Analysts and foreign policy community world over were watching the US Presidential election and calculating the impact of Joe Biden’s victory on different countries. Japan is part of some few countries which will continue with their rhythm and increase its influence in the Indo-Pacific.
According to foreign policy advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the friction between the US and China will make sure that Japan is needed by the US and Tokyo will not relent its aggressive posturing in the East Asian waters. Japan has sent a clear message that it does not matter who is in the office, but Japan will not go back to its meek pacifist days.
As per former diplomat Kunihiko Miyake, as China becomes more powerful, “U.S. relations with Japan and East Asian policies are likely to become relatively more important.” Since the times of Shinzo Abe, Japan has moved away from its pacifist policies and invested heavily into the defence sector. He combined it with a dynamic foreign policy, marking the entry of Japan into the active foreign policy in East Asia.
Prime Minister Suga has expedited the process of bringing Tokyo at the world’s decision-making table, be it the active participation in Quad, military agreements with Australia and selling of military equipment to some ASEAN countries and even working with India to finance Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries. In all these spheres and in many others, Japan is making its presence felt in the Indian Ocean Region.
Joe Biden was the Vice President in the Obama administration. It was under his reign, in post-2008 financial crisis times, that the USA tilted in favour of China. Those were the times when the USA had infamously said that Senkaku Islands are a contested territory and it is not covered within US-Japan security framework. This is why many people had inhibitions about Joe Biden toeing a softer stance against Beijing. However, times have changed and so have views regarding China. Joe Biden during his campaign had deployed a more critical tone and pledged to enlist allies to a coordinated effort to check China’s rise.
It is not just that, the USA has changed its views on China. While bulls have turned into hawks on the point of China’s actions, Japan has become a roaring lion, actively engaging in creating a block which can counter Beijing. Japan has the largest dollar reserves, just behind China. Almost 3000 Japanese companies have manufacturing units in China, Japan’s defence spending are at an all time high with a possibility of further increasing the same. Japan holds a lot of stakes in the world and has been docile just because of its self imposed policy of pacifism.
However, as Japan is becoming more and more proactive, any possibility of it going back into the shell of ignorance is dead. Japan is not going to stop its aggressive posturing even if the new President wishes. Tokyo has invested a lot of time, money and resources to create a solid policy that can counter Beijing.
Japan has become too big of an asset for the USA to hold back. As the so-called second cold war between China and the USA heightens, Washington would need allies big time. And even if the new President nudges Tokyo to mellow down, Suga will not heed to the requests. Stakes are too high and Japan will not have the same control of things if China is left unchecked anymore.
Japan is not an extension of the US anymore and its decisions will be based on its self-interests. Japan has invested too much to discontinue its efforts. Yoshihide Suga has sent a clear message, ‘YOU WILL NEED US’.