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What does the ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ mean?

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Nine months ago, in this column, I wrote about the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy. Some argue that it was initiated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as in 2012. Other claim that the originally biogeographic concept was first used, as a strategic term, by an Indian Naval officer back in 2007.

No matter who initiated the FOIP strategy, however, it is now the official policy of Japan and the United States. The Foreign Ministry states that the “key for stability and prosperity” is the “dynamism that is created by combining ‘Two Continents’: Asia and Africa, and ‘Two Oceans’: Free and open Pacific and Indian Oceans.”

The U.S. government seemed to have signed onto the FOIP strategy in November 2017, when the Trump administration started referring to the “Indo-Pacific region” during President Donald Trump’s first tour to Asia. Washington now uses this concept as its regional strategy with close cooperation among the “Quad”: Japan, India, Australia and the United States.

Fifteen months have since passed, but we still don’t know what the FOIP really means as a strategic concept. Is the FOIP strategically viable? Is there a new strategic space in the Indian and Pacific Oceans for the Quad or nations in Southeast Asia? If so, how would China react to this new strategic reality?

To answer those questions, the Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS), a Tokyo-based independent think tank whose foreign policy/national security shop I direct, conducted a 24-hour policy simulation (or so-called “war game”) last weekend over contingencies........

© The Japan Times