Waking Up to Geopolitics: A New Trajectory to Japan-Europe Relations
This report argues that the coming years provide a window of opportunity for Europe and Japan to put their relationship on a new trajectory. While the inhibiting factors for both sides have not vanished, they have certainly receded. While the military dimensions of Beijing’s stance in the East China Sea loom large, driving Japan to further deepen its security relationship with the United States, this is not just a test of strength but a contest for legitimacy. With Japan seeking to strengthen its position through the support of international laws and norms, as well as reinforced military assurances from its chief ally, the Europeans have become a natural port of call. Meanwhile, Europe too has been dealing with a geopolitical reality check, with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea violating principles that had until recently been thought unassailable. While the East Asian and European strategic contexts are very different, both sides face a renewed imperative to underpin some very basic rules of international order — and to seek support from outside their respective regions in so doing. This report argues that much of the process of transformation for the Europe-Japan relationship is already underway. Policymakers in Europe and Japan alike often lack awareness of the full array of developments, whilst the institutionally diffuse nature of this progress can make it difficult for these protagonists to appreciate the bigger picture. The priority is not only to “do more” but also to find greater synergy between the initiatives that already exist.