Diplomatic Bluebook: Japan Must Actively Work for International Cooperation

The world order based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law is at risk. Japan must proactively work to rebuild a system of international cooperation.

The Foreign Ministry has released its Diplomatic Bluebook for 2024. It summarizes Japan’s diplomatic activities over the past year and outlines its perception of the international situation and its policy direction.

The new Bluebook describes the international situation as being “at a major turning point in history” in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the worsening situation in the Middle East, among other factors.

Based on that recognition, the Bluebook sets forth a policy of leading the world toward cooperation by placing “human dignity,” or a situation in which all people can live safely and with peace of mind, at the center of the nation’s foreign policy.

The idea of seeking a foundation for cooperation by focusing on the fundamental values of humankind is timely, even if it is not possible to reach agreement due to differences in political systems or historical views. At present, however, it is difficult to say that Japan is practicing diplomacy based on such basic principles.

The Middle East is in a highly explosive situation due to territorial and sovereignty issues and religious conflicts. It is important for Japan to take the initiative in conducting diplomacy aimed at easing tensions, taking advantage of the amicable relations Tokyo has built with Middle Eastern countries.

The Bluebook notes that the security environment around Japan, in light of developments in China, Russia and North Korea, is “the most severe and complicated since the end of World War II.”

Not many countries in the world are facing more threats than Japan. In recent years, this perception has spread among the public.

According to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun in February and March, 84% of respondents felt that Japan was in a threatening security environment.

Respondents who considered China a threat rose to 91%, up five percentage points from last year’s survey, which asked the same question. Russia was considered a threat by 88%, up four points, and the figure for North Korea was unchanged from the previous year at 87%. Seventy-one percent were in favor of strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities.

The Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy, but threats have never been greater, and Japan cannot protect its security by relying on the United States as it has in the past. It is imperative for Japan to enhance its own response capabilities.

In addition, the Bluebook points out the need for cooperation in Japan-China relations. It uses the expression “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” for the first time in five years. As the first step to this end, Japan needs to ask China to exercise restraint in its coercive activities.

The Bluebook positions South Korea as an “important neighboring country with which Japan should cooperate.” This is based on the efforts of the administration of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to improve relations between the two countries.

However, since Yoon’s ruling party was defeated in the latest general election in South Korea, there is a possibility that leftist forces critical of Japan could gain momentum. The Japanese government needs to closely monitor the political situation in South Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2024)