For a long time Japan’s policy towards it Asian neighbors was defined by the “Fukuda Doctrine” and Saburo Okita’s “Flying Geese formation” which to have good relations with China, be a leader to other countries in the region and provide aid and development money in return for good will.

The Japanese are currently the biggest aid provider and technological innovators in East Asia. They used to be the largest trade partner for most Asian countries but now battle with China for that title. Many of peasants farmers in East Asia are now using Japanese machines to help them cultivate rice.

Japan has failed to emerge as a major power in Asia in part because it has failed to deal with the history issue. Still it is very active in regional affairs. Japan is the largest moneylender to Indonesia. It has been involved in the negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.

Japan’s embrace of capitalism and democracy has been an inspiration for all the countries of Asia. One World Bank economist wrote: "The Japanese like to compare Asia's economic development to a formation of flying geese, with Japan, whose economic miracle started in the 1950s at its head."

Japan is a member of ASEAN Regional Forum. Japan, China and South Korea participate in ASEAN meetings although they are not members. ASEAN Plus Three refers to meetings involving the ASEAN countries plus South Korea, China and Japan. It is the closest thing there is to an Asia-wide organization. The ASEAN Regional Forum brings in Russia and the United States.

Many in Asia still don’t trust the Japanese. Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew told Newsweek, “Whatever they do, they carry it to the apex, whether its making samurai swords or computer chips. They keep at it, improving, improving, improving...I think its in their culture... In any endeavor they set out to be No. 1. If they go back to the military, they will set out to be No. 1, in quality, in fighting spirit. Whatever their reason, they have built total dedication into the system, into the mind." Lee said a Japanese friend told me, "I don't trust us, the Japanese people. We get carried away to the extreme. It starts off small. It ends up going the whole hog.”

Japan has traditionally been heavily involved in East Asia and Southeast Asia but no so much in the rest of Asia. These days it is trying change that. Japan has been seeking closer ties with India. Trade and economic ties between the countries have increased significantly in recent years. So too have security agreements. Both countries are war of China’s rise. Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama visited India in December 2009. India built a new embassy in Tokyo. You see a fair number of Indians and South Asians these days in Japan. Japan has helped India improves its port and build subways and trains. In October 2008 Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan. Japan and India expanded security ties and Japan pledges to give India ¥450 billion in yen loans to build a freight rail connection between New Delhi and Mumbai. It was the largest ever loan package for a single project. Japan has been seeking closer relations with India in part because of its tense relations with China.

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources: Japan-Iraq Relations ; Iraq Oil Report ; Wikipedia article on Japan’s Reconstruction in Iraq Wikipedia ; Minsitry of Defense on Reconstruction in Iraq ;Japan-Iran Relations ; Japan, China, Iran, Iraq and Oil ; IranTracker on Japan-Iran Relations ; Japan-Africa Relations


Good Websites and Sources on Foreign Affairs : Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and ; Paper on Development of Japanese International Relations ; Wikipedia article on Foreign Policy of Japan Wikipedia ; Foreign Policy Magazine on the New Hatoyama Government ; Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies ;The World and Japan Database Project ;Japan in the World (last updated in 2003) ; Book: “Japan’s International Relations: Politics, Economics and Security“

Think Tanks and Research Groups: Japan Policy Research Institute ; The Japan Forum on International Relations ; Japan Watch, Commentary on Political and Economic Issues ; Japanese Institute of Global Communications ; Japan Analysis and Research Through Internet Information ; Documents Related to Postwar Politics and International Relations ; Foreign Aid Organizations: Japan and the IMF ; World Bank (click countries at the top or do a search) ;Japan International Cooperation Agency ;

Japan Pledges $24 Billion in Aid to Southeast Asia

November 2011, Kyodo reported, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit that Tokyo will provide 2 trillion yen ($24 billion) worth of aid for development projects within ASEAN to strengthen regional integration, Japanese officials said. At the one-hour summit with leaders of 10-member ASEAN on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, Noda also expressed his commitment to boosting cooperation with the region over maritime security and safety amid China's increasing assertiveness at sea. [Source: Kyodo, November 18, 2011]

In a joint declaration issued afterward, Japan and ASEAN mapped out five strategies to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region which include deepening political and security ties, cooperation in ASEAN community building and improving links between ASEAN and Japan. Thirty-three infrastructure projects are expected to be funded by Japan's official development assistance, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and private sector funds, the officials said, adding that the country will also work with the Asian Development Bank.

Japan's aid for ASEAN is aimed at boosting ASEAN ''connectivity'' via better infrastructure in such fields as transport across borders and simplifying customs procedures. These efforts to improve links within the region are part of the ASEAN vision to create an economic community by 2015. The declaration mentioned maritime security in the wake of recent tension in the South China Sea, where China is involved in territorial disputes with four ASEAN members -- Brunei, Malaysia, and most recently and notably, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japanese and ASEAN leaders in their 2003 Tokyo Declaration touched on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the region but did not specifically mention maritime security issues. Noda and his ASEAN counterparts said they will deepen their cooperation in accordance with universally agreed principles of international law including freedom and safety of navigation and peaceful settlement of disputes under relevant maritime laws such as the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Although Japan is not directly involved in the South China Sea, it is keen to help ASEAN resolve disputes peacefully, given tension over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan. Among other issues, Japan and the ASEAN members also vowed to work together on disaster management and preparedness, especially since several ASEAN nations are vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons and floods, most recently exemplified by Thailand's massive flooding.

Japan and Vietnam

In November 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, leaders from Japanese and Vietnam signed four documents: the Japan-Vietnam Joint Statement; two joint documents about cooperation on nuclear power plant construction and on developments of rare earths; and memorandum on accepting qualified Vietnamese nurses and certified careworkers into Japan. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 2, 2011]

Besides these issues, the joint statement mentioned six tie-ups for economic cooperation, worth a total of 92.6 billion yen. The statement also touched on the South China Sea issue, referring to freedom of navigation in the area and the peaceful settlement of disputes as being in the interest of all countries in the region.

India and Japan Relations

As China becomes more powerful and aggressive it is becoming more in the interests of Japan and India to cooperate more as a counter to China.

India has traditionally been known in Japan as “Tenjiku.” There are about 35,000 Indians living in Japan.

Japan and India signed a free trade pact in February 2011. The two countries had already signed a free trade agreement and economic partnership agreement which eliminated tariffs on 94 percent of two-way trade flows in October 2010.

Japanese Troops in Iraq

Japan in Iraq
In January 2004, members of the Japanese Self Defense Force arrived in Iraq with much fanfare. A total of 1,000 non-combatant troops (including 550 Ground Self-Defense Force personnel and 450 or so Maritime Self-Defense Force and Air Self-Defense Force personnel) were deployed. The Maritime Self-Defense Force and Air Self-Defense Force personnel were mostly involved in transporting ground troops and military hardware and supplies to Iraq.

The 550 Ground Self-Defense Force personnel were deployed in Samawah, near Nassiriya, in a place where there was relatively little military activity, and spent most of their time in a camp surrounded by an 800-meter-wide perimeter, regarded as adequate to thwart any attack. They were involved in projects like water purification and providing medical services and improving schools and other public facilities.

The Japanese base in Iraq had a large recreation facility with video and audio machines, a gym, and a library with Japanese newspapers and magazines. For safety reasons the troops rarely left the camp and when they did they were given a military escort. Out of respect to local Islamic customs the soldiers didn’t drink alcohol or eat pork and studied Islam before they left Japan.

The Japanese troops were initially welcomed enthusiastically with open arms because it was thought they were going to bring jobs but when that turned out not to be the case some Iraqis were hostile towards them. Occasionally rockets and mortars were fired at the camp. As time wet on Samawah became more and dangerous and Japanese troops gave up on their development projects and stayed in their camp, in some cases protected by British and Dutch soldiers.

Japan also pledged billions in aid and loans to Iraq and promised to forgaie some of the debts that Iraq owed. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in April 2007 and pledged to support Iraq’s reconstruction.

Justification for Japanese Troops in Iraq

In July 2003, the Japanese parliament passed a law that allowed the SDF to send troops to Iraq. In accordance with the anti-war constitution the troops were allowed on condition they followed strict guidelines and didn’t engage in warlike activities. Polls indicated that less than half of Japanese supported sending troops to Iraq. Al-Qaida threatened to attack Tokyo if Japan sent troops to Iraq.

In December 2004, Koizumi decided to extend the mission of the Japanese troops in Iraq for one year. The first mission expired December 14, 2004. The mission was extended again.

In July 2006, Japan withdrew the last if its troops from Iraq. The pullout was announced a month earlier. The Japanese government said the decision was based on the belief that the timing was right for security duties to be taken over by local Iraqi authorities.

After that Air SDF troops were stationed in Kuwait. None were in Iraq. The forces are mainly involved in air-lifting supplies using blue C-130 cargo planes between Kuwait and Iraq. In July 2007, the Japanese mission to air lift supplies to Iraq was extended for two years until July 2009.

In December 2008, the air-lift missions were ended, bringing to a close Japan’s four year involvement in Iraq. In April 2008, a high court in Japan ruled that the Air Self-Defense Force plan to airlift armed troops from the multinational forces in Bagdad was illegal as it violated the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Japan has continued to technological and economic aid to Iraq.

Japan formally ended its stay in Iraq in February 2009.

Japanese Killed and Kidnaped in Iraq

In November 2003, two Japanese diplomats and their Iraqi drivers were shot to death in Iraq in an drive-by-shooting-style ambush while in their vehicle on a highway outside Tikrit, Saddam Hussain’s former hometown. The two men — Japanese embassy employees 45-year-old Katsuhiko Oku and 30-year-old Masamori Inoue — were the first Japanese deaths in Iraq after the 1American invasion there in March 2003. It was nit clear whether they were targeted because they were Japanese. Their deaths received quite a lot of attention in Japan.

In May 2003, freelance journalists Shinsuke Hashida and Kotaro Ogawa were killed when gunmen opened fore on their vehicle south of Baghdad. The were on their way to the Japanese camp at Samawah. They were an uncle and nephew team.

In April, 2004 three Japanese civilians — freelance photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, freelance writer Noriaki Imai and volunteer aid worker Nahoko Takato — were abducted and held in the Falluja area. In a videotape their kidnapers said the three Japanese would be burned alive unless Japan withdrew it troops from Iraq. All three were released unharmed a week or so after the abduction with the help of Sunni clerics. The Japanese government said it didn’t pay any ransom. About the same time they were released two other Japanese — freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda and NGG worker Nobutaka Watanabe — were kidnaped. They were released a couple days later, and were criticized for reading anti-American messages given them by their captors.

In May 2005, Akihiko Saito — a former Japanese soldier working as a contractor for a British security firm on a U.S. base — was killed in Iraq in ambush by the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, an Islamic militant group. A website by the Islamic Group showed a video image of man thought to be Saito lying on the ground, bleeding from his head. It was not clearly whether he died in the ambush or died later. Ansar al-Sunnah originally said that it had captured Saito.

Killing of Japanese Backpacker in Iraq

In October 2004, a 24-year-old Japanese backpacker named Shosei Koda was kidnaped and beheaded by a group associated with the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s insurgents. A video was released in which the group threatened to behead Koda unless Japanese forces started withdrawing within 24 hours. Against strong protests by Japanese and Jordanian authorities, Koda took a bus from Amman Jordan to Baghdad. He was refused admission to mid -price hotels, which were not taking foreigners out of fear of attacks, and couldn’t afford a guarded high-priced hotel. He was last seen getting into a car at the Baghdad bus station.

Koda’s headless body was found wrapped in an American flag in Baghdad. The Japanese public didn’t have so much sympathy for Koda who was characterized as a danger seeker. A video showed him being shoved on the American flag and beheaded. The video was later shown at a Tokyo rock concert.

The Al-Qaida-linked Iraqi man that participated in the killing of Koda was later captured. He told AFP: “Our group initially planned to release the Japanese after getting a ransom, but we then had a high-level order that we should demand Japanese forces pull out...The Japanese looked dejected and sad....He talked to us in a language we didn’t understand, but the look on his face told me he was begging for his life...I tried to cut his throat but couldn’t do it to the end — so another member completed the killing. “The brand-new knife was made in Japan. I couldn’t help doing it as I would’ve been killed instead if I didn’t.” The Iraqi man was executed.

Iran and Japan

Leaders of Japan and Iran
in the mid 2000s
Japan has traditionally had pretty good relations with Iran. Part of this is based on the Japanese need for oil. Iran is Japan’s third largest supplier of crude oil. Japan has teamED with Iran to provide aid for Afghanistan.

Japan has a $5 billion deal with Iran and Qatar to search for and develop natural sites in the Persian Gulf. The sites are the Iranian-owned Pars South and adjacent Qatar-owned North Field, the largest and second largest gas fields in the world. Pars has 13 million cubic meters. North Field has 9.8 trillion cubic meters.

Japanese efforts in Iran are hampered by U.S. restrictions on doing business there. In March 2006, the United States asked Japan to suspend its plans to develop Iran’s promising Azadegan field partly to support the United States efforts to isolate Iran on the nuclear weapons issue.

The Osaka-based Tomen Company has a $2.5 billion deal with Iran to develop a large oil field that could provide Japan with 300,000 barrels of oil a day for two decades. Some think China might take advantage of the situation and take Japan’s

Japan has had problems developing the Azadegan oil field in Iran. In October 2006, Inpex, which is partly owned by the Japanese government, announced t was going to reduce its share in the Azadegan project from 75 percent to 20 percent.

In 2010, Japan placed sanctions on Iran — including a freeze on assets and restrictions on oil and gas investment — over Iran’s nuclear program.

In September 2010, the United States asked Japan to withdraw completely from the development of the of the Azadegan oil field in Iran as part of its sanction efforts against Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Washington said it would consider putting Inpex, the Japanese company involved in developing the site, on a sanctions list. A day after the threat Inpex said it would withdraw from the project but its decision to do so was based on business concerns not threats from the U.S.

Inpex had a 10 percent stake in the development of the Azadegan oilfield, said to be one of the largest in the world. It signed a contract in 2004 as part of Japan effort to increase Japan’s ratio of self-developed sites. The contract gave the company the right to extract 75 percent of the crude iol in the field once the $2 billion work was finished. The stake was reduced to 10 percent in 2006. Production of 260,000 barrels was to begin in 2012 but progress on the project had been slow and it didn’t look as if that goal was going to be reached.

Africa and Japan

Japan hosted the Forth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in May and June 2008. It was attended by leaders of 40 to Africa’s 53 nations. The apparent point of the conference was for Japan to provide aid and investment and make various trade and business deals in return for access to Africa’s natural resources. Among who showed were U2 singer Bono. A similar meeting was held in 1993.

Before the meeting the Japanese government announced it would give Africa $4 billion in soft loans. Among Japan’s goals in Africa are combating infectious diseases and doubling rice production in Africa.

Australia and Japan Relations

Relations between Japan and Australia have been strained by Japan’s insistence that it has the right to pursue whaling and by objections of the Australian government and its people over the practice. In May 2010, Australia filed a suit against Japan in the International Court in the Hague claiming that Japan’s “scientific research” whaling is a sham and arguing therefore that Japan should be banned from whaling. New Zealand has said it may join Australia on the law suit.

Otherwise Australia and Japan have pretty close ties. Japan imports a lot coal, iron and other minerals from Australia and traditionally a lot of Japanese tourists have traveled to Australia.

Japan and Australia plan to conduct talks on a free trade agreement in 2011. Japan gets 61 percent of its iron and 63 percent of its coal from Australia.

Peru and Japan

Japanese Embassy Rescue, see Peru

Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori sought refuge in Japan after he was forced to flee Peru. The Japanese government has repeatedly turned down requests by the Peruvian government and Interpol to arrest hm or extradite him to Peru. See Peru.

In December 2000, the Japanese government revealed that it had given Fujimori Japanese citizenship, which means he could not be extradited and allowed him to stay in Japan as long as he wants. Fujimori’s parents registered his birth at the Japanese consulate in Lima in 1938 but he claimed Peruvian nationality.

Image Sources: 1) Defence Talk 2) Office of the Prime Minister of Japan

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2013

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