history, decision-making processes, just to mention a few factors, will have a limited cooperation agenda. However, they may, for example, coordinate their policies in sophisticated ways that are not so obvious and that go much further than what one would expect.

Also, issues that are prominent in debates on EU–Japan relations seem to disappear in the thorough and detailed analysis of the edited volume. For example, maritime security issues seem to have pushed Europe and Japan into a more activist, independent role in Asian security and it would have been interesting to see an analysis of the extent to which the EU and Japan can cooperate or at least coordinate their activities in this area. Similarly, the much-debated democratic cooperation forum the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue initiated by Japan and encompassing also India, the United States and Australia deserve more thorough treatment since the QUAD appeals to some European countries such as France and the QUAD has reached out to Europe. The Association of South-East Asian Nation’s provision of platforms for security cooperation is also a common priority of the EU and Japan which could have been analysed in more detail in this edited volume.

Despite these caveats, the book provides a thorough overview of EU–Japan relations that helps newcomers to the field understand the basic strengths and weaknesses of this relationship.

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