Japan's Relations with Southeast Asia: The Fukuda Doctrine and Beyond

By Singh, Bhubhindar | Contemporary Southeast Asia, August 2013 | Go to article overview

Japan's Relations with Southeast Asia: The Fukuda Doctrine and Beyond


Singh, Bhubhindar, Contemporary Southeast Asia


Japan's Relations with Southeast Asia: The Fukuda Doctrine and Beyond. Edited by Lam Peng Er. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013. Hardcover: 203pp.

This volume examines one of the most critical and forward-looking initiatives in Japanese foreign policy towards Southeast Asia: the Fukuda Doctrine. Named after then Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo, the initiative was introduced in a speech delivered in Manila during a tour of Southeast Asian countries in 1977. The doctrine comprised three principles: Japan will never pose a military threat to Southeast Asia; Japan will foster "heart-to-heart" relationships with Southeast Asian states; and Japan will develop an equal partnership with ASEAN and its member states, and contribute positively to regional stability. This volume is a collection of essays prepared to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary (in 2007) of the doctrine and, more importantly, to analyse its impact on the development of Japan-Southeast Asia relations.

As clearly outlined in this volume, the Fukuda Doctrine was a visionary initiative that transformed Japan's relations with Southeast Asia. Its implementation created a new context, both materially and normatively, that significantly improved Japan's image in Southeast Asia, enabled Japan to contribute politically to Southeast Asian affairs and laid the foundations of the strong Japan-Southeast Asia relationship that we see today. All the contributors to this volume recognize the significant contributions of the Fukuda Doctrine in shaping Japan-Southeast Asia relations, and argue that it continues to be relevant today. In fact, some of the authors also suggested that Japan should implement a similar doctrine towards Northeast Asia.

There are many positive aspects to this volume. It does an excellent job in analysing the various aspects of the Fukuda Doctrine, such as its guiding principles, origins, impact and continued relevance. The chapters are written by prominent analysts from Japan and Southeast Asia, including a chapter by Edamura Sumio who was actually involved in the drafting of the Fukuda Doctrine itself and offers readers a rare insider's account of its genesis. The chapters in this volume cover a wide range of perspectives related to the Fukuda Doctrine: theoretical and historical (Chapters 1 and 2); Great and Major Powers (Chapters 3 and 4); Sino-Japanese relations (Chapter 5); Japan-ASEAN relations (Chapter 6); and regional architecture and institution-building (Chapters 7, 8 and 9).

The importance of understanding the impact of the Fukuda Doctrine on Japan-Southeast Asia relations is especially critical today. China's rising power and the accompanying weakening of Japan due to two decades of stagnation have created a new strategic context for East Asia. From the late 1990s, China's growing economic and political profile in Southeast Asia posed a challenge to Japan's influence in the region. Only recently has Japan sought to regain its former position by strengthening economic, political and even security relations with Southeast Asian countries. Key measures have included aggressive economic engagement with Myanmar, the signing of strategic partnerships with the Philippines and Vietnam, and actively supporting US efforts to "pivot" towards Asia, in which Southeast Asia occupies a central position. …

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