Pursuing Shinzo Abe’s Strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

On the evening of August 2, a plane carrying Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and a delegation from the United States Congress landed in Taipei, Taiwan. Shortly after, they released a statement.

Reading this statement, I could not help but think that the strategy first outlined by the late Shinzo Abe during his first term as Prime Minister had taken firm root in the democratic camp of nations. . And it is becoming increasingly important.

For example, the statement said talks with Taiwanese leaders should focus on reaffirming US support for Taiwan and “advancing our common interests, including promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

This is the first time in history that the United States has adopted a Japanese strategy. And the United States is not the only country to do so. India, Australia and even Europe have endorsed it.

Indeed, it has become an indispensable guiding principle as the democratic community confronts an autocratic China that boasts of a huge population and rapidly growing military might.

Recall of Rahm Emanuel

On August 3, US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Prime Minister’s official residence. At that time, Emanuel told reporters that he and the prime minister discussed how Japan and the United States could strengthen economic security, national security and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Again, the key phrase “free and open Indo-Pacific” appears. The meeting came just after Prime Minister Kishida returned from speaking at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York, becoming the first Japanese Prime Minister to attend at such a meeting. During his address to the conference, Kishida proposed the ideal of a “world without nuclear weapons”.

After praising Kishida’s speech to reporters, Emanuel issued the following warning: “First, we have to face the reality in front of us.” Perhaps Emanuel’s remarks were a not-so-subtle way of confirming that Prime Minister Kishida must deliver on his promise to “increase Japan’s defense spending by a substantial amount.”

Ministers Koichi Hagiuda and Yoshimasa Hayashi during a joint press conference with their US counterparts Secretaries Antony Blinken and Gina Raimondo following the inaugural Japan-US 2+2 Economy Meeting on July 29, 2022 in Washington DC. (Kyodo)

Shinzo Abe’s Strategy

The late Shinzo Abe always liked to point out that alliances must be constantly cultivated.

The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Koichi Hagiuda, who was close to Abe, was recently in Washington DC to attend the first session of the meeting of the Japanese-American Economic Policy Advisory Committee ( “Economic 2+2”). At a press conference in Washington on July 29, after first thanking the American people for the condolences they sent after Abe’s death, Hagiuda said, “Mr. Abe’s political life has always been geared towards strengthening ties between Japan and the United States and between the Japanese people and the American people.

I well remember how, during Mr. Abe’s speech in English in April 2015 at a joint meeting of both houses of Congress, Abe said, “Let’s call the US-Japan alliance an alliance of hope.

The theme of Abe’s speech that day was the reconciliation of former enemies and the growth of bilateral friendship. After he finished speaking, Abe received a standing ovation.


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An astonished and delighted Foreign Office official, referring to the then-minority leader, told me, “Nancy Pelosi was in tears.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks with Minister Koichi Hagiuda on July 27, 2022, at the Prime Minister’s residence. (Photo by Ataru Haruna)

Hagiuda’s resolve

Hagiuda went on to discuss some of Abe’s accomplishments, including being the driving force behind the creation of the 11-nation CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Concept and of the Quad framework for quadrilateral cooperation between Japan, the United States, Australia and India.

Hagiuda added, “In just one decade, he was able to establish various foundations for supporting peace and prosperity in the region.”

Seeming to refer to Abe’s 2013 statement that “Japan is back”, Hagiuda said, “Japan is here to stay”.

He then went on to say, “Also in the future, Japan and the United States should come together to work for peace and prosperity. The reason I am here today is to express our firm resolve in this regard.

The global security environment seems to be deteriorating day by day. If Japan allows its ties and cooperation with its allies and like-minded democracies to crumble, it will be in grave danger.

Tokyo must not delay in strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities.


(Read the column in Japanese on this link.)

Author: Rui Abiru

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