Courtesy Reuters

Japan's Dual Hedge

Six months after "Japan's Dual Hedge" appeared in Foreign Affairs, Japan's international behavior remains conservative and pragmatic--at considerable cost to its ability to influence the course of global affairs. The twin crises in Iraq and North Korea highlight the degree to which its "dual hedge" makes it difficult for Tokyo to play a leadership role.

Of the two crises, North Korea is by far Tokyo's bigger concern; yet, calculations on Korea have driven Japan's decisions on Iraq. In both cases, Tokyo's priority is to avoid any action that might lead to a break with Washington without putting it conspicuously out of line with other states with which Japan would like to do business.

To avoid abandonment, the Japanese government is convinced it must show some support for the U.S. position on Iraq. But the government is divided on how much support is necessary. On February 18, Japan's ambassador to the United Nations, Haraguchi Koichi, delivered a speech in which he said there were "serious doubts about the effectiveness of continuing inspections." He appeared to throw Japan's weight foursquare behind the United States. The next day, however, Kyuma Fumio, the head of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Affairs Research Council and former head of the Japan Defense Agency, said that Japan should show "understanding" for the U.S. position, rather than "support" for it. Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro added, "There is a misunderstanding," explaining that the Japanese statement backed a second resolution, not necessarily an immediate U.S.-led attack.

Japan's apparent tilt toward the United States, guarded though it was, led to a blast from Baghdad, which labeled Japan, "Iraq's third greatest enemy." Japanese diplomats have, however, worked to contain any damage to its larger regional position. New multi-billion dollar gas and oil related deals have been signed with Iran over the last six months, including one in December. A project to develop gas-to-liquid capabilities was finalized in February. As in the Afghan case, Japanese diplomats have traveled to Iran and

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