Japan Geopolitics

By | January 12, 2022

Japan, the third largest economy in the world and second in the period 1990-2012, is one of the regional powers of Asia, thanks to its ability to influence the countries of Southeast Asia, and with international ties such as to fulfill an important role in the international community.. In the context of regional dynamics, however, Japan still suffers from the fact that it was an occupying power in some areas (mainly in the two Koreas and in some Chinese regions). Since the end of the Second World War, after being defeated by the allied powers, Japan has been co-opted by the United States within the geopolitical and strategic dynamics of the Western bloc and has been one of the fundamental reference points in Asia for Washington.

Occupied by the United States until 1952, the country adopted a pacifist line, establishing it in Article 9 of its Constitution, approved in 1947. This article expresses the condemnation of acts of aggression and the renunciation of the establishment of an autonomous army. For more than forty years, Japan has maintained the status of the second largest economic power in the world after the United States. Also for this reason, Tokyo has claimed, and continues to claim, ever greater independence in the management of its foreign policy, also in light of its interests in the Asian region.

The relations with China are ambivalent: on one side of Beijing is the first trade partner of Japan, on the other hand China competes with Tokyo for regional influence issues and is animated by hostility that comes from the Japanese occupation. More recently, tension has grown over some territorial disputes involving the two countries. In particular, the recent air control zone, declared by China and also including the disputed Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands, has been severely contested by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in office since December 2012, who maintains very tough positions towards Beijing. The coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (Jiyū-Minshutō, Ldj) has a solid foundation in parliament and is expected to keep tensions high over maritime conflicts. US support once again proved to be fundamental: the US immediately sided with Japan to stem the Chinese initiative. However, Japan also has long-standing conflicts with South Korea on the Dokdo Islands and with Russia on the Kurils. On the one hand, the tensions with neighboring countries are linked to historical and ideological reasons that have never subsided and date back to the Second World War; on the other hand, economic relations and trade are helping to mitigate these tensions and bring Japan closer to its continental neighbors, as the trilateral talks between Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul, which began again in the autumn of 2015, clearly demonstrate.

On the domestic front, the government of Shinzo Abe has shown a certain degree of initiative: the economic policy adopted by the executive, renamed Abeconomics , has proved to be relatively effective, even if the typical problems of the Japanese economy persist, in particular the enormous the country’s public debt.

Institutional organization and internal politics

According to Relationshipsplus, Japan is formally a constitutional monarchy, in which the head is Emperor Akihito, in office since 1989. The emperor has an exclusively ceremonial role and executive power is entrusted to the government, led by the prime minister. The Japanese institutional system provides for a bicameral structure for the legislative, the Diet, composed of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. The House of Representatives has greater powers: made up of 475 members, elected by universal suffrage every four years, it confers and removes trust from the government. The House of Councilors, on the other hand, is made up of 242 members elected every six years, with half of the members renewed every three years.

Dominating the political scenario of the last half century was the Liberal Democratic Party, continuously in office between 1955 and 2009, when the Japanese Democratic Party (Minshu-tō, Dpj)he managed to prevail in the elections for the House of Representatives and to oust the Liberal Democrats from the leadership of the executive. In December 2012, however, former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the House of Representatives, calling early elections. From the elections the Liberal Democratic Party led by the nationalist Shinzo Abe emerged once again, also reconfirmed in the early elections of December 2014. Since 2006, the Japanese political system has experienced strong instability, manifested by the alternation of six different prime ministers in six years, after the stable period of government of Junichiro Koizumi (2001-06).

Japan Geopolitics