The Japanese Perspective on Security in Asia-Pacific

Emerging destabilizing factors and Japan’s policy of proactive contribution to peace were the main themes of Prof. Matake Kamiya’s lecture at The Hague Institute on Wednesday, 1 April 2015.

Drawing on his experience as a leading security expert and a professor of international relations at the National Defense Academy of Japan, prof. Kamiya gave an overview of the security situation of East Asia after the Cold War, focusing in particular on Japan’s relations with China and North Korea.

After introductory remarks by Ambassador Boudewijn van Eenennaam, Prof. Kamiya opened his talk with the issue of the increasing assertiveness of China, which he described as a “central question” to preserving stability in the region. According to Prof. Kamiya, the majority of the Japanese population sees China as a threat. “China today is a complex force for us, being not a simple enemy, but not exactly a friend” elaborated Prof. Kamiya.

Referring to the Senkaku boat collision incident of September 2010, he brought up the question of China’s “eccentric” conduct in disobeying existing international rules. The international law aspect of another question concerning the Senkaku Islands is another area where China’s assertiveness might be explored.

In comparison with China, “North Korea does not possess capability to bring change to the existing international order”, but it does emerge as a latent destabilizing factor on the Asia-Pacific scene. Prof. Kamiya called on the international community to not overlook law violations committed by the regime in North Korea. Prof. Kamiy stressed that it is of vital importance to ensure Pyongyang observes international agreements regarding nuclear weapons. However, Prof. Kamiya expressed his skepticism of achieving any lasting results in the process of negotiation with North Korea, given the long track of dialogues reaching a dead-end. He argued in favor of deterrence instead of expression of goodwill from the international community towards the country.

The rise of Nationalism in Northeast Asia was pointed out as another powerful factor contributing to the destabilization of the region. Providing examples of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s and China and North Korea today, Prof. Kamiya warned that this attitude could prove detrimental to foreign relations. Focusing on Japan, he proceeded with analyzing the country’s policy of proactive contribution to peace. He made a case for “acknowledging the role of military power for peace”, which has so far been misunderstood in Japan.

The lecture concluded with a discussion which was moderated by Dr. Bryce Wakefield from the Leiden Institute for Area Studies. A recording of the whole lecture is available here.


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