By: Edbert Jao
In August of 2020, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo suddenly announced his resignation due to health concerns. Especially given Abe having successfully pushed for a reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese conclusion, his yet-standing proposal to directly revise it, and an ambitious economic reform agenda colloquially called “Abenomics,” Abe’s resignation may have significant geopolitical implications. Following his announcement, pundits across the world debated what would happen to Japan’s foreign policy after Abe’s unexpected departure.
To allow Tufts University students to hear an expert perspective on this issue, on Tuesday, November 17, Sino-US Relations Group Engagement hosted Nicholas Szechenyi from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to share his insights on the direction of Japanese foreign policy. Deputy Director of the Japan Chair and Senior Fellow at the CSIS and with extensive previous international relations experience relevant to Japanese policy, Szechenyi delivered his lecture and answered questions from the audience.
According to Szechenyi, interim Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has indicated an intent to continue Abe’s foreign policy. The three key arrows of Abenomics – monetary easing, fiscal stimulus via government spending, and structural reform – and Japan’s increasingly active security operations will not change. Japan will continue engagement with other countries where interests align. With Taiwan, the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the United States, Australia, and others, Japan will cooperate on maritime freedom and trade. To thisend, Prime Minister Suga embarked to Vietnam and Indonesia for his first official travel in October 2020.
Critically, Szechenyi noted that Prime Minister Suga holds office until September 2021, when the next elections are due. Until then, the interim government under Prime Minister Suga will provide continuity. Whether or not Japanese foreign policy undergoes substantial shifts may very well be decided by the elections of September 2021.
For Nicholas Szechenyi’s time and knowledge, Sino-US Relations Group Engagement and the audience are grateful.
Mr. Nicholas Szechenyi is Deputy Director of the Japan Chair and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the most prestigious foreign policy think tanks in the US. His research focuses on U.S.-Japan relations and U.S.-East Asia relations. In 2009, he was selected as an inaugural fellow of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future program established by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation. Prior to joining CSIS in 2005, he was a news producer for Fuji Television in Washington, D.C., where he covered U.S. policy in Asia and domestic politics