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“Black ships”, the Quad and space

At the first in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad in Washington in September last year, the four member countries came forward with an ambitious space agenda. A working group was giving the task of advancing a number of key strategic areas, including the exchange of satellite data with the

Albanese steps cautiously through the Quad wrangle

The staff at the neighbourhood convenience store here in Tokyo are always amused when I drop by to pick up four or five papers in the morning. That I have done it twice this week has led to some laughs at the cash register. Monday was to look at the reporting of the Australian election result,

AUKUS: More than meets the eye

The clear intention of AUKUS is to tip the military balance in the Indo-Pacific in favour of the United States. The various initiatives in the pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are headlined by cooperation to develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia

How Japan can help nudge India away from Russia

Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio visited India last month ahead of a G7 summit. With India hesitant to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japanese media speculated Kishida’s visit was aimed at persuading fellow Quad leader Narendra Modi to change India’s position. The US

Does the Quad Plus add up?

According to its members, the Quad – a group comprising the United States, Japan, India and Australia – seeks to present an inclusive vision for the Indo-Pacific region, and its members seek to work with a range of countries. Despite this rhetoric, the group hasn’t established any clear

Ukraine war triggers debate on Japan’s nuclear option

In the wake of the Ukraine conflict, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister and now head of the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has suggested that Japan consider hosting US nuclear weapons facilities on Japanese soil, similar to some European nations, such as

Okinawa’s vocal anti-US military base movement

In early January this year, US military bases in Okinawa, Japan, were again the subject of criticism after the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was detected among US base personnel and subsequently spread to locals. Hostility towards the presence of the bases has existed since the 1950s and the anti-base

Delivering promises will show steel in Quad

The German naval chief, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, lost his job during a visit to Delhi last month. During an interaction where he went woefully off-script, he urged the West to offer “respect” to Russian President Vladimir Putin and keep the focus trained on China, a “not so nice

Australia–Japan defence cooperation in the grey zone

Over the last several years, the relationship with China has become increasingly awkward for both Australia and Japan. Other nations have also been similarly afflicted and sometimes more so. The expression “grey zone” is now used as a generic label for China’s new form of prickly interstate

Japan’s low-tech world

Japan is a high-tech country, right? It is, after all, the home of bullet trains, robots, computer games and all sorts of gadgets. But there is another side of the story: low-tech Japan. Most of the world now communicates by email, but our Japanese friends are still hooked on fax machines. While

Japan and Australia ties blossom

Japan and Australia this month formally signed a “landmark” Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), establishing a defence cooperation framework that will allow the stationing of troops in each other’s countries along with the staging of joint training exercises and disaster support. The long-

Meet Japan’s new PM

In a fiercely contested vote on Wednesday, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chose Fumio Kishida as party president. He is now set to form government as Japan’s next prime minister. In the runoff vote, former foreign minister Kishida comprehensively defeated his nearest rival

Tokyo2020+1 wraps up as Japan’s next race begins

No sooner was the Paralympic flame extinguished, with the athletes filing out of Tokyo’s National Stadium for one last time, that all sporting psephologists turned their eyes to the next big race, the runners positioning themselves for the sprint to become Japan’s next leader. The date of formal

Japan’s nuclear identity and the complicated endgame

Book Review: Akimoto Daisuke, Japan’s Nuclear Identity and its Implications for Nuclear Abolition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) It has been rare in recent years for the anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan to pass without controversy, invariably concerning remarks made by the prime

The double challenge for Suga

The flame has just been extinguished for the Tokyo Olympics, a postponed games held under trying circumstances. Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his team managed the task well given the pandemic odds stacked against them. Suga now faces two additional high hurdles. First, his caretaker

Life in a host city, at home, live-streaming the Olympics

One of the unexpected benefits of studying abroad for an extended period is the new perspective it brings to understanding your own country. Certainly, my first two years of study abroad in Tokyo the 1980s, in pre-internet times, taught me things about Australia that I didn’t know, like just how

Postcard from Tokyo 2020+1

My university campus sits amid several Olympic venues and the international media centre, down by the ports on Tokyo Bay. From my tenth floor office, I can observe the construction of the second Olympic flame plinth and across the port, the island where canoeing events will be held. On the other

Olympic glory: Tokyo’s success is a win for Beijing

As the excitement of Euro 2020 fades into the football world’s collective memory, another international sporting event rapidly approaches. The Tokyo Olympics, after being in doubt for over 12 months, are now less than two weeks away. It won’t just be Japan wanting things to run smoothly when the

The Quad (finally) delivers: Can it be sustained?

On 19 March, the leaders of four important democracies of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – held (virtually) their first-ever “Quad Summit.” This meeting at the leaders’ level of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was significant on two counts. It

Legalising same-sex marriage in Japan

Last month, a Japanese district court for the first time ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is unconstitutional. The verdict by the Sapporo District Court was a result of simultaneous lawsuits against the nation demanding marriage equality as well as compensation for psychological

The Quad gives a boost to India’s vaccine diplomacy

The most notable takeaway from the first-ever “Quad” leaders meeting involving the US, India, Japan and Australia at the weekend was the agreement on expanding the global vaccine supply. The vaccination capacity of India will be increased to produce 1 billion doses by 2022, the leaders announced

A new “concert” to govern the Indo-Pacific

The joint statement issued following the weekend meeting of the four “Quad” leaders was titled “The Spirit of the Quad”. This title could be read as either self-affirmation or self-praise. The Quad’s first summit of leaders was a somewhat informal affair, held virtually amid a global

History haunts Japan–South Korea ties

The Seoul Central District Court last month delivered a verdict requiring the Japanese government to pay $US91,000 to 12 former “comfort women” who endured sexual slavery during the Second World War. The court’s ruling follows off the back of a similar decision by the South Korean Supreme

Using the Australian Open as a Tokyo test run

Focus on the upcoming Australian Open tennis tournament these last few weeks in the local media has been intense. Still, it’s possible that Olympics officials in Japan are monitoring the first tennis Grand Slam event of the year even closer than we are in Australia. As tournament organisers

Japan under Suga: The delicate balancing act

The calm but staunch assertion by China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe last month that the Japan-administered islands in the East China Sea belong to China is revealing of the challenges Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide will face in balancing Japan’s great power relationships. The “

Australia’s Pacific Step-up and the Quad

The growing synergy among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue powers of Australia, Japan, the United States and India has provided a crucial impetus to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Bilateral ties between these four states have also seen positive growth, largely a result of “like-

Why Russia will not return the Kuril Islands to Japan

The decades-old dispute between Russia and Japan over the status of the Kuril Islands is far from over. Tokyo, which refers to the islands as the Northern Territories, still insists on a peace treaty with Moscow that would result in Russia’s return of at least two out of four islands to Japan,

Japan-Australia: The chance to sweeten the deal

Typically, much of the initial foreign policy interest in a new (or slightly revised) Japanese government tends to look towards the United States – to consider the adjustments necessary to the alliance, to plan the first face-to-face meeting, to determine the nickname that will characterise

Economic diplomacy: Japanese investment takes a Toll

Will the bell Toll? The quiet flood of Japanese investment into Australia over the past few years amid at times mounting alarm about much lower levels of Chinese investment has been regularly noted here. But the astounding story of corruption and mismanagement inside the largest single Japanese

A Quad of consequence: Balancing values and strategy

What makes the Quad foreign ministers conversation this week in Tokyo consequential? Probably the strategic setting – a pandemic, global economic contraction and an accelerated Sino-US strategic competition on one hand, and rising regional tensions from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and

India puts relations with Japan back on the rails

Arguably the greatest, most visible and most impactful legacy of the British Raj in India is the train network that criss-crosses the country. So it perhaps comes as little surprise that India’s favourite regional friend is shoring up their relationship by investing heavily in, yes, more trains

Suga steps in, at least for now

While much has been made of Shinzo Abe’s record-breaking term as Japan’s prime minister, his new successor, Yoshihide Suga, held his role as Chief Cabinet Secretary for the same record length of time – seven years and eight months. As Chief Cabinet Secretary, he has had a high public profile

The making of Prime Minister Suga

Suga Yoshihide’s moment in Japanese politics arrived with the premature resignation last month of Abe Shinzo. Suga was considered the indispensable architect of the Abe administration, controlling Japan’s political nerve centre as Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2012. On Monday this week, he was

China and Japan’s island dispute

When I was a news hack in 2012, I had the good fortune of interviewing Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister. He was only 16 days into his new post, and he was doing a four-nation swing of Asia. While he initially sounded tentative, he started to grow more comfortable as he spoke about the

Who really killed the Quad 1.0?

The tale has become accepted diplomatic folklore. In the telling, it was Australia, back in 2008 in the early days of the Rudd government, that decided to scuttle the then-nascent Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the four-way talks also involving Japan, the United States and India. To compound

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