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Breaking the Mould: Japan’s Subtle Shift from Exclusive Bilateralism to Modest Minilateralism
Abstract

Abstract:

Neorealists argue that Japan’s response to the rise of China has been to draw closer to the United States in order to balance Chinese power. In practice, the Koizumi and Abe administrations differed in their responses to the growth of Chinese power in East Asia. While Prime Minister Koizumi sought to consolidate the US-Japan alliance, Prime Minister Abe adopted a dual-track approach, combining enhanced bilateralism with enhanced regionalism. Although buttressing the US-Japan alliance, this strategy aimed to balance China by building a containment coalition with other Asia-Pacific states. Japan’s signing of a security declaration with Australia in March 2007 was an important element of Abe’s strategy, and marked a subtle shift in Japanese security policy from exclusive bilateralism to modest minilateralism. Although congruent with US strategic interests, this move supported Prime Minister Abe’s ambition to exercise more autonomous influence over the regional security order.