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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 19:00 11/07/2015
Book Review #60: April 27, 2004

Japanese Foreign Policy At The Cross Road
- Challenges and Options for the Twenty-First Century-

Title: Japanese Foreign Policy At The Cross Road
- Challenges and Options for the Twenty-First Century-
Author: Yutaka Kawashima
Publisher: The Brookings Institution Press at Washington DC, USA
Date/Time: 2003
Pages: English text 163 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-8157-4870-1


In today's Japan, most Japanese seems to be thinking about one's identity and nationality as well as Japan's security and foreign policy. This book, "Japanese Foreign Policy at the Crossroads," is quite timely and stimulating to Japanese readers. The author of this book, Yutaka Kawashima, former diplomat, served as Japan's vice minister of foreign affairs from 1999 to 2001 and as an ambassador to Israel from 1997 to 1999. After his retirement, he took up a research position as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Northeast Asian policy Studies and taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has served in Asia, Europe and the Unites States and is widely respected in international policy circles.

During thirty-seven years that he worked in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, he drafted numerous cables and policy papers. But much of what he wrote pertained to confidential diplomatic matters and few people had access to it. However, in 2002, while he was teaching a course, "Decisionmaking in Japanese Foreign Policy," jointly with Ezra Vogel at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, he was shocked to find out that the supply of material in English covering the evolution of Japan's foreign policy since the end of the cold war was very meager. He began to think that it would be worthwhile to produce a book analyzing the evolution of Japan's foreign policy in the postwar era, with emphasis on the period since 1990.

He himself is saying that he was fascinated by four basic ways of looking at American foreign policy: the Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian approaches by reading Special Provindence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, by Walter Russel Mead. Despite the fact that we do not have their exact counterparts in Japan, he decided to emulate his book by clarifying various schools of thought that have constituted decisive parameters of Japanese foreign policy and by using the dichotomy. For instance, the interaction and confrontation between "realists" and "pacifists" have dominated decisionmaking on the issue of national security and the debate over maintaining a distinctly "Asian Identity" or attempting to "catch up with the West" also has often had a defining impact on Japan's foreign policy agenda. He became keenly aware of this thought by working alternately in the American Affairs Bureau and the Asian Affairs Bureau and also at the Japanese embassies in Washington and Seoul over the years from 1974 to 1995.

He served in Saigon, South Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, which was one year after the Tet offensive; in Seoul, Republic of Korea from 1992 to 1993, during the time that tension over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons accelerated; and in Tel Aviv, Israel from 1997 to 1999 when the peace process under the Oslo Accord was still being pursued. Having such considerable experience in these three countries, he put "survival" at the absolute top of the agenda. "In particular, I was very much impressed with the unshakable legitimacy accorded to the armed forces in Israel which were regarded as the ultimate guarantor of the survival of the state. That constituted a stark contrast with the attitude in Japan, where many people hesitated to accept the legitimacy of the Japanese Self-Defense Force because of the historical memory of the fanatical Imperial military forces, which led the country to devastating defeat in World War II." He also gives a comment that after this war, Japan, unlike the three countries [Vietnam, Korea and Israel], has been extremely fortunate in not having had to face a crisis that could threaten its very survival.

He remarks on his own beliefs as follows. "My basic premise in this book is that the sharing of interests and values among nations has become a basic and perhaps an irreversible trends in today's world. This creates a setting that is totally different from what my generation was trained to face during the cold war. It is my strong belief that in order for Japan to meet the challenges discussed in this book, it must work with as many like-minded countries as possible to enhance the effectiveness of the international order, deepening and widening the shared interests and values on which that order is based. Firm in that conviction, I revisit some past foreign policy decisions that brought success in the quest for peace and prosperity and examine the evolution of a new foreign policy posture in the aftermath of the cold war. I conclude by speculating on new challenges that Japan might encounter in the coming years."

1 Historical Parameters of Japanese Foreign Policy
2 Security Ties between Japan and the United States
3 The Economic Relationship between Japan and the United States
4 Endgame on the Korean Peninsula
5 Relations between Japan and China
6 Japan's Southeast Asia Policy
7 Japan's Relations with Europe
8 Striving for Peace and Saving Failed States

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