After the 3/11 Catastrophe: Whither the Japanese Peace State?

For the past several years, foreign policy circles both inside and outside Japan have been anxious to determine whether Japan should or would develop new strategies to deal with a changing security environment in Asia. The catastrophic impact of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has only heightened the sense of anxiety over Japan’s future direction. At a time of great uncertainty about Japan’s future and the implications for its foreign policy, one might instead look to Japan’s national identity for signs of continuity and consistency.

For decades, Japan’s outlook and external behavior have been shaped by its identity as a “peace state” – a pacifist state associated with the so-called Yoshida Doctrine of cheap riding on U.S.-provided security while concentrating on economic development. That identity runs deep in the Japanese outlook, acting as both a guiding compass and an ideological constraint on state behavior. As the scholar Richard Samuels describes it, an identity is “a platform of ideas about a nation’s place in history and its people’s aspirations for the future.”[1] For Japan, its identity as a peace state means that it is “essentially a reactive or adaptive state” which is not interested in becoming a great military power.[2]

This peace state identity has been consistently evoked in Japanese discourse and followed in practice, even as Japanese defense policy has seen increased debate and contestation in recent years, argued Mike M. Mochizuki at an April 14 Policy Briefing on “Identity and Rising Asian Powers: Implications for Regional Cooperation,” organized by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. Read more of this post

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Tehran’s hardliners effectively declare nuclear talks dead

By Farideh Farhi

Few observers of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program anticipated a breakthrough from the Istanbul meeting between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the six major powers known as the P5+1 (five members of the Security Council plus Germany). Yet a swift breakdown was not expected either. The assumption was that a difficult negotiating path was possible and perhaps even desired by both sides.

The United States officials continue to insist that the two-track approach — seeking engagement while still putting pressure on Iran through sanctions and other punitive financial actions — will continue until an agreement is reached.

Yet Tehran’s hardliners, currently in charge, effectively declared the structure of negotiations over the country’s nuclear program obsolete.  If Tehran’s Istanbul posture does not change,  P5+1 may – and only may – maintain its utility as a vehicle for yet another round of American-led efforts to impose new UN sanctions on Iran but it will not be useful for negotiations with Iran.

Tehran’s insistence that talks should center on issues of “mutual” or “global” concerns and away from the country’s nuclear program is not new. This approach was initiated when the Bush administration relented in its final year and agreed to U.S. diplomatic presence in the talks. The novelty of Istanbul talks lied in the assertiveness with which Iran’s negotiating team, headed by the Supreme National Security Council’s Secretary Saeed Jalili, challenged the Western two-track approach of engagement and pressure.

By demanding suspension of sanctions and acceptance of Iran’s treaty rights to enrichment, which Jalili called “prerequisites” for further talks, Tehran effectively declared that it is no longer interested in talks in which only Iran stands accused of violations of international norms and rules. Read more of this post

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