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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 11:05 04/19/2007
Book Review #65: June 29, 2006

"Japan in A Dynamic Asia: Coping with the New Security Challenges" Edited by Yoichiro Sato and Satu Limaye

Reviewed by Hidekazu Sakai (Associate Professor of Political Science at Kansai Gaidai University)

Title: Japan in A Dynamic Asia: Coping with the New Security Challenges
Authors: Edited by Yoichiro Sato and Satu Limaye
Publisher: Lexington Books
Date/Time: 2006
Pages: 271 pages
ISBN: 0-7391-1021-7


How has the strategic environment changed in Asia since the end of the Cold War? How is Japan, a country with importance beyond its role as the second largest economy in the world, going to behave in security-strategic policy areas? This book aims at answering questions like these that naturally cross one's mind when witnessing the transformation of Europe from a region divided between East and West into a common security system, and the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its cooperative partnerships with Russia.

Nevertheless, it would be misleading to discuss Asia from the Western-centered perspective that the changes in Europe will automatically induce transformation in the region. Asia has its own geopolitical factors and socio-economic dynamics that have generated an enormously complex security environment. This book take up the challenge of describing (elucidating?) and analyzing Asia's own distinguishing features country by country (China, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, Southeast Asia, India, and Australia) in relations to Japan's security policies.

Miller argues in his chapter that Japan will expand its security cooperation with the United States despite the fact that traditional isolationism and pacifism remain strong in the country. On the other hand, Roy points out that Japanese security policy has become more assertive and that the country has sought to assume major-power status since the end of the Cold War. These seemingly mutually incompatible views are an interesting part of this book. The following chapters on Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, Russia, Southeast Asia, India, and Australia provide good summaries of historical, political and ideological factors that help explain Japan's self-contradicting course of action.

My critiques are twofold. First, the discussions of Japanese domestic factors are relatively absent. In my view, it is essentially important to look at the pro-China/anti-China division within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the LDP's relations with its ruling coalition partner, the Komei Party, which maintains a pro-China stance, in order to predict the future security policy of Japan. Also, the recent debate over the "upgrading" of the Defense "Agency" to a Defense "Ministry," and education reform that mandates the teaching of patriotism, indicates a certain political will towards creating a more nationalistic Japan. Second, it is also necessary to consider the rapidly changing sense of security among the Japanese public. In particular, the September 11, 2001 terrorism in the United States has had an aftereffect on Japanese society that has encouraged the Japanese government to tighten the inward flow of foreigners and strengthen its supervision of the Japanese public as a whole. The post-September 11 trauma has certainly shaped domestic incentives to enhance "security," which in turn has generated a new foundation for international security policy.

Despite these weaknesses, readers will find this book a useful reference to Asian security, and even international relations in general, in the 21st century. Overall assessment of Japanese security policy in Asia is quite plausible because Japan is no longer a "drifting iceberg" (according to some Asian political leaders) but now exposing a certain will to take its own course.

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