Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at the start of their meeting, on the sidelines for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 17. /Kyodo News-AP
By Sandip Kumar Mishra

Japan appears to be more explicit in its contests with China in recent years. At the East Asian Summit in Cambodia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida asserted that China's actions are "infringing on Japan's sovereignty" and "escalating tensions" in the region.

Kishida raised "serious concern" over the human rights situation of the Uyghurs and also underlined the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Earlier, Tokyo also strongly raised the issues of Chinese missiles landing in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone when China conducted a large-scale military drill in August to show its displeasure with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

There are also reports that Japan by the end of 2022 will bring out a revised National Security Strategy, which would indicate Japan's option in case of any unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by China. Japan in recent months has tried to have closer connections with NATO and in June, Kishida participated in the NATO summit.

Japan decided to move ahead and announced on Nov. 4 that it will join NATO's cybersecurity defense platform. It is also said that Japan's move is intended to join the Five Eyes intelligence alliance which right now consists of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Japan in October also signed a security pact with Australia for military cooperation and strengthened intelligence sharing. It is reported that Japan may sign a similar pact with the U.K. in December and may possibly have joint military drills with these countries.

In a way, it's quite obvious that Japan has been trying to strengthen its ties with the U.S. and also trying to attain a more anchoring role in the region by reaching out to more countries bilaterally in the context of its overt contests with China.

It is important to note that even though bilateral trade between the two countries reached $371.4 billion in 2021, the security strains between the two countries appear to be quite obvious. Actually, the U.S. has been pushing Japan to restrain its economic relations which China especially in the areas of critical technology.

In March 2022, it was reported that the U.S. wants to have a semiconductor industry alliance with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to isolate China in this sector and Japan appears to be least reluctant in this possible partnership.

It appears strange that Kishida, who comes from the dovish Kochikai faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has gone beyond Shinzo Abe's legacy. He has announced an increase of the defense budget of Japan to 2 percent of GDP, and seeks to have counterattack capabilities and may even support nuclear sharing.

After pursuing an adversarial stance toward China, Abe eventually compromised on a pragmatic policy of coexistence, but it seems that Kishida is more interested in an adversarial policy toward China.

Of course, changing equations in the region and beyond is influenced by China's renewed assertion in the East China Sea and Taiwan, the Ukraine crisis and a more comprehensive attempt by the Quad and other likeminded countries to deal with China. However, the Japanese stance would further strain its relations with China.

Already, there has been a lack of top level exchanges between the two countries for the last two years, except a phone call from Xi Jinping when Kishida assumed office in October 2021 and a message exchange on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations in September 2022.

The only exception has been a visit by the Japanese National Security Adviser Takeo Akiba to China in August 2022.

When Kishida and Xi met in person for the first time in Bangkok on Nov. 17 on the sidelines of the APEC summit, there were expectations that both leaders would bring out some type of workable agenda to have "constructive and stable" relations, but the content of discussions in the bilateral meeting was reportedly very limited.

Japan needs to realize that even though its principled position against China's assertive behavior is legitimate, it must have more frequent dialogues at the top level. It is important for Japan to understand that connections at the top level between the two countries would help, not hinder, Japan's pursuit of its foreign policy goal.

Actually, Kishida may look at Abe's era when despite contests between the two countries, a pragmatic bilateral connection was maintained with China. Sharp language, strong postures, and an absence of efforts to reach out to China might be domestically popular, but it may not be beneficial for Japan's national interests.

Actually, the Japanese prime minister may look at Indian and South Korean dealings with China and take a cue for its approach toward China. Both of these countries have been contesting with China's assertiveness, but they are more nuanced in their dealings rather than taking an all-out confrontationist approach.


The author (sandipmishra10@gmail.com) is associate professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.



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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at the start of their meeting, on the sidelines for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 17. /Kyodo News-AP
By Sandip Kumar Mishra

Japan appears to be more explicit in its contests with China in recent years. At the East Asian Summit in Cambodia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida asserted that China's actions are "infringing on Japan's sovereignty" and "escalating tensions" in the region.

Kishida raised "serious concern" over the human rights situation of the Uyghurs and also underlined the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Earlier, Tokyo also strongly raised the issues of Chinese missiles landing in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone when China conducted a large-scale military drill in August to show its displeasure with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

There are also reports that Japan by the end of 2022 will bring out a revised National Security Strategy, which would indicate Japan's option in case of any unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by China. Japan in recent months has tried to have closer connections with NATO and in June, Kishida participated in the NATO summit.

Japan decided to move ahead and announced........

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