Courtesy Reuters

Japan's Emerging Foreign Policy

"We, the Japanese people . . . have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world."

This passage from the preamble of the Japanese Constitution, in effect since May 1947, expresses the principle behind the nation's unarmed foreign policy. The present international situation, however, is a bit too austere for such noble idealism, leading to criticism that Japan has failed to adapt herself to contemporary international realities. The need is for a "new realism"-a foreign policy that is more clear and positive, and yet retains basic idealistic purposes.

Japan's diplomacy is in fact inhibited by two constraints. One is an international environment in which the Japanese people perceive themselves to be extremely vulnerable and limited in their options. The political-security dimensions of this environment are reflected in the tripolar structure involving the United States, the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. Economically, Japan's vulnerability lies in her near-total dependence on imports for fuel, feed and food (other than rice) and virtually all the essential industrial raw materials, as well as a corresponding dependence on fair access to foreign markets for her exports.

The other constraint is internal, a legacy of defeat and occupation which reinforces this sense of vulnerability, and contributes to the fragmentation and polarization of contemporary Japan's domestic politics.

Whether a "new realism" emerges in Japan's diplomacy over the next few years will depend on an easing of both constraints. The international political and economic situation will need to develop in ways which favor-or require-greater Japanese activism. At the same time, Japan's domestic politics will have to undergo transformations which will permit the emergence of a broad consensus in support of a more realistic and activist foreign policy.

At present there are tentative indications that political trends, both international and domestic, are beginning to move in these favorable directions. Economically, however, Japan continues to feel threatened by what Prime Minister Takeo Miki recently described in New York as

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.