On Monday, November 29th, the 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative (21JPSI*) hosted Japanese Ambassador (Ret.) Masafumi Ishii for a virtual seminar on Japan-ASEAN relations and U.S.-Japan Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The event was co-sponsored by Indiana University’s Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies Program, which helped with promotion.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Ishii, who served as Japan’s Ambassador in Indonesia from 2017-2020, argued that Southeast Asia’s current importance and even greater future potential as a demographic and economic hub makes it very important for the United States and Japan. In particular, he noted the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) importance due to its growing population and economic size, diversity in makeup and alignment patterns, and central geographic location. He also emphasized the importance of stability in the region for free and safe navigation through crucial sea lines of communication/trade routes (e.g., in the South China Sea).
After highlighting key features of Japan-ASEAN relations, Ambassador Ishii also provided five recommendations for U.S.-Japan cooperation in Southeast Asia. First, the two must be patient and honor ASEAN’s initiative in pursuing its own policy agenda. Second, because resources are limited the U.S. and Japan must prioritize their engagement with Southeast Asia – particularly with the “big three” countries that share basic strategic objectives: Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Third, it is necessary for both countries to show their presence in a tangible way, through rotational military presence, joint exercises, and economic engagement (esp. the U.S. joining CPTPP). As he noted, “What you do matters more than what you say.” Fourth, the U.S. and Japan must consolidate the core partnership that is the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) by meeting regularly and making it operational. Finally, both countries should create a multifaceted, resilient network among lower-middle income countries, including promoting cooperation between India and Indonesia.
After concluding his remarks, Ambassador Ishii engaged in a brief exchange with 21JPSI Director Adam Liff, followed by an open Q&A with the global audience of at least 91 faculty, students, and community members from across the United States and world. Questions came in from students and faculty in the United States, India, and Malaysia.
The “Japan Politics & Society” speaker series will continue in the spring semester. To learn about future public events, please sign up for our event announcement mailing list and follow us on Twitter.
*The 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative (21JPSI) was launched at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies in 2018. Under the leadership of Founding Director and HLS faculty member Adam Liff, 21JPSI aims to invigorate and expand research, teaching, and programming on contemporary Japanese politics, society, and international (esp. U.S.-Japan) relations, and to educate, raise awareness, and debate policy responses to the various political, social, and foreign policy challenges that Japan faces in this extremely dynamic era of 21st-century change. Supported by a generous $900,000 grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, in its first five years 21JPSI has enabled a new tenure-track faculty line contemporary Japanese politics and society; launched four new courses on contemporary Japan and a multidisciplinary speaker series on Japanese Politics and Society; hosted national conferences and webinars on U.S.-Japan relations; and funded graduate fellowships and faculty travel grants to support research in Japan. For more information, please see https://jpsi.indiana.edu/ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org