Strategic Possibilities and Limitations for Abe's Japan in Southeast Asia
About the publication
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's desire for Japan to play a more proactive role in strategic affairs stems largely from not just his concern about the nature of China's rise but the challenge to the post-war liberal regional order that the latter's rise and behaviour presents. Any disruption to that order is perceived to be extremely detrimental to Japan's core national interest. The concern with reinforcing and strengthening the existing regional order is causing Japan to take far greater strategic interest in Southeast Asia and also reflects lessons learnt from Abe's first time in office (2006-07). The increased Japanese strategic interest in Southeast Asia is welcomed by all key states in Southeast Asia and the United States, meaning that the growing Japan-Southeast Asian strategic dynamic is mutually reinforcing. Japanese desire to play a more proactive strategic role in Southeast Asia needs to be understood alongside its post-war constitutional limitations. There is strong potential and promising possibilities for Japan to play a more proactive multilateral role in Southeast Asia through its standing and participation in regional institutions (especially ASEAN-led or backed institutions) that will further Tokyo's objectives and advance the strategic and security goals of key Southeast Asian states. Japan's capacity to significantly enhance its strategic role in the region ultimately depends on the success of Abe's domestic reforms.