Following the opening remarks made by Dr. Gábor Kovács, Vice-Rector for Education at NUPS, H.E. Kosuge reminded that the Japanese-Hungarian friendship dates back 147 year in history, as the official, diplomatic relations with Japan were established by Austria-Hungary in 1869. The relationship remained active until 1914, and entered a new stage after World War I. The two countries managed to exit the shadow of World War II in 1959: since then the dialogue between Japan and Hungary has been without barriers. Hungary has an embassy in Tokyo, and a honorary consular service in and Osaka, whereas Japan’s embassy is located in Budapest. In addition to the diplomatic relations, the two nations are held together through cultural, economic and scientific bonds. Thanks to the nearly 150 Japanese companies operating in Hungary, Japan is considered as one of the most important Asian investors in the country. Japanese capital is primary attracted through the opportunities in the car industry and electronic sector, leading to the employment of about 28.000 Hungarian citizens.
From the political perspective, Hungary has always been an interesting example for Japan – said H.E. Junich Kosuge reminding that the Hungarian democratic transition processes have served with several lessons for the Asian country. That being said, nowadays the two countries’ relationship ought to be examined in an international context, as it has been determined by the efforts made for common goals such as fighting off terrorism, helping refugees, fighting against poverty and the negative consequences of climate change. In addition to these topics, the current Japanese declarations on economic and strategic cooperation include the peaceful utilization of aerospace, the freedom of shipping, the support for the concepts of territorial sovereignty, the promotion of growth and prosperity, and the advancement of research funding and innovation. Furthermore, His Excellency Kosuge pointed out that although these long-term goals are shared by other countries, it should also be noticed that Japan could still not manage to fully conclude World War II, as there is no peace treaty with the Russian Federation nor with the Republic of Korea, thus “Asia is far behind Europe” in this regard.
As for regional integration, unfortunately there are increasingly difficult processes and increasing dangers in sight. Peaceful settlement is hindered by both the debates concerning the South-China Sea and North Korea’s activity. Japan first and foremost promotes international law and condemns all activities that go against international law while supports peace and the economic development of the region.
On February 21, 2014 distinguished experts and professors of international security studies paid a visit to the National University of Public Service (NUPS), giving lectures on current dilemmas of Japanese security and defense policy. The opportunity was facilitated by the Research Institute for Peace and Security (Japan), while on behalf of NUPS the Director of the Institute for International Studies, Dr. Elisabeth Szalai, the Director of the Center for Strategic and Defense Studies, Dr. Peter Talas and the Director of the Research Center on Chinese Public Administration, Economy and Society, Dr. Sandor P. Szabo welcomed our guests. Yasuhiro Matsuda (Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia), Koichiro Tanaka (Jime Center – Institute of Energy Economics) and Satoru Mori (Hosei University) arrived in Hungary to deliver lectures and run a professional discussion on issues of regional security in East Asia with fellow researchers.
The lectures and Q&A session that followed touched upon the transformation of Japanese foreign and defense policy within the wider framework of changing dynamics of East Asian power politics, directly reflecting upon the rising power and capabilities of China, as well as direct threats and indirect challenges to security in the region. Emphasis was also put on the consequences of the Fukushima incident of 2011, followed by the fundamental transformation of Japanese foreign policy in the fields of energy policy and Japan’s relations with oil and gas exporting countries in the Middle East.
In his introductory presentation under the title Rise of China and East Asian Security Yasuhiro Matsuda gave an assessment of how China’s growing confidence that building on the success of the Beijing Summer Olympic Games and the continued economic growth and sustained development also resulted in unprecedented shifts in Chinese foreign policy, like the rapprochement with Taiwan, or more assertive naval presence in the region, sometimes perceived as provocative. Being aware of its developing power instruments at hand China is working on the extension and strengthening of its sphere of influence and space for strategic maneuvers within East Asia. This endeavor also enables Chinese foreign policy to put more momentum behind pursuing its interests in disputed issues, such as territorial claims in the Pacific region that is witnessed with caution by many local countries. Just mentioning one example: Chinese (merchant) vessels had not entered the coastal waters of the Senkaku islands before 2008, while the number of such entries has been rising ever since, totaling more than 50 occasion in 2012, highlighting the growing interest of China in the disputed islands. Similarly, Chinese presence and naval activity has become more intense and assertive both on the East China Sea and the South China Sea region, making it necessary for Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to initiate some countermeasures.
As Saturo Mori elaborated upon in his presentation, Japan’s Security Challenges, Japanese defense policy is primarily concerned by developments in North Korea and China, as their increased activity in the military domain has direct consequences to Japan’s security. North Korea’s more and more ambitious development plans of intercontinental ballistic missiles coupled with a third nuclear test mean such direct threats to regional security to which Japan also has to react. Also, Kim Jong-un who gained absolute power in the country in December 2011 seems to have consolidated his position and drift away from Chinese indirect control, becoming not only more estranged but also more unpredictable in his foreign policy and military activities. China, on the other hand, represents a completely different case, not representing direct military threat in the region, but being engaged in such territorial disputes with several countries in the region (including Japan) that bear the potential of conflict with the rising great power. As Saturo Mori pointed out, such unresolved territorial disputes and Japan’s determining dependence on energy import (such as natural gas and oil) created the demand that Japan should be able to grant and ensure its access to trading routes and key naval crossings as well as to realize the effective protection of its interests in naval disputes. Therefore Japan’s first National Security Strategy and National Defense Program Guidelines have been issued (December 17, 2013) and the National Security Council has been established (January 7, 2014), creating the basis for a more effective Japanese defense policy architecture.
All lectures put great emphasis on the fundamentally peaceful nature of Japanese foreign, security and defense policy that is primarily aimed at contributing to international peace and stability. Besides this, recent developments made it necessary that Japan’s Self Defense Forces gain a somewhat new attribute and capabilities that makes it possible to react to the changing regional balance of power in East Asia by developing the Dynamic Joint Defense Force. These new capabilities might gain importance when based on the right to self defense in international conflicts Japan should defend its interests in territorial disputes for example. Maintaining the historical tradition of military self-restraint these new capabilities enable Japan to defend its interests or homeland territories but are limited to such extent that major offensive operations could not be carried out.
The peaceful characteristics of Japanese foreign policy were also underlined by Koichiro Tanaka in his presentation under the title The Middle East Turmoil and Japan’s Oil. Keeping the Fukusima incident in mind, we have to be aware of the continuously very high dependence of Japan on energy import that has become even more dependent on natural gas and oil imports from the Gulf countries since 2011. As electricity production in all (50) nuclear power plants in Japan had been halted following the Fukusima incident, the ratio of gas import has increased to 96% and oil import increased to 99.7%, making access to trading routes an outstanding necessity in Japanese foreign policy. As its primary trading partners are situated in the Persian Gulf, Japanese foreign policy also had to pay increased attention to developments during the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ pursuing the normalization of the situation in order to maintain safe and undisturbed import from the region. Therefore Japan was developing its ties with the Gulf countries in order to establish mutual interests through a complex set of dependencies, including Japanese technology transfer, as well as financial and economic cooperation and increasing Japanese investments in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s member states.
Following the informative, open-minded lectures our guests continued their visit in Budapest in the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs.