Japan's Leadership in East Asian Security Multilateralism.

AuthorBradford, John
PositionOvercoming Isolation: Japan's Leadership in East Asian Security Multilateralism

Overcoming Isolation: Japan's Leadership in East Asian Security Multilateralism. By Paul Midford. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2020. Hardcover: 272pp.

Paul Midford's Overcoming Isolation: Japan's Leadership in East Asian Security Multilateralism makes important contributions to the historical understanding of Japan's role in regional multilateralism in general and the establishment and development of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in particular. The book primarily focuses on the policy objectives, processes and decisions that allowed Japan to support the establishment of the ARF--East Asia's first region-wide multilateral forum--and serve as a regional leader during its inception as well as its subsequent development. Midford's thorough analysis yields valuable insights into Japan's relationships with its Southeast Asian partners and the evolution of ASEAN-centric regionalism.

Japan's engagement with Southeast Asia has grown incrementally since the end of World War II. As its economy rapidly expanded in the 1960s and 1970s, Japan used its economic power to rebuild relationships with regional countries and make investments in the region through commercial transactions and official development assistance (ODA) for infrastructure and development projects. In 1977, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced that Japan would strengthen political engagements with Southeast Asia while maintaining a distance from the region's security affairs. This announcement came to be known as the Fukuda Doctrine. Over time, however, Japan became increasingly involved in regional security issues. In the early 1990s, Japan became a member of the ARF and participated in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cambodia. From there, Japan's involvement in regional security slowly but steadily expanded. Today, Japanese ODA directly supports security-related capacity-building projects, the Japan Coast Guard actively partners with maritime law enforcement agencies throughout the region, while the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force regularly operates in the South China Sea. Japan is also among the largest force providers for regional military exercises hosted by groups such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus, and dining natural disasters Southeast Asians look to Japan as a first responder. However, the existing literature has done a relatively poor job of identifying the most important transition points and is unsatisfying in its explanations...

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