Shinzo Abe has ended his tenure as Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, having held office for nearly eight years consecutively (and nearly a decade, including a brief term in 2006-07). He leaves a large and complex record in foreign policy: improving relations with Xi Jinping’s China from the nadir reached over the East China Sea dispute near the beginning of Abe’s premiership; a strikingly and, among U.S. allies, exceptionally strong relationship Donald Trump; substantial but limited progress on his high-priority goal of loosening domestic restrictions on Japan’s defense policies and playing a more “normal” role in international security; a sour turn in Japan’s long-fraught relations with South Korea; frustrated efforts to make progress on long-running territorial disputes with Russia; expanded engagement with several nations around Asia and with Europe; and an unaccustomed leadership role for Tokyo in international economic relations in forming the CPTPP in the aftermath of the U.S. opting out of the nascent Trans-Pacific Partnership.
What is Abe’s foreign policy legacy? How enduring are his accomplishments? How intractable are the issues on which he did not make progress? How much will his successor, Yoshihide Suga, continue or depart from Abe’s path? How will Japan’s foreign relations and international roles be affected by developments near the end of Abe’s time in office, including the impact of COVID-19 and the possibility of a change in presidents in the United States?
In this discussion, FPRI’s Asia Program Director Jacques deLisle is joined by Dr. Thomas Berger, Director of the Center for the Study of Asia at Boston University, and Sheila Smith, an expert on Japanese foreign policy and the author of Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power.
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