Japan is an active player in the development of the economic and political architecture of the Indo-Pacific region. Japan’s economic diplomacy has been low profile but successful. Since 2000, Japan has completed infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia worth $230 billion. However, Japan’s leadership in this area has been overshadowed in recent years by China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The fact that Japanese firms still outspend their Chinese counterparts in infrastructure in Southeast Asia despite these developments is telling. On the trade front, Japan worked closely with partners like Australia to finish negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) even after the U.S. exit from the agreement.
Meanwhile, Japan’s ability to contribute to the security of the region is growing after it redefined Article 9 of its constitution. For Australia-Japan relations, the Indo-Pacific region has emerged as a key driver of bilateral cooperation. At the Perth USAsia Centre’s Japan Symposium in March 2019, discussions focussed on how both could work with ASEAN states to shape the future of the region.
This special report examines Japan’s role in the evolving Indo-Pacific regional order. This report brings together a diverse mix of authors with a variety of perspectives to offer analysis of the opportunities and challenges facing Japan’s economic, security, and diplomatic role in the Indo-Pacific.