Beyond "The Arc of Freedom and Prosperity": Debating Universal Values in Japanese Grand Strategy
From 2006 to 2008, the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan staked out an expansive vision for Japanese cooperation with fellow democracies in a geopolitical arc stretching from Southeast Asia to Central Europe. In their vision, deepening strategic relationships with like-minded partners beyond the United States would expand Japan’s diplomatic and strategic horizons in a more competitive international system. For the first time in Japan’s post-war diplomacy, it characterized itself as a qualified torchbearer for the universal values of democracy, human rights, freedom, and the rule of law. However, the ascent to power of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in 2009 called into question the values-oriented approach that animated this concept – the “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” (AFP) – as an emerging component of Japanese grand strategy. On one hand, Japan has resumed its time-honored shyness and ceased to comment on the values it once said it would commit to spreading across the globe. On the other hand, the pillars Japan put in place in order to sustain the policy still remain.