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The First and Second Abe Administrations’ Foreign Policy from a Role Theory Perspective

Tatsuro Debroux


This paper provides an outline in relation to the foreign policy of the first and second Abe’s administrations, mainly in the areas of security, economic/trade policy and Japanese history, and it extracts Japan’s roles by using role theory. It is argued that Prime Minister Abe’s foreign policy indicates a substantial role shift from Japan’s previously reluctant approaches in international security toward Tokyo’s self-perception of being pivotal in Asia. Prime Minister Abe’s objective is to make Japan more assertive in political affairs by putting more emphasis on the defense of democratic values, i.e. respect for rule of law, human rights and pacific resolution of conflicts. More than ever before, this can be achieved through the active cooperation with other like-minded nations, including in the field of security but also in expressing more explicitly the voice of Japan in political affairs.
So far, it seems that Abe has been successful in doing that by reinterpreting Article 9 and legislating new security-related laws. In the sphere of economics, Abe tries to have Japan take a leading position by responding to China’s challenge in the Northern and Southeast Asian region. With respect to Japan’s history, Abe wants to liberate Japan from the historic shackles of the postwar period, although he is cautious with regard to historical issues. Aware of the danger of rekindling old feuds with countries such as China and South Korea, he makes statements and adopts a behavior that allows him to evade being regarded as a historical revisionist.
Role theory indicates that Abe is not changing Japan’s fundamental roles. Rather, the Prime Minister modifies the realm of the roles and the way to pursue them. There are four meta-roles: Japan as a reliable security partner; Japan as a country that puts emphasis on multilateralism: Japan as a pacifist country based on non-militarism, and Japan as a world/regional leader. It should be possible to observe the changes in them. The core roles are unlikely to change but the meaning of what the components imply in Japan’s foreign policy are at stake. In conclusion this paper focuses on: Japan security shift; Prime Minister Abe second term; Japan foreign policy and new role in Eastern Asia and the World; Historic shackles of the postwar period over; even so Japan is a pacifist country based on non-militarism


Role theory;Abe Administration;Security;Values;Economy History;Relations with EU and US

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