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Southeast Asian Affairs 2006 JAPAN IN AN INSECURE EAST ASIA Redefining Its Role in East Asian Community-Building Tsutomu Kikuchi This article analyses Japan's policy towards East Asia in general and East Asian community-building in particular. Japan, as a global nation, has huge stakes in strengthening global governance institutions such as the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). To respond to transnational and global issues such as economic globalization, the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and international terrorism, Japan needs to enhance global mechanisms and make a substantial contribution to such global governance institutions. Japan's bid for a permanent membership at the UN Security Council and the amendment of the Japanese Constitution that is on the domestic political agenda must be understood in this context. At the same time, "regions" or regionalisms are becoming a more salient concept for managing politico-security and economic affairs in today's world. We are entering an era of "A World of Regions".1 East Asia is becoming a more important region for Japan's peace and prosperity. The great transformation of East Asia is posing great challenges and opportunities for Japan, demanding its strong commitment to East Asian community-building. Growing trade which is linked with foreign direct investments (FDI) and foreign production is integrating the Japanese economy closely with East Asia. Japanese multinational firms have shifted to international production and reorganized their business activities accordingly. Their production networks are spread over a large number of countries. This trend has created a strong Japanese interest in Tsutomu Kikuchi is Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of International Politics, Aoyama-Gakuin University, Japan, and Adjunct Senior Fellow, Japan Institute of International Affairs. 40Tsutomu Kikuchi liberalization, guarantees for Japanese investment, and institution-building in order to manage these economic relations. Essentially two region-wide production and distribution networks have been established by Japanese firms in East Asia since the middle of 1980s, one with Southeast Asia and the other with China. The pressing task for Japan is to connect these two production networks more closely, thereby constructing "seamless" networks of production and distribution in East Asia. The Japanese government and business community are expecting that more tightly integrated East Asiawide production and distribution networks will greatly enhance the international competitiveness of Japanese firms in the global market.2 Using this advantageous position, Japan could become a 21st century economic phoenix. In fact, contrary to general perceptions, the government and the business community of Japan mostly welcome the venture by China and ASEAN to conclude their Free Trade Agreement (FTA), because Japanese firms operating both in ASEAN region and China could obtain huge benefits from the FTA between China and ASEAN. What Japan is concerned about is that China and ASEAN may fail to conclude a deeper FTA with substantial opening of the respective economies. Politico-security issues aré also becoming more salient in East Asia. There is a variety of security problems ranging from traditional ones such as balance of power among the major powers, tension across the Taiwan Strait, and in the Korean peninsula, and territorial disputes, to non-traditional ones such as international terrorism, the spread of WMD, transnational crime, and maritime security. In spite of the recent remarkable economic development of East Asian countries and the call for enhanced regional cooperation, there is a deep-seated sense of insecurity in most countries in the region. Geopolitical and geoeconomic transformation of the region further aggravates the sense of insecurity. China is oscillating between conflicting images of itself: a rising power that has overcome the history of humiliation and a developing country with huge internal imbalances and weaknesses. It has many vulnerabilities internally and externally. On the one hand, the rapid economic growth gives it self-confidence. On the other hand, it knows how vulnerable its political, economic, and social foundations to sustain this growth are. An exaggerated image of China as the next superpower overtaking the United States is creating much concern among its neighbours. ASEAN countries are facing the challenge of transforming their domestic politics. And ASEAN is searching for a new role and...


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