What new Japanese PM Abe means for India

Shinzo Abe and Manmohan Singh

By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy

‘The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity’. With those words Shinzo Abe, now re-elected prime minister of Japan, launched into an historic address to the Indian Parliament in August 2007. A ‘broader Asia’, he said … ‘is now beginning to take on a distinct form. Our two countries have the ability – and the responsibility – to ensure that it broadens yet further and to nurture and enrich these seas to become seas of clearest transparence.’

To an audience that had not yet absorbed the full import of the historic shift that Abe was seeking in Japan’s relations with India, he added: ‘This is the message I wish to deliver directly today to the one billion people of India. That is why I stand before you now in the Central Hall of the highest chamber, to speak with you, the people’s representatives of India.’

Shinzo Abe is not just another prime minister in a country where prime ministers come by the dozen. He has pedigree and has acquired courage and a vision. And over the weekend he has also won a massive and historic verdict in favour of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

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Japanese election with a difference

Japan's National Diet building. Photo Credit: Flickr/chaojikazu

By Jens Wardenaer, Research Analyst and Editorial Assistant

Japan is facing another general election in December, after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the Lower House of the Diet last week. Noda – Japan’s sixth premier in as many years – announced his intention to go to the polls during a parliamentary debate, saying: ‘Let’s do it’.

The main campaign issues will be tax and nuclear power. The emergence of a nationalist ‘third force’ involving Shintaro Ishihara, the nationalist former governor of Tokyo is also making this election one to watch. Ishihara triggered the current flare-up with China, and is now helping to challenge the dominance of Japan’s two main groupings: Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is currently in opposition.

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Rising yuan in the land of setting yen

One Yuan Renminbi

By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy

The directors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank return to Tokyo this week for their annual meetings after a gap of 48 years. It’s a different Japan. The aging of the host nation, the rise of China, the ‘shift’ of the epicentre of global growth to mainland Asia, in more ways than one, have subdued what was in 1964 – when the Fund and Bank last met here – the ‘land of the rising Yen’. The ‘shocks’ administered to the global economy by the recent trans-Atlantic financial crisis have further accelerated these ‘shifts’, and the Yuan now rises where the Yen once shined.

First ‘Asian-origin’ president

While the Bank arrives in Tokyo with a South Korea-born American as its first ‘Asian-origin’ president, the Fund arrives with its first Chinese deputy managing director, who got the job as part of a deal with the European Union. This would rub even more salt into the wounded pride of a Japan that tried hard for long to get one of the top jobs and repeatedly failed because the West would not accommodate Asia till China stared it in its face.

Read the full article in The Hindu

China and Japan: Nationalism rising?

Anti-China protest in Roppongi, Tokyo

Anti-China protest in Roppongi, Tokyo. Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/ehnmark

By Christian Le Miere, Research Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning.Billy Joel

 In January 1930, Mao Zedong wrote a letter in which he repeated an old Chinese saying: “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” Mao was referring to the possibility that the communist movement, although small at the time, had the potential to wage a successful revolution. The phrase is just as apt in the current situation, as protests sweep Chinese cities, with Japanese products and businesses being attacked in five different cities.

What is the source of the latest discontent? A long-running disagreement over the sovereignty of five small islands and three rock formations in the East China Sea that has recently risen once again to the top of the agenda. The decision by the central Japanese government to purchase three of the five islands from their private owner last week, although intended to limit potential damage that might have been caused if Tokyo’s nationalistic governor Shintaro Ishihara succeeded in his bid to do the same, inspired an intense reaction from China’s population.

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Korean president flies into new Dokdo dispute

Lee Myung-bak on the Dodko Islands. Photo Office of the President of the Republic of Korea

By Jens Wardenaer, Research Analyst and Editorial Assistant

After South Korea beat Japan in the Olympic football bronze-medal match last week, a Korean player was barred from the medal ceremony for brandishing a sign that promoted Korea’s claim to a set of disputed rocks in the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea). The athlete’s banner supported Korea’s ownership of the Dokdo islands (called Takeshima in Japan, which also claims them).

Only hours before, South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak had done something unprecedented for a Korean leader: he landed on the islets (above) and proclaimed that they were worth defending ‘with our lives’.

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India and Japan strengthen ties

By Suvi Dogra, Research & Liaison Officer, Geo-economics and Strategy Programme.

India and Japan stepped up their defence cooperation this week, saying on Monday that they would conduct their first joint naval exercise in June. This will be part of a new maritime dialogue mechanism announced by Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba, after wide-ranging strategic and economic talks. The two ministers also announced a new cyber-security dialogue and the resumption of negotiations over a proposed civil-nuclear deal. Begun in June 2010, these fell into abeyance in the post-Fukushima period.

Meanwhile, India agreed to give the Japanese government a 26% stake in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation. The move is an attempt to accelerate a much-delayed new rail freight link between India’s capital and its largest city, while also cementing a long-term economic partnership between India and Japan.

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The long goodbye to Okinawa

US military bases on OkinawaBy Christian Le Miere, Research Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

Just before Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda arrived in Washington this week to meet US President Barack Obama, the two countries announced that nearly 9,000 US Marines would be shipped off the Japanese island of Okinawa. The continuing US military presence there, more than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, has been increasingly controversial, especially after a local schoolgirl was raped by US troops in 1995.

Last Thursdays’s announcement was the latest twist in a long-running saga over how to manage a withdrawal and relocation of Marines from and within Okinawa (click on map, left). Faced with local residents’ resistance to a continuing US presence on Okinawa, the new US-Japanese agreement has slightly upped the number of US troops to be removed from the island and makes no mention of any internal relocation there.

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