Speaker: Prof Thomas Berger (Boston University)
Venue: R1.03 (Ramphal Building)
Summary: In recent years, Japan has found itself in an unaccustomed position. From the end of WW II to until quite recently, Japan was relatively insulated from the strategic and military challenges of Asia and the Cold War. Today, however, Japan finds itself on the front lines, with an unstable, nuclear armed Korea on its doorstep and an increasingly powerful and assertive PRC challenging it for control of the East China Seas. Yet, while Japan's geopolitical situation is new, in many ways the attitudes of mind that inform Japanese defense politics as well as the attitudes of neighboring countries towards Japan is distressingly familiar. Japanese politicians, beginning with Prime Minister Abe, see the defense debate as being inextricably linked to Japan's fractured sense of self. Chinese and Koreans tend to view Japanese defense policies through the lenses of militarism and the Imperial era. The combination of old images and a new strategic environment is placing Japanese foreign relations, and its alliance with the United States under intense pressure. This talk will review these developments and suggest some of the ways in which US and Japanese policies may need to change if strategic equilibrium in the Asian region is to be maintained.