Japan-America Society of Indiana
& Indiana Council on World Affairs


Where Goes the Neighborhood:
Japan and the Rise of Asia

The Japan-America Society of Indiana (JASI) partnered with the Indiana Council on World Affairs (ICWA) to offer the Japan Update to a broad-based audience of Americans concerned with global issues.  In collaborating with the ICWA, we hoped to offer the program to a wider network and to attract new guests.  In previous years, the “Update” program has focused on several key categories, including local economic development, manufacturing, and trade.  This year, the usual template was adjusted to devote more attention to the global landscape.  The program was titled “Where Goes the Neighborhood: Japan and the Rise of Asia”, with the goal of providing our Indiana audience the most current insights from Japan on geopolitical issues in Asia.  Japan and the U.S. are experiencing significant strategic and diplomatic challenges from China, North Korea, and Russia, with the United States international policy undergoing transition.  As uncertainty in the Pacific abounds, Japan is considering how to work effectively with the U.S. but also how to chart its course as a leader and a balancer in Asia.  This year’s program examined the above issues in depth, with presentations from two key distinguished senior diplomats: Kunihiko Miyake, President, Canon Institute for Global Studies, Tokyo, Japan and David Shear, National Association of Japan-America Societies, Washington, D.C. 

Ambassador David Shear emphasized the importance of country-to-country alliances and Japans important role in maintaining freedom in Asia.  Shear described the U.S.’ approach of an “Indo-Pacific” region of free, independent states as a basic response to increased great power competition in Asia. He stated that the Japan-US alliance is a critical partnership in responding to China’s ambitions for a “Sino-centric” dominance in East Asia and stressed the importance of the United States and Tokyo regularly consulting on how to deal with both China and Russia.  Shear stated that a major concern for Asia is the U.S. staying power in the region, with withdrawal from TPP as an example.  He said Prime Minister Abe has helped lead the effort to reinvigorate TPP without the US and all hope that the US will rejoin.   

Kunihiko Miyake, Tokyo, used the Star Wars films as an analogy, citing three fears: nationalism as the “dark side”; the empires (China and Russia) striking back and nuclear weapons as the “phantom menace”. He continued by saying that nationalism is presenting itself in many countries and China has a concrete plan to reduce U.S. influence in Asia, through denial of access to the western Pacific. This puts Japan in a very difficult strategic situation. He recognizes that Prime Minister Abe has been active in promoting Japan’s influence in Asia but is concerned for Japan in a post Abe-period as there are no apparent successors in Japan with the same understanding, experience, and ability of international leadership as Prime Minister Abe.  Miyake-san emphasized the importance of the United States’ naval forces in the Pacific and noted that U.S. military involvement in other areas of the world detract from the United States’ ability to protect the Pacific from unexpected threats. He demonstrated the reality of those threats by mentioning various scenarios of possible conflict, stating, from Japan’s point of view, “what shall we do if…”.

The presentations were followed by a lively and lengthy question and answer session with the audience.  The “conversation” format was used, with the speakers and moderator Peter Kelley, President of the National Association of Japan-America Societies.  The program was made possible with the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.   The following day, the speakers gave presentations in student and faculty forums at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), hosted by the Office of International Affairs.