View of Japan after
the war with Russia in 1905
Japanese foreign policy is has traditionally been intrinsically shaped by Article 9 of the Constitution, which prevents Japan from creating a military force "able to project power beyond its own shores." On the international scene, Japan attempts to push its peacemaker image. It has hosted meetings to raise development money for Afghanistan and troubled areas in Indonesia and the Philippines and organized peace talks between rival factions in Sri Lanka.

In a 2010 survey by the BBC of 16 countries and the European Union, Japan was the second most favorably viewed nation after Germany. In a 2008 survey conducted in 34 countries by the Yomiuri Shimbun, the BBC and other institutions, Japan was ranked highest for having a positive role in world affairs. Fifty-six percent of those asked said that Japan has a positive influence in the world while only 21 percent said it had a negative influence. Germany also ranked high with same positive rating and a negative rating of only 18 percent.

In international relations Japan has been compared to Great Britain in that it aims to have a strong influence in world affairs but is highly dependant on the United States. Cornerstones if its foreign policies include: 1) working to peacefully resolving conflicts around the world; 2) promoting arms control and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons: 3) keeping the world economy growing; and 4) cooperating with developing countries to improve their economic and social conditions. In 2010, for the 17th time, Japanese submitted a resolution to the United nations calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Some considers Japan to be stuck in Cold War foreign policy even though the Cold War is over. Other have joked that since the end of World War II Japan hasn’t had a foreign policy, it has simply followed the United States

Some Japanese describe their foreign policy as “happo bijin” (“eight-faced beauty strategy”) in which Japan throws its money all over the world in hopes making friends, influencing people and winning good will (See Foreign Aid and Development, Below). Many feel these days are numbers because Japan is less rich and dominant economically than it once was. Japan was criticized for engaging in checkbook diplomacy in the first Persian Gulf war in 1991,

In the old days Americans and Europeans that were interested in Japan were drawn by an interest in business and technology. Although people interested in these things still have an interest in Japan these days more seem to be interested in manga, anime and Japanese fashion.

Websites and Resources

Links in this Website: JAPANESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHANGING JAPANESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; AMERICAN MILITARY IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN AND THE WORLD Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TERRORISM, PIRACY AND KIDNAPPING AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPAN, IRAQ, IRAN AND AFRICA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NORTH KOREA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CHINA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RUSSIA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; UNITED STATES AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

Good Websites and Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan mofa.go.jp and mofa.go.jp ; Paper on Development of Japanese International Relations allacademic.com ; Wikipedia article on Foreign Policy of Japan Wikipedia ; Foreign Policy Magazine on the New Hatoyama Government foreignpolicy.com ; Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies japanesestudies.org ; The World and Japan Database Project ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Japan in the World (last updated in 2003) iwanami.co.jp/jpworld ; Book: “ Japan’s International Relations: Politics, Economics and Security “ amazon.ca/Japans-International-Relations

Think Tanks and Research Groups: Japan Policy Research Institute jpri.org ; The Japan Forum on International Relations jfir.or.jp/e ; Japan Watch, Commentary on Political and Economic Issues jipr.org ; Japanese Institute of Global Communications glocom.org ; Japan Analysis and Research Through Internet Information dandoweb.com ; Documents Related to Postwar Politics and International Relations ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Foreign Aid Organizations: Japan and the IMF imf.org ; World Bank (click countries at the top or do a search) worldbank.org ; Japan International Cooperation Agency jica.go.jp ;

Japan’s Relations with the Outside World

View of Japan after
the war with Russia in 1905
In a poll in 1991, when the Japanese economy was flying high, 53 percent of Japanese said they believed their country would be the most important political power in the 21st century. Three years later, when the Bubble Economy collpased, only 25 percent said yes to same question.

In a survey by the Daily Yomiuri and the BBC in the late 2000s, Japan and Germany were judged as having the most positive role in world affairs, with 56 percent of those surveyed saying that Japan had a positive influence in the world and less than 25 percent said it had a negative impact. Japan ranks 5th in the Global Peace Index behind Iceland, Denmark, Norway and New Zealand.

Japan gave refugee status to only 46 people in 2005, compared to 8,435 in Britain and 19,766 in the United States. Japan has only recognized 3,928 refugees between 1982, when the current refugees system was established, and 2005.

Closing of Japan to the West in the 1600s

Fear of European domination led the Japanese to close off Japan to the outside world in 1612. With exception of Nagasaki and one other port, foreigners were excluded from Japan for 241 years, until 1853, during a period known as “sakoku” ("national seclusion"). Japan enjoyed a long period of peace but stagnated while Spain, France, Portugal and England colonized the world and Europe was dramatically altered by the industrial revolution.

Non-Japanese were restricted to Dejima, a 130-acre artificial island built in 1634 in Nagasaki. The first occupants were Portuguese who built homes and warehouses and still had enough room left over to graze sheep and cattle. In 1639, the Portuguese were kicked out and replaced by the Dutch, who, with the exception of a few Korean envoys and shipwrecked whalers, were the only non-Japanese who entered Japan for the next 200 years.

For the Japanese the punishment for leaving the country (and coming back) was death. The Japanese view at the time was that their world was complete and their was no place in it for crude, materialistic and barbaric Westerners. It was one of the few times in modern history that a nation rejected "progress." Punishments were equally harsh for foreigner that arrived in Japan. Thirteen members of a group of Portuguese merchants that arrived in 1640 were executed. The rest returned home with the message: "Think of us no more."

Japanese Foreign Affairs After World War II

Japan's biggest postwar political crisis took place in 1960 over the revision of the Japan-United States Mutual Security Assistance Pact. As the new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security was concluded, which renewed the United States role as military protector of Japan, massive street protests and political upheaval occurred, and the cabinet resigned a month after the Diet's ratification of the treaty. Thereafter, political turmoil subsided. Japanese views of the United States, after years of mass protests over nuclear armaments and the mutual defense pact, improved by 1972, with the reversion of United States-occupied Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty and the winding down of the Second Indochina War (1954-75). [Source: Library of Congress]

“Japan had reestablished relations with the Republic of China after World War II, and cordial relations were maintained with the nationalist government when it was exiled to Taiwan, a policy that won Japan the enmity of the People's Republic of China, which was established in 1949. After the general warming of relations between China and Western countries, especially the United States, which shocked Japan with its sudden rapprochement with Beijing in 1971, Tokyo established relations with Beijing in 1972. Close cooperation in the economic sphere followed.

“Japan's relations with the Soviet Union continued to be problematic long after the war. The main object of dispute was the Soviet occupation of what Japan calls its Northern Territories, the two most southerly islands in the Kurils (Etorofu and Kunashiri) and Shikotan and the Habomai Islands (northeast of Hokkaido), which were seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II.

“Despite its wealth and central position in the world economy, Japan has had little or no influence in global politics for much of the postwar period. Under the prime ministership of Tanaka Kakuei (1972-74), Japan took a stronger but still low-key stance by steadily increasing its defense spending and easing trade frictions with the United States. Tanaka's administration was also characterized by high-level talks with United States, Soviet, and Chinese leaders, if with mixed results. His visits to Indonesia and Thailand prompted riots, a manifestation of long-standing antiJapanese sentiments. Tanaka was forced to resign in 1974 because of his alleged connection to financial scandals and, in the face of charges of involvement in the Lockheed bribery scandal, he was arrested and jailed briefly in 1976.

“By the late 1970s, the Komeito and the Democratic Socialist Party had come to accept the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and the Democratic Socialist Party even came to support a small defense buildup. The Japan Socialist Party, too, was forced to abandon its once strict antimilitary stance. The United States kept up pressure on Japan to increase its defense spending above 1 percent of its GNP, engendering much debate in the Diet, with most opposition coming not from minority parties or public opinion but from budget-conscious officials in the Ministry of Finance.

Japanese Peacekeepers and Japan's Military Presence Abroad

The American-written Japanese constitution prevents Japan from creating a military force "able to project power beyond its own shores." Japan's military did not take part in the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, but the government contributed $13 billion dollars of $61 billion needed to finance the war and sent some minesweepers but no troops. The Japanese constitution is one reason it didn't participate military.

Japan sent peacekeeping troops to Cambodia in 1992 (the first overseas mission for Japanese troops since World War II), and later Rwanda, Nepal and the Golan Heights in Israel. Japan didn't send peacekeeping troops to East Timor even though Australia and the United States encouraged it to. Lee Kuan Yew once said that allowing Japan to send peacekeeping troops abroad would be "like giving chocolate liqueur to an alcoholic."

In September 2011, the Japanese government said that would it send military personnel to South Sudan as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission to help improve infrastructure and build road and bridges. The Japanese government is considering sending SDF troops to Darfur.

In Cambodia, two Japanese civilians were killed in 1993. One was a United Nations election monitor. He was shot dead. The other was a policeman who was killed when he and for other Japanese policemen who were ambushed by armed guerillas.

In November 2001, Japan sent military ships to the Arabian Sea to support the American offensive against terrorism in Afghanistan. See Refueling Missions Below

The Japanese military also sent ships to Aceh, Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004 in what was that country’s largest overseas military operation since World War II. The Japanese sent three ships — a destroyer, an amphibious ship and a supply vessel — and two hovercrafts loaded with trucks and medical equipment and 970 military personnel. The ships arrived in mid January. Their primary goal was to provide medical service and prevent epidemics.

Japan, India and the United States have participated in joint naval drills in the Pacific Ocean. The exercises have been widely viewed as a means of strengthening military ties between the three nations and to show they were a united front against China. In May 2007, Japan,, the United States, Australia and Singapore participated in joint naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal.

See Iraq, Below and Separate Article on Terrorism and Anti-Piracy Missions

Patriotism and Nationalism in Japan

In a survey in the early 2000s by the Daily Yomiuri, 93 percent of Japanese said they were proud to be Japanese and 73 percent said they wanted to do something to help their country. When asked what made them proud to be Japanese, 71.6 percent said history, tradition and culture, 43.4 said land and nature, 28.4 percent said social stability and safety, 28 percent said national character.

Strong feelings of patriotism and nationalism are things that have only allowed do emerge in recent years. The Allied occupation after World War II and the peace constitution aimed to weaken patriotism.

Keishi Saeki, author of a book on Japanese patriotism, told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The war imbued the concept of patriotism with very negative feelings...Patriotism became something [advocated] by right-wingers who interpret the war as one initiated to liberate Asian nations [under colonial rule] and defend Japan. After the triumph of left-wingers, who interpret the war as one of aggression, patriotism became a topic that was taboo to discuss officially.”

Right wing groups in Japan are strong supporters of Japanese nationalist causes and have been at the forefront of Japan's refusal to apologize for World War II aggression. They have also been at the center of disputes over rose-tinted interpretations of Japanese history and hostilities between Japan and China, Taiwan, and Korea over possessions of tiny islands in the Japan and South China seas. Some have blame the United States for the Japanese recession in the 1990s and have called for a revival of emperor worship. .

According to a government report in 1995, there are 980 rightist groups in Japan with 120,000 members, of whom 23,000 are active. Many right-wing nationalists are supporters of the Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), Japan’s largest nationalist organization. It has conservative members in the Diet that are mostly from the LDP. It reject Japanese pacificism, embraces the Imperial system and defends Japan’s actions in it wars in Asia. It has also been active in keeping the North Korea abduction issue alive, wants Japan to possess nuclear weapons and has been critical of the United States for bringing pacifism to Japan.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also has a strong nationalist streak

Japan Less Engaged in World Affairs?

One Japan becoming more inward-looking and less interested in the outside world Harvard Prof. Joseph Nye told the Yomiuri Shimbun: “If you look at the number of Japanese students traveling abroad, for example, it's very much lower than it was 20 years ago. If you look at large Japanese corporations that used to be involved with nongovernmental organizations and charities overseas, that's very much less than it used to be...The Japanese official development assistance budget has been cut back. So, I think these are indications of a Japan which is less outward-looking than it was.”

“As for causation, my own guess is that it has something to do with the low rate of economic growth. People are more cautious when there's low economic growth. And also, Japan is a very comfortable society, so the question of why should somebody go overseas and take risks rather than stay home seems to be understandable. But I think Japan has a lot to contribute to the world, and it would be a pity not to have Japan playing a larger global role.”

The decline of Japan’s economy and global influence is known in Japan as “Japan passing.”

In October 2010, Japan offered $2 billion to developing states,

United Nations and Japan

20100501-Ministry of foreign affaors japan-photo.de D-MIN06-01.jpg
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan and four other countries were elected as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security for two years beginning in January 2009. It last held the seat in 2005 and 2006 and before that in 1997 and 1998. Japan has sat on the Security Council ten times.

Many Japanese feel that Japan is big and powerful and influential enough to be granted a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It was denied a seat in the early years of the United Nations because it was deemed an “enemy state” for of its behavior in World War II.

Japan, Germany, Brazil and India want to become a veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. To be granted a permanent seat requires a two thirds majority of the United Nations’s 191 members and no veto from existing permanent Security Council members. There is a lot of resistance to adding new permanent members to the Security Council, especially from the United States and the African Union and regional rivals, and it doesn’t seem like new permanent members to the Security Council will be added anytime soon.

Japan is one of the largest financial contributors to the United Nations. The United Nations University is based in Tokyo. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is one of the most respected international bodies in the world. It was headed for many years by Sadako Ogata of Japan. Tetsuko Kuroyanagi was a U.N. goodwill ambassador.

In October 2009, the United Nations adopted a resolution put forward by Japan that calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

G-8 Meetings in Japan

The Group of Eight is made up of Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.

When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Japan for a Group of Seven meeting in Tokyo she was offered protection by 20 female karate experts. British officials lobbied successfully against the move because they worried about the negative publicity generated by the “karate ladies” and they wanted Thatcher to be treated the same as the other world leaders attending the meetings.

In July 2008, Japan hosted the G-8 summit. One of the major themes at the event was global warming. The conference ended with 16 major carbon dioxide emitters agreeing to curb their emissions. The agreement failed to set numerical targets and didn’t have much teeth but did show some progress, if nothing else because countries like the United States and China that failed to ratify the Kyoto protocol agreed with it.

The leaders discussed stalling economies, soaring oil and food prices and aid for Africa. Among those who showed to lobby for more African aid were Bono from U2 and Bob Geldoff. Wives of some of the leaders, including Barbara Bush, Svetlana Medvedev, wife of the Russian Prime Minister, and Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister, were treated to Japanese tea ceremony. The British press criticized world leaders for feasting on “caviar and sea urchin” while discussing the world’s food crisis.

The Group of Eight summit meeting was held in fancy resort hotel above Lake Toya in Hokkaido. The government used an anti-hooligan provision created for the World Cup in 2002 to keep anti-globalization activists from protesting at the meeting by keeping them out of them out of the country. In the end about 1,000 protesters — including opponents of globalization and supporters of Ainu rights — showed up. They endured heavy rains and stayed in tents on the opposite side of Lake Toya. In towns around the summit police were everywhere; swords were taken rom souvenir shops; and fireworks were banned.

Japan’s Drunk Foreign Minister

In February 2009, all of Japan was deeply embarrassed and the administration of Prime Minister Taro Aso came across as incompetent and out of touch at a crucial time when Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, a good friend of Aso, appeared drunk during a press conference at a G-7 meeting held in Rome to discuss the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. During a press conference Nakagawa slurred his speech, was unable to coherently answer questions and looked as if he might suddenly pass out.

Nakagawa attributed his behavior cold medicine and jet-lag fatigue. Many laughed at that explanation. Nakagawa has a reputation for being a heavy drinker. After the press conference he reportedly “behaved badly” at the Vatican Museum, trying to touch priceless objects. Afterward the incidents Nakagawa was forced to resign.

Former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa was found dead at his home In October 2009. He appeared to have died of natural causes.

2010 APEC Meeting and Security Leaks

Yokohama hosted the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) in November 2010. It was attended U.S. President Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and leaders from 19 other countries. The event was upstaged by the G-20 held in Seoul a few days before as the G-20 seemed to have more relevance than APEC.

More than 10,000 police were dispatched, automobiles and even pedestrians were not allowed anywhere near building where meetings were taking place and the ferris wheel at Cosmoworld was brought to a standstill. Even so security efforts were questioned after the summit security plan was leaked on the Internet.

Foreign Policy Under Hatoyama

The Hatoyama government elected in August 2009 wants to forge a European-Union-style economic alliance in Asia with the implication that such an arrangement would bring peace and prosperity to region and reduce the need for a U.S. presence to maintain security. At the same time Hatoyama also said that the relationship between Japan and the United States was the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy.

The Hatoyama government has made clear effort to court China in some ways at the expense of the United States. At the first international gathering he attended, a meeting at the United Nations in New York held a days after he elected, Hatoyama sought Chinese leader Hu Jintao as the first leader to meet and ask for his cooperation on the formation of an “East Asian community.” His Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada had mentioned excluding the United States from the group.

Hatoyama pledged not to visit Yasakuni Shrine. His foreign minister Katsya Okada said Japan would take steps to address controversies over World War II and the Japanese occupation of countries in Asia and supported the idea of producing a history textbook with China and South Korea.

The Hatoyama government has made global warming one of its key international issues. Hatoyama spoke on the issue during his first speech — in English — before an international audience at the United Nations in September 2009 and declared that Japan would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 levels by 2020 as a kind of challenge for other developed countries to do the same.

A Japanese military force was sent to Haiti after the earthquake there in January 2010 to assist the United Nations peacekeeping mission there to provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid.

See Military, United States

Japanese Foreign Aid and Development

Japan now ranks fifth in official development assistance by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It used to be No. 1. Japan gives out only about 60 percent of the money that it did in the 1990s. Japan also ranks low in humanitarian aid, 18th of 23 OECD countries. While Japan has cut it development aid in recent years European countries have increased theirs. In commitment to development ranking of 21 rich nations by Foreign Policy magazine — based on pro-poor aid, trade, investment and environmental policies — Japan ranked 21st; the United States was 20th.

Japan is the world’s No 3 foreign aid donor behind the United States and Britain in 2006. It gave $11.6 billion in foreign, a drop of 11.7 percent from the previous year. The United States gave $22.7 billion.

Japan was the world's largest aid donor in the world and the biggest donor in developing nation not only in Asia but also in South America and Africa. In the early 2000s it quietly relinquished that title to the United States as it slashed its foreign aid budget by up to 10 percent a year with the understanding that economic pressures at home have meant it can no longer be as generous as it once was.

Japan has traditionally been active in international development in Asia, the Pacific and East Africa. It launched a version of the "Marshall Plan” for Third World debtors in 1987 and is the largest shareholder in the Asian Development Bank. Japan Overseas Cooperation Agency (JOCA) is the Japanese equivalent of the Peace Corps.

Japanese foreign aid is given out through the Overseas Development Association (ODA). ODA spending in 2000 was $13.1 billion, compared to $9.6 billion in the United States, $5 billion in Germany and $4.5 billion in Britain. Money for foreign aid has shrunk every year since 2000. The ODA budget has been cut in recent years as part of the effort to shrink the deficit and because of doubts about the effectiveness of development assistance programs. Foreign aid was trimmed to around $8 billion in the 2007 budget, the lowest since 1989.

Japanese Foreign Aid and Other Nations

From 1999 to 2003, China was the largest recipient of development loans from Japan. In 2004 it was replaced by India. All loans to China was stopped in 2008.

In 2006, India, Indonesia and Vietnam were the largest recipients of Japanese foreign aid. In India, Japan is financing infrastructure projects like new subway and railway systems, rural electrification and hydroelectric power projects.

In May 2009 Japan, China and South Korea announced they had joined tegether ro create a $120 billion crisis fund for 13 Asian nation to help these countries avoid situations like hose experienced during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998

In 2010, Japan promised $8.5 billion in aid over five years during a United Nations summit meeting on eradicating poverty in September 2010.

Tokyo Hosts 2012 IMF, World Bank Meetings

In October 2012, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group held their annual meetings in Tokyo. This is the second time for Japan to host the IMF-World Bank annual meetings, with this year marking the 60th anniversary of the country's joining the international bodies. Japan first played host in 1964. More than 10,000 officials from foreign governments, international organizations and financial institutions attended the 2012 meetings held in Tokyo over six days. [Source: Jiji Press, October 13, 2012]

Jiji Press reported: “In a speech at the start of the plenary meeting, attended by about 3,000 delegates from 188 member countries, Crown Prince Naruhito expressed gratitude for the support the international community provided in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. "We have recognized the importance of mutual assistance and acting in solidarity," the Crown Prince said. "Such a spirit of cooperation is equally valuable in the international community.” The ongoing Tokyo meetings "will offer an opportunity to strengthen solidarity among countries, which will help promote our effort in unity for addressing global challenges," he said.

In a later speech, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde cited remarks by former Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda, who held her post during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Tokyo 48 years ago, that the vital challenge for the world was to promote stable economic growth and reduce the disparity between rich and poor. Lagarde then said, "The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Quoting a Japanese proverb, "Give salt to your opponent," which encourages people to be generous to foes facing hardship, Lagarde said, "Helping each other in difficult times is the only way forward." This remark was interpreted as signaling her wish to see Japan and China mend ties that have deteriorated due to the row over the Senkaku Islands, according to analysts. Amid heightened bilateral tensions, Chinese Finance Minister Xie Xuren and People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan skipped the meetings.

Japan Pledges $60 billion to IMF for Europe

In April 2012, AP reported: “Japan pledged $60 billion in loans to the International Monetary Fund in an effort to ensure that the debt crisis in some European economies won't spread. Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi announced the emergency loan, which will use the nation's foreign exchange reserves, his ministry said "We can never be optimistic about the situation in Europe, even though the area is almost set to exit the crisis, thanks to policy efforts," Azumi was quoted by Kyodo as saying. [Source: Associated Press, April 17, 2012]

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde welcomed the move and encouraged other fund members to do the same. "This is an important step forward in the ongoing international effort to strengthen the adequacy of the global resources available to prevent and fight crises and to promote global economic stability," Lagarde said in a statement.

Image Sources: 1) 2) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 3) Defence Talk.com 4) Jun of Goods from Japan 5) Japan-Photo.de

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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