Japan Woos a Region Caught Between the U.S. and China

May 13, 2019 | 09:00 GMT

This photo shows Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, arrive for Emperor Naruhito's ceremony for inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals at the Imperial Palace on May 1, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. 

(TOMOHIRO OHSUMI - Pool/Getty Images)


  • Japan is expected to take on greater responsibilities in U.S-led security, infrastructure and economic initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region, which will advance Tokyo's goal of helping counterbalance China and its regional ambitions.
  • Japan's ample capital, expertise and benign image make Tokyo a favorable third force among countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia, many of which feel as if they have few options but to choose between one of the two great powers.
  • Tokyo will leverage its strategic value to enhance U.S. security and economic initiatives in ways that avoid excessively provoking Beijing.

Years after the rise of China pushed it out of the spotlight in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is making a comeback. Japanese foreign investment in Southeast Asia has increased dramatically since 2013, particularly in emerging economies such as Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. Japan's increasing financial outlay has gone hand-in-hand with its efforts to become more proactive on regional security and diplomatic cooperation with individual states. For regional powers and smaller states in the Indo-Pacific that are caught between a mercurial and protectionist United States and an expansionist China, Tokyo is re-emerging as a reliable third power. But as Japan assumes greater responsibilities in U.S.-led security and economic initiatives as part of both countries' mutual interest in countering China, Tokyo will take care to avoid directly provoking Beijing, choosing instead to leverage its strengths to China to maximize its own interests around the Pacific Rim....

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