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

By Ping, Lee Poh | Southeast Asian Studies, December 2013 | Go to article overview

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


Ping, Lee Poh, Southeast Asian Studies


Japan's Relations with Southeast Asia: The Fukuda Doctrine and Beyond LAM PENG ER, ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2013, xvii+203 p.

The Fukuda Doctrine, enunciated in 1977, is one of the most important developments in Japanese relations with Southeast Asia after the Second World War. Marking the end of a low-profile policy that focused primarily on trade, the Doctrine suggests a Japanese willingness to assume the "responsibilities" that befit a big power in Southeast Asia, something many Americans and Southeast Asians had been urging Japan to do. But mindful of their war record in Asia and their domestic politics, Japan eschewed the approach of a "normal" big power, or what the editor of this book calls a neorealist approach. Thus, the use of military force was rejected and economic power, if used for political purposes, was only exercised indirectly. The emphasis of the Doctrine was on what was called a "heart-to-heart" relationship, an approach that attempted to cultivate the trust and goodwill needed to ensure some semblance of equality between a big power like Japan and a group of developing countries like ASEAN.

This book deems the Doctrine a Japanese foreign policy success. Largely an outcome of a conference organized on the 13th anniversary of the Doctrine in 2007,1) this book however, has chosen not only to treat the Doctrine purely in bilateral terms but also to go beyond to that of the relationship between the Fukuda Doctrine and the regional architecture i.e. East Asian community building. To consider these two themes, the editor has drawn on contributions from academics in Japan and ASEAN and from one Chinese scholar. In addition, someone who had a hand in drafting the Doctrine, an ex-Japanese ambassador, was included to provide the perspective of a policy maker.

The book begins with an introduction, after which, it is divided into three parts, of which the first examines the origins and norms of the Fukuda Doctrine since it was first announced, while the second considers the Doctrine, power, and order in Southeast Asia. The third section mainly expatiates on the wider aspect pertaining to the relationship of Japan and ASEAN with the East Asian community. Each section consists of three chapters. Lam Peng Er, the editor, in the introduction, sees significance in the Fukuda Doctrine not only in Japan-ASEAN and East Asian community terms, but also in terms of the establishment of new norms in the international relations of Asia. The major aspects of these norms are the renunciation of power politics based on military capabilities by Japan, a "heart-to-heart" and an equal relationship between Japan and ASEAN. Such norms are not consonant with neorealism, one of the major theories of international relations, and hence unlikely to last, if the neorealist theory applies here. Yet, according to Lam, the Doctrine has outlasted the Cold War and has undergirded Japan's relations with ASEAN into the twenty-first century. It could conceivably be valid for that of the East Asian community.

Lam also discusses, in the first chapter, the origins, ideas, and praxis of the Fukuda Doctrine, of which an interesting part is an account, albeit short, of how the diplomats drafted the Doctrine and how Fukuda put his stamp on it. Lam goes on to affirm how the Fukuda Doctrine and its spirit of tolerance should underpin an incipient East Asian community. In the second chapter, Edamura Sumio, a former ambassador and a key drafter of the Doctrine, gives the view of an insider. He believes the Doctrine represents diplomacy with vision and echoes Lam in regarding its applicability for a greater East Asia. Yamamoto Yoshinobu, in the third chapter, shows how great power relations have shaped the Doctrine. He argues nevertheless that there is some power element in the Doctrine-at least in practice and application-as it can be interpreted as a measure against, then as a soft counter to, the increasing influence of China. …

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