Australia and Japan want to be Deputy Sheriffs to the United States

Australian – Japan relations driven by defence interests and a desire to be deputy sheriff to the United States in North East and South East Asia.

Kevin P Clements

Abe left domestic political controversy in Japan-this week- to visit New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea .   The discourse from the official communiques is a wonderful example of political sophistry concealing more than it reveals.

This was a visit designed to reap immediate benefits from the reinterpretation of the Japanese Constitution. If the reinterpretation had not taken place, Japan would have been unable to sign a defence agreement with Australia . This new defence agreement allows the Japanese Government to transfer Japanese defence equipment and technology to Australia and enables the joint Japanese and Australian development of Australia’s new submarine force.

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks about his determination to pursue peace in Asia by strengthening defence ties with Australia one could be forgiven for asking what he means by peace in Asia given that he has now subverted the major peace provision of the Japanese Constitution and remains at loggerheads with both China and Korea.

In an historic address to a joint sitting of Australia’s parliament Abe said that Japan “is now determined to do more to enhance peace in the region and peace in the world and would do so by strengthening its ties with Australia. Our countries both love peace. We value freedom and democracy and we hold human rights and the rule of law dear,” he added, calling the relationship “special”.

He carefully omitted any mention of the ways in which his administration unilaterally challenged democracy in Japan by subverting  the Japanese Constitution to the chagrin of democratic and consitutional experts in Japan.

Abe clearly values his relationship with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who described Japan as “a very, very close friend”. Abe, in turn, said Japan’s push to “change its legal basis for security was so it could work with other nations and “build an international order that upholds the rule of law . Our desire is to make Japan a country that is all the more willing to contribute to peace in the region and beyond. It is for this reason that Japan has raised the banner of proactive contribution to peace.” This sort of comment rings rather hollow coming from the most hawkish post war Prime Minister.

Both Abbot and Abe are on the far right of the political spectrum in both countries. Both feel ambivalent about China and both subscribe to the global containment of China led by the United States. Even though Abe indicated that “The door to China is open from the Japanese side and .. hoped.. that the Chinese side take the same posture,” he carefully avoided any discussion on whether recent foreign policy moves in Japan made a mockery of this offer. His primary objective was to reiterate that the reinterpetation of   Article 9 means that Japan could now become “a more capable strategic partner in our region”.

Prime Minister Abbott, explicitly supports Abe’s desire for a more robust Japanese military and a willingness to   engage in out of area operations when and as Tokyo desires to project power beyond Japan.

The problem is that this emphasis on military defence does little or nothing to advance stable peaceful relationships in the region. Abe has met Abbot twice since his election but has not managed to meet his Chinese and South Korean counterparts both of whom who remain very critical of the destabilising effects of many of his domestic and foreign policy decisions.

Both Korea and China remain very wary of Abe’s attempts to reinterpret war history. They are wary of his decision to restart Japanese nuclear reactors before the after effects of Fukushima have been resolved and they both remain deeply ambivalent about his decision to lift a 70 year old ban on Japanese troops fighting alongside others ( such as Australia and the US) in overseas military interventions. The fact that Tony Abbott and Shinzo Abe are able to agree is because both of them wish to play the role of Deputy Sheriff to the United States in North East and South East Asia.


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
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