Japan-ROK Parliamentary Dialogue
-Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Era of US-China Competition-
On March 11, 2021, the Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies (SSDP) and the office of National Assembly Member Kwang Jae Lee of the Republic of Korea co-hosted an online Japan-ROK parliamentary dialogue.
This is a sequel to "JAPAN-ROK FUTURE DIALOGUE: Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Post-COVID-19 Era," which was co-hosted by SSDP and the Yeosijae (Future Consensus Institute) of the Republic of Korea last November.
The theme of the recent dialogue was "Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Era of US-China Competition." The participants (see list below) exchanged opinions from the perspective of security and foreign policy.
- Masahiro Akiyama Chairman, SSDP
- Shigeru Ishiba Member of the House of Representatives (LDP)
- Masao Okonogi Emeritus Professor, Keio University
- Masaaki Taira Member of the House of Representatives (LDP)
- Akihisa Nagashima Member of the House of Representatives (LDP)
- Tsuneo Watanabe Adjunct Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Kwang Jae Lee Member of the National Assembly (Democratic Party of Korea)
- Min Gyo Koo Professor, Seoul National University
- Park Young-June Professor, Korea National Defense University
- Hyang-ja Yang Member of the National Assembly (Democratic Party of Korea)
A full detailed report will be available in due course on this website. Posted here is the keynote speech, "A Middle-Power Strategy Pursued by Japan and South Korea in an Era of US-China Confrontation" (Tsuneo Watanabe), which is the centerpiece of the dialogue.
A Middle-Power Strategy Pursued by Japan and South Korea in an Era of US-China Confrontation
Adjunct Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Biden Administration's Strategic Outlook on China
On February 4, 2021, US President Biden gave a foreign policy speech in which he defined China as the most "serious competitor" and stressed the importance of the alliance. An emphasis on allies and international cooperation barely distinguished the new administration from the previous Trump administration.
The Interim National Security Strategic Guidance released in March recognizes that the global power balance has been shifting significantly and explicitly states that China is challenging the stable and open international system by combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power. 1
This recognition suggests the end of the cooperative engagement policy initiated by the Nixon administration in 1972. The Trump administration took up a hardline stance against China, and the Biden administration has followed suit. This is a historic change that will continue shaping things over a long time.
- In the formulation of foreign policy toward China, every US administration followed a peculiar pattern: it criticized the previous administration, if the latter had been lenient toward China, and adopted an opposite policy, or criticized the previous administration, if the latter had been tough on China, and adopted a conciliatory one.
- This is because the past US administrations did not look upon China as a serious rival like the former Soviet Union.
For example, the Clinton administration, which came to power, criticizing the previous senior Bush administration for its laxity on human rights issues in China, supported China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The junior Bush administration, which criticized Clinton's conciliatory stance, avoided confrontation with China, anticipating its cooperation in the post 9.11 war on terror.
At present, however, China's increasingly radical challenge against the international order and rules, with its expanding military and economic influence in the background, is compelling US bipartisan leaders to take a stand against China.
All that distinguishes President Biden's policy toward China from the previous administration is his emphasis on international cooperation. Yet, his China policy has a theoretical ground.
- In a joint paper with Rush Doshi, senior director for China at the NSC, Kurt Campbell, who has taken the post of coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the NSC, recommends, in reference to the balance of power in 19th century Europe, that the United States should strike a balance in cooperation with its allies and partners to forestall military adventurism threatening the regional order in Asia that is favorable for Chinese dominance.
- The new administration envisions not only a more robust military alliance but also the advancement among Japan, the United States, and India of investment in regional economic infrastructures to counter China, as well as the strengthening of international cooperation involving Europe on such issues as trade, technology, supply chains, and standards-setting.
According to this strategic thinking, the defense of Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines, all of which exist along the first island chain, is vital to the United States --- because China's control of the first island chain would allow the country easy military access to the Pacific Ocean, dramatically changing the military balance in the region. Such a development would not only send a wrong signal to China but pose a grave threat to the defense of the US mainland.
The Biden Administration's Concerns about North Korea
The Biden administration is of the opinion that North Korea's nuclear program and its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland should not be left unattended any longer. This is because:
- First, North Korea's armament efforts will pose a direct, serious threat to the US defense.
- Second, among the Biden administration's agenda of multilaterally addressing global challenges is the prevention, as a primary goal, of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world.
- President Trump was interested solely in increasing the burden on Japan and South Korea for stationing US troops in each of the countries and in reducing US trade deficits. He implicitly demanded that US allies should bear the cost of nuclear deterrence and went so far as to mention the allies' nuclear armament for self-defense. President Trump had no interest in the issue of WMD non-proliferation in the world.
Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer of the public policy think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS), upholds "incrementalism" rather than "solutionism." His recommendations may help understand the Biden administration's strategic outlook.
- The CNAS is a think tank founded by Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council's Indo-Pacific coordinator in the Biden administration, and by Michelle Flournoy, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, who was one of the candidates for Secretary of Defense in the Biden administration. Ely Ratner, who was until recently Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the CNAS, has joined the Biden administration as Special Assistant to Secretary of Defense Austin and is currently conducting a four-month policy review called the "China Task Force" at the Pentagon. Its assignments include a review of the global posture of the US military forces. 2
According to Fontaine's article, "The Case Against Foreign Policy Solutionism," generally speaking, Americans like to be "winners." Diplomats are no exception in their desire to be "winners"; they tend to choose to take action to move things forward rather than risk taking no action. In the real world of diplomacy, however, there are many cases where action makes things worse.
- The Trump administration's diplomacy toward North Korea evolved around summit talks between President Trump and North Korean Workers' Party Chairman Kim Jong-un, aiming at curbing North Korea's nuclear development program or urging North Korea to abandon it. But it ended with North Korea's development of 15 nuclear warheads and two ICBMs.
Recognizing the risk of passive diplomacy, Fontaine advocates the effectiveness of diplomatic gradualism.
- He recommends that US future policy toward North Korea should focus on strengthening the deterrence system by clarifying possible retaliatory measures if North Korea uses nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies.
- As part of the strengthening of the deterrence system, Fontaine proposes the furtherance of security cooperation between Japan and South Korea, covert sabotage operations against North Korea's nuclear weapons program through cyberattacks, and new economic sanctions targeting North Korea's elite class.
The Biden Administration's Expectations for US Allies: Japan and South Korea's Contribution
The US government's "Interim National Security Strategic Guidance" released in March reads: "Our democratic alliances enable us to present a common front, produce a unified vision, and pool our strength to promote high standards, establish effective international rules, and hold countries like China to account." Specifically, the Guidance names NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, saying, "We will work with allies to share responsibilities equitably, while encouraging them to invest in their own comparative advantages against shared current and future threats."
As President Biden said in his op-ed for Foreign Affairs magazine, he is proud that the Obama administration extracted pledges from NATO allies to commit 2 percent of their GDP to defense spending. His article indicates that the Biden administration will also require an increase in the burden-sharing on the part of US allies --- but from a different stance from that of the Trump administration, which unilaterally demanded that South Korea and Japan bear the costs for US bases in their territories.
The above is in line with another core foreign policy of the Biden administration, "security policy for the middle class."
- Winning back the support of the middle-class who voted for Trump in the latest presidential election is essential to the re-election of President Biden. His re-election is significant for Japan and South Korea.
- Biden's re-election is vital for Japan and South Korea because nobody wants the United States to return to Trumpism.
- The Biden administration has high expectations for cooperation from Japan and South Korea in exerting economic pressure on China.
- Past US administrations looked to China and Russia for cooperation to curb North Korea's nuclear program, but the Biden administration entertains no illusions about those countries.
- Consequently, expectations are rising for increased deterrence on North Korea through trilateral cooperation between Japan, the United States, and South Korea.
- Japan-South Korea relations are all-time worst. It is highly likely that President Biden, who had been watching the North's devious nuclear machinations as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will reach out directly to the leaders of Japan and South Korea.
-This is because the NSC is well aware of the risk of a change in the regional balance caused by South Korea's leaning toward China.
America's Partial Decoupling from China
Americans, in general, are warier of China than ever before, and the US government is intensifying measures to restrain China on both military and economic fronts. But it is also true that US corporations do not want to lose profits from the Chinese market amid the current unprecedented economic crisis.
One possible solution is "partial decoupling or partial disengagement" --- the United States will not completely disengage from the Chinese economy but block the outflow of core competitive technologies to China to maintain US superiority in military and civilian technologies, including high-tech. Japanese and South Korean companies will be required to cooperate with the US policy.
The above-mentioned "Interim National Security Strategic Guidance" emphasizes the importance of diplomacy. According to the document, "The United States will never hesitate to use force when required to defend our vital national interests ... and allies." "But the use of military force should be a last resort, not the first; diplomacy ... and economic statecraft (foreign and security policy through economic means) should be the leading instruments of American foreign policy."
The Biden administration's professed commitment to economic statecraft toward China will entail its higher expectations for economic cooperation from Japan and South Korea.
- Especially concerning export controls and investment restrictions, we will have to have prior consultation with the US government; we must take care not to adopt measures disadvantageous to our industries.
As Middle-Power Strategy Pursued by Japan and South Korea
In Japan and South Korea, there are bases hosting US troops; both countries rely heavily on US military power for their security.
- On the other hand, both of them, as neighbors of China, economically depend heavily on China's labor force and markets. MIT Professor Richard Samuels and others have already called this ambivalent position of Japan "Japan's dual hedge." 3 South Korea's economic dependence on China is even greater than Japan's. On the other hand, its reliance on the deterrent power of USFK to confront North Korea seems to be decisive.
In the future, Japan and South Korea will have to face two demanding challenges: growing US expectations for their contribution to the regional security and their cooperation in America's partial decoupling from China.
In this context, the key to Japan and South Korea's survival and overcoming these challenges lies in maintaining the regional order through middle-power cooperation with Australia, ASEAN countries, India, and Canada.
It is also important for Japan and South Korea to align on partial decoupling, looking at both China and the United States.
- The Biden administration is reportedly coordinating its first two-plus-two meeting with each of Japan and South Korea. A Japan-South Korea talk preceding the two-plus-two meetings would not only make those meetings more fruitful but also help increase the two allies' bargaining power toward the United States.
- The current diplomatic hiatus between Japan and South Korea will weaken our respective positions toward both China and the United States.
The Biden administration is emphasizing the roles of middle powers and US relationships with them. The Interim National Security Strategic Guidance recommends strengthening US connections, first with the Indo-Pacific, then with Europe and the Western Hemisphere (Latin America and Canada), and particularly stresses the importance of the Indo-Pacific facing China.
- The document emphasizes US partnership with India, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and other ASEAN countries, and Pacific island countries, in addition to allies such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea. The Biden administration's focus on these regional states and partners, who are subject to intensive Chinese influence but simultaneously wary of the country, is considered to be a continuation of the Pentagon's 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report issued under the Trump administration.
These middle-power players, who are concerned about China's deviation from international rules, share interests with Japan and South Korea in sustaining the existing regional order by involving the United States in efforts to maintain it.
- On the other hand, many Asian countries are concerned if they will have to choose the United States or China. Forging a strategic alignment with these influential regional states would enable Japan and South Korea to build a cooperation network that the United States alone cannot shape or enhance their presence among those states.
For Japan and South Korea, these middle-power players are also important economic partners and can serve as a hedge against becoming embroiled unilaterally in the worsening US-China confrontation. Meanwhile, as the US-China confrontation progresses, if Japan and South Korea allow their emotional reciprocal antipathy to stagnate cooperation with these regional countries, they will incur massive losses.
- Japan and South Korea should note and share the necessity of a middle-power strategy that envisages their survival and prosperity. Thereby, they should overcome thorny problems that lie between them. The resumption of bilateral dialogues and cooperation would benefit the two neighbors by increasing their bargaining power toward the United States and China. The Biden administration assumes collaboration with Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, and Southeast Asian countries. It also makes much of cooperation with Pacific island countries, Canada, and Europe.
- The United States will be discontent with the alienation between Japan and South Korea; Australia, India, and Southeast Asian countries may also be discontent with the current stalemate in Japan-South Korea relations.
From a long-term perspective, Japan and South Korea need to maintain a balanced relationship with both the United States and China in the years to come.
- It is precisely in this era of US-China confrontation that Japan and South Korea need to look at the big picture.
- If Japan and South Korea remain stuck in disputes over problems at hand and undermine their long-term national interests, they will sacrifice the regional stability in Asia that will benefit them over a long period as well as economic prosperity accompanying it.
(This paper was translated into English by Tsutomu Inuzuka, SSDP Associate)
December 2022, Proposal "Defending Our Country – Defense Policy in a New Cold War Era" was announced
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- October 2017: "A New Trend in India's Foreign Policy and Japan" Written by HIROSE,Takako, Professor, Senshu University
- August 2017: "The Shocks that shook the Transatlantic World and their Implication for Japan's Foreign Policy" written by HOSOYA, Yuichi, Professor, Keio University
- August 2017: "Does Economic Interdependence not Encourage Collaboration? ―Thinking Japan-China Relations from an Economic Perspective―" written by Takashi SEKIYAMA, Ph.D., Toyo University
- July 2017: Proposal article "The Trump Administration's Impact on the Cross-Strait Relations" written by Yasuhiro Matsuda, Ph.D.
- June 2017: Proposal article "The outlook for the relationship between two great powers and implications for Japanese diplomacy" written by Professor Shin Kawashima
- May 2017: (Emergency Proposal) Facing the Inconvenient Truth: Re-examining Policy for Peace and Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (Chief author, Masao Okonogi)
- March 2017: "Economic Influences of the Trump Administration" written by Professor Motoshige Ito
- February, 2017: Proposal article "Trump's Foreign and Security Policy - Unpredictable President, Realistic Secretaries - " written by Mr. Tsuneo Watanabe is posted on the website of SSDP.
- December, 2016: Proposal article "Reconsidering North Korea Policy: How to Deal with a Nuclear Armed Divided States" written by Professor Masao Okonogi is posted on the website of SSDP.
- March 2022, A remembrance seminar "Remembering Professor Ezra Vogel" held on January 17, 2022
- March 2021, Japan-ROK Parliamentary Dialogue -Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Era of US-China Competition- held on March 11, 2021
- December 2020: The report of the Japan-ROK Future Dialogue held on November 21 to discuss "Japan-ROK Cooperation in the Post-Covid-19 Era
- October 2020: "Responses to COVID-19 and Agendas for the Post-COVID-19 Era", A Brief Overview of the Japan-Korea Experts Dialogue held on July 29,30, 2020
- October 2020: "The China-Taiwan Confrontation over Corona Response and Taiwan's Security" written by Makoto Ogata, Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- May 2020: "Rivalries in the Middle East in New Security Dynamics", Written by Sayed Ghoneim, Major General (retired) of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Chairman, Institute for Global Security & Defence Affairs
- March 2020: The Japan-South Korea Relationship in a Cul-de-Sac--- Where is an Exit ? Masao Okonogi Professor Emeritus, Keio Universit
- December 2019: The Hong Kong Upheaval and the Future of Cross-Straits Relations－The 2019 Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue Report OGATA, Makoto Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- August 2019: Report; 2019 FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE --Sustainable Prosperity and Future of Korea-U.S.-Japan Cooperation-- By Future Consensus Institute (Yeosijae)
- June 2019: Report on India – Japan Security Dialogue 2019 by Ms. Vindu Mai Chotani, Ph.D Student, The University of Tokyo
June 2019: Four papers on Japan-India Cooperation submitted to India-Japan Security Dialogue 2019
Japan's Rationale for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision
Tsuneo Watanabe, Senior Fellow, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
The Significance and Possibilities of India-Japan Cooperation in the Concept of the Indo-Pacific
Toru ITO Associate Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan
Japan-India Defense Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Context - Operationalizing the Security Aspect of the Indo-Pacific Vision –
Hideshi Tokuchi, Senior Fellow, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)
India-US-Japan Defense Cooperation: What's next?
Dr. Satoru Nagao, Hudson Institute
- Japan's Rationale for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision
- November 2018: "The Present State of the Japanese Economy and Policy Issues" lectured by Motoshige Itoh, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo.
- November 2018: "Expanding Social Security Expenses and Fiscal Reforms" lectured by Kazumasa Oguro, Professor at Hosei University.
- September 2018: "Taiwan Identity and Cross-Strait Relations and Trump's Taiwan Policy and the Future of Taiwan-US Relations-Discussion at The Second Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue (June 21, 2018, Taipei)-" written by OGATA, Makoto
- September 2018: "Japan-Taiwan Dialogue 2018 Minutes", 21st June 2018, Taipei, Taiwan.
- July 2018: Report on The Second Japan – Philippines Strategic Dialogue prepared by Ms. Vindu Mai Chotani, Ph.D. Student, Graduate School of Public Policy, Tokyo University.
- May 2018: "Civilian Control "at Crisis"? – Perhaps Not, for the Case of the Field Sit-reps from SDF's South Sudan Mission" reported by Ippeita Nishida, Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation
- January 2018: "Fukushima, Genki？Project－Young Taiwanese volunteers introduce the facts on Fukushima's revival through documentary films－" reported by OGATA, Makoto, Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
- December 2017: "Commemorating a Quarter Century of Dispatches of the JSDF's PKO Units: Challenges and Possibilities in the Post South Sudan" written by Takayuki Shoji, Lecturer, Nihon University
- November 2017: "19th CCP National Congress" written by Mr. Bonji Ohara, Senior Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Fondation
- October 2017: "What is Japan's Role in the Indo-China border conflict?" written by Dr. NGAO,Satoru, Research Fellow, Institute for Future Engineering
- July 2017: "Overview of the Current Situation in Taiwan-" the Naturally Independent Generation" will affect the Taiwan"s politics-" written by Makoto Ogata MGE.(Ret.)
- June 2017: "Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue" written by Mr.Takaaki Asano
- March 2017: "The Japan-Philippines Strategic Dialogue" written by Mr. Hideshi Tokuchi
- February, 2017: Current topic "The Importance of Japan's Security Role Under Trump" written by Dr. Satoru Nagao is posted on the SSDP website.
- December, 2016: Current topic "Widening Security Task: Will SDF do the Job?" written by Mr. Ippeita Nishida is posted on the SSDP website.
- October 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 3)" - Xi Jinping's China - Politics, Economy, Society and Diplomacy - was published.
- Jun 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 2)" -The Russia-Ukraine War and Its Global Impact- was published.
- March 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 1)"-What is Economic Security?- was published.
- December 2021, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 3 no 4)"-Korean Peninsula Situation- was published.
- September 2021, A research journal "Security Studies vol03 no03" -Asia's Security II- (English edition)
- June 2021, A research journal "Security Studies vol03 no02" -Asia's Security I- (English edition)
- March 2021: Research journal "Security Studies (vol3 no1) "- US Foreign Policy in the Biden Administration / The 2020 US Presidential Election and American Democracy -(English edition)
- December 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no4) "- Normalize Japan-South Korea Relations trough Dialogues -(English edition)
- September 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no3) "-The Novel Coronavirus and Security-(English edition)
- July 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no2) - Middle East Situation and Japan's Security - " (English edition) was published
- May 2020: A research journal "Security Studies (vol2 no1) - Cyber, Space, Environment and Security - " March 2020 (English edition)
- February 2020, "A research journal "Security Studies (vol1 no4) " (English edition)"
- September 2019: A research journal "Security Studies (vol1 no3) " (English edition)
- August 2019: Korea-Japan Joint Seminar: FUTURE CONSENSUS DIALOGUE
- April 2019: "Security Studies (vol1 no2) April 2019"
- March 2019: A research journal "Security Studies vol1 no01" just published
- February 2019: The Denuclearization of North Korea and the Takeshima Issue
- December 2018: Former Vice Defense Minister Masahiro Akiyama's Memoirs (An Ad)
- November 2018: Participation in the Future Consensus Forum held in Beijing
- September 2018: "2018 Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue" reported by Masahiro Akiyama
- 2017 December: "The Butterfly Project-A possibility of showing a solution to the North Korea problem-"
- October 2017: Campaign on the problems with North Korea
- August 2017: A New Containment Policy Strategy
- June 2017: Korean peninsla
- March 2017: President Duterte
- February, 2017: Kazakhstan
- November, 2016: Participated in Astana Club 2016 held in Kazakhstan on November 14- 16, 2016.