Asia Pacific Bulletin Spotlight: Three Recent Articles Offer Japan Experts’ Take on Afghanistan, Immigration, and Innovation


The Asia Pacific Bulletin, produced by the East-West Center in Washington, is a series of brief essays that capture the essence of dialogue and debate on timely issues of concern in US-Asia relations. Recently, a number of APBs have been released by top Japan experts on topics related to US-Japan cooperation as well a Japanese domestic issue with broader ramifications in the region and beyond:

Innovation: A New Focus for US-Japan Economic Relations

Innovation: A New Focus for US-Japan Economic Cooperation

In Innovation: A New Focus for US-Japan Economic Cooperation, Sean Connell, Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi Fellow at the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry, Tokyo, explains that “While emphasis in Washington and Tokyo often centers on the security aspects of the US-Japan relationship, opportunities to jointly develop and lead on innovation, entrepreneurship, science and technology should not be overlooked.”

While he acknowledges Japan is known worldwide as a leader in Research and Development (R&D) capabilities, innovators and entrepreneurs face a number of constraints in bringing these new technologies to market. However, Connell reminds readers of the long history of the “co-evolution of innovation policies” between US and Japan, and offers that cooperation between the two could present opportunities to overcome obstacles.

Accepting Immigrants: Japan's Last Opportunity for Economic Revival

Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival

Toshihiro Menju, Managing Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE), looks at the ongoing issue of Japan’s declining population in Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival. Japan, like most of the industrialized nations, is aging rapidly: its labor force-ages 15 to 64-will decrease by around 14 million by 2025. However, while other nations can supplement low birthrates with immigration, strict immigration controls limit Japan’s incoming population. In 2010, foreigners residing in Japan accounted for only 2% of the population.

Menju argues that “A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.” In his article he describes the reasons behind the lack of serious debate on immigration in Japan, and highlights local and grassroots efforts in some communities to accept foreigners.

Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan: Japanese Leadership at a Critical Juncture

Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan: Japanese Leadership at a Critical Juncture

Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Oxford Brookes University and Visiting Fellow at the Reischauer Center, SAIS, Kuniko Ashizawa, accentuates an area where the US and Japan have worked closely in the global arena in Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan: Japanese Leadership at a Critical Juncture. An aspect of the relationship that has received less attention than its importance warrants, Japan is second, after the US, in total aid and monetary assistance to Afghanistan.

Contributing a total of US$7.2 billion since 2002, Japan is in a unique position to help guide Afghan economic development. “Compared with other major donors, like the United States and United Kingdom, Japan is viewed by many Afghans as a neutral actor, both strategically and politically. This is due, in part, to the fact that Japan does not have a military presence in Afghanistan.” Ashizawa explains that a successful Tokyo Conference would show Japan’s strong position to contribute to contribute to global security, while boosting Washington-Tokyo relations

Links to these, and past APBs can be found on the East-West Center in Washington’s webpage here.