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Japan and the Asia-Pacific in the 1970s: From an economic to a ‘heart-to-heart’ relationship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2016

Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy Email:


This article deals with the relationships Japan has built in the Asia-Pacific region in the aftermath of decolonization. In post-war historic studies, the emphasis has been on issues such as paying reparations and providing economic assistance as Japan's means of rising to become a world power, at least from an economic point of view. The article explores, from a historical perspective, Japan's efforts with regard to development aid, but focuses on its transition to taking a more active role in Asia. This became more evident from the mid-1970s, when some crucial events related to the Cold War altered the the balance of power in the world. Hence, it investigates how Japan faced and took advantage of the situation in this area, and how it modified its approach to providing foreign assistance to Southeast Asia. Finally, it meditates upon the meaning of the Fukuda Doctrine as an enhancement of Tokyo's regional policy.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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1 Nanshin means ‘southern expansion’ and has been traditionally defined as the expression of Japan's aggressive interest in Southeast Asian countries, mainly from an economic point of view, starting in the Meiji period. This interpretation can be found in Yano, T. (1993). Nanshin no keifu. Tokyo: Chūkō Shinsho, pp. 186187 Google Scholar. Recently nanshin has been used in a more specific way to indicate Japan's energy investment in Southeast Asia after the Bandung Conference, when Tokyo explicitly expressed its willingness to ‘come back to Asia’. See Miyagi, T. (2008). ‘Kaiyō kokka’ Nihon no sengoshi. Tokyo: Chikuma Shinsho, pp. 5861 Google Scholar.

2 Korhonen, P. (2002). Japan and the Pacific Free Trade Area. London: Routledge, p. 2 Google Scholar.

3 We cannot analyse in detail the evolution of pan-Asianism in Japan here. But see Oguma, E. (2007). ‘The postwar intellectuals’ view of Asia’, in Saaler, S. and Koschmann, J.V. Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History: Colonialism, regionalism and borders. London: Routledge, pp. 200212 Google Scholar. Oguma underlines the importance of the Vietnam War for the generation born after the post-war period in accelerating ‘the tendency to emphasizing the damage their elders had inflicted on Asia’.

4 For an outline of the war reparations issue, see Togo, K. (2010). Japan's Foreign Policy, 1945–2009: The quest for a proactive policy. Leiden: Brill, pp. 195197 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Olson, L. (1970). Japan in Postwar Asia. London: Pall Mall Press, pp. 1532 Google Scholar.

5 Japanese leaders often used the word ‘shidō’ meaning ‘guidance’ or ‘instructions’ in their speeches when referring to those countries they considered to be in need of trustworthy advice in many fields (agriculture, industrial, etc.). ‘Shidō’ perfectly translates the vertical relationship traditionally respected and cultivated in Japan, but was not accepted by its neighbours, who were frightened at the prospect of the rebirth of Japanese imperialism.

6 See Sudō, S. (2002). The International Relations of Japan and South East Asia: Forging a new regionalism. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 5761 Google Scholar. Other studies on post-war Japan's economic policy from 1950 to 1970 focus on the country's evolution from a labour-intensive and low-value-added consumer products economy to one with capital-intensive and higher value-added consumer products and capital good sectors. See, for example, Hirono, R. (2000). ‘Changing Japanese economic policy toward East Asia in the postwar period’, in Blechinger, V. and Legewie, J. Facing Asia-Japan's Role in the Political and Economic Dynamism of Regional Cooperation. Munchen: Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien der Philipp Franz von Siebold Stiftüng, pp. 147173 Google Scholar. See also Watanabe, A. (1995). Sengo Nihon no taigai seisaku. Tokyo: Yuhikaku, pp. 136140 Google Scholar and 286–289.

7 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) (5 November 1966). Résumé des points examinés lors de l'examen du Japon le jeudi 16 juin 1966 (Note du Secrétariat), OECD Library and Archives (hereafter OECD L&A), DAC/AR(66)1-5.

8 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretariat (20 July 1973). Briefing Note for the Secretary-General's Visit to Japan (2nd revision)—Development Assistance, OECD L&A, B 7529 SA2/02 06-01 (02) F 34280.

9 Sudō, S. (1992). The Fukuda Doctrine and ASEAN-New Dimensions in Japanese Foreign Policy. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 1317 Google Scholar.

10 Mendl, W. (1995). Japan's Asia Policy: Regional security and global interests. London: Routledge, pp. 195196 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 DAC (3 July 1973). Examen annuel de l'Aide 1973, Rapport du Secrétariat et questions sur l'effort et la politique d'aide au développement du Japon, OECD L&A, DAC/AR(73)3-21, pp. 16–18.

12 Some scholars analyse the birth of ASEAN from a different point of view: the evolution of pan-Asianism. Hatsuse Ryūhei argues that in Asia from the mid-1970s important internal dynamics of development were crystallized around ASEAN, bringing about the stabilisation of inter-state relationships. Thus, pan-Asianism was transformed from an impulse of opposition between the old centre represented by East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea) and the new centre based in Southeast Asia. See Hatsuse, R. (2007). ‘Pan-Asianism in international relations’, in Saaler, and Koschmann, Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History, pp. 226245 Google Scholar.

13 Severino, R.C. (2007). ASEAN Beyond Forty: Towards Political and Economic Integration, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 9:3, pp. 406423 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 Korhonen, Japan and the Pacific Free Trade Area, p. 44.

15 Diplomatic Bluebook No. 14, 1970. Tokyo: Gaimushō Jōhō Bunkakyoku.

16 Ōkita, S. (1970). Essays in Japan and Asia. Tokyo: The Japanese Economic Research Center, p. 72 Google Scholar.

17 Ajiakyoku (17 May 1970). Asian and Pacific Meeting on Cambodia. Gaimushō gaikō shiryōkan. Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (hereafter MOFA), CD-ROM 16, File No. 04-461.

18 Ajiakyoku daiikka (14 August 1970). Kita Etsu ni taisuru wagakuni no kihonteki shisaku (shiron). MOFA, CD-ROM 1, File No. 01.

19 See Hatano, S. and Satō, S. (2007). Gendai Nihon no Tōnan Ajia Seisaku 1950–2005. Tokyo: Waseda Shuppanbu, pp. 139147 Google Scholar. For an overview of Japan-North Vietnam normalization, see Tomoda, S. (1995). ‘Nichietsu gaikō kankei juritsu no keii to shomondai—Meisō no kiseki’, in daigaku, Ajia , Ajia kenkyūshō, Nihon to Ajia—Reisen o koete (1). Tokyo: Ajia daigaku kenkyūshō, pp. 93108 Google Scholar.

20 Watanabe, Sengo Nihon no taigai seisaku, p. 297.

21 Yamaoka, J. (2009). Tanaka Kakuei fūjirareta shigen senryaku: sekiyu, uran, soshite Amerika to no tatakai. Tokyo: Sōshisha, p. 138 Google Scholar.

22 Ajiakyoku keikakuka (December 1973). Ajia chiiki anzen. MOFA, File 2012-1483.

23 Ajiakyoku chiikiseisakuka (1974). Ajia to Nihon. MOFA, File 2012-1483.

24 See Wakatsuki, H. (2006). ‘Zenpōi gaikō’ no jidai—Reisen henyōki no Nihon to Ajia 1971–1980 nen. Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyōronsha, p. 72 Google Scholar.

25 Miyagi Taizō examines in depth the relationship between Japan and Southeast Asian countries, especially Indonesia, forsaking the traditional framework of the Cold War in favour of seeking a post-war place for Japan in international society, starting from the South Sea. See Miyagi, ‘Kaiyō kokka’ Nihon no sengoshi, passim.

26 Nakanishi, H. (2011). ‘Japanese diplomacy in the 1970s’, in Iokibe, M. The Diplomatic History of Postwar Japan. London: Routledge, pp. 125126 Google Scholar.

27 Ajiakyoku (13 January 1974). Sōri no hō I no Jakaruta jōsei. MOFA, File No. 2012-0433.

28 MOFA (18 November 1973). Indoneshia no gakusei demo (From Jakarta to Tokyo). MOFA, File No. 2012-0433.

29 Hagiwara, Y. (1983). ASEAN. Tōnan Ajia shokoku rengō. Tokyo: Yūhikaku, p. 158 Google Scholar.

30 Ajiakyoku (31 March 1973). Tōnan Ajia oyobi Kankoku ni okeru tainichi hihan mondai (II). Taisaku. MOFA, File No. 2010-0040.

31 In 1972 Tanaka wrote the bestseller Nihon rettō kaizōron, soon after translated into English as ‘Building a New Japan: Plan for Remodelling the Japanese Archipelago’, in which he discussed his strategy to strengthen the country.

32 Ajiakyoku (August 1974). Wagakuni no Ajia seisaku. MOFA, File No. 2012-1484.

33 Asahi Shinbun, 1 May 1975, p. 2.

34 Mikuriya, T. and Nakamura, T. (2005). Kikigaki Miyazawa Kiichi Kaikoroku. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, p. 121 Google Scholar.

35 Ajiakyoku (7 December 1975). Ajia Taiheiyō chiiki taishi kaigi tōgi shiryō (sono 1) Indoshina josei. MOFA, CD-ROM 3, File No. 01-1992-1.

36 Ajiakyoku (December 1975). Ajia Taiheiyō chiiki taishi kaigi tōgi shiryō (sono 2) ASEAN chiiki kankei. MOFA, CD-ROM 3, File No. 01-1992-1.

37 Diplomatic Bluebook No. 19, 1975. Tokyo: Gaimushō Jōhō Bunkakyoku.

38 Wakatsuki, ‘Zenpōi gaikō’ no jidai, p. 72.

39 For more information about ASEAN's feelings towards Japan, see Korhonen, Japan and the Pacific Free Trade Area, pp. 75–82.

40 Ajiakyoku (November 1976). 51 nendo ASEAN chiiki taishi kaigi tōgi shiryō 1. Tai tōnan Ajia seisaku (an). MOFA, CD-ROM 6, File No. 02-921-2.

41 Ibid.

42 The role played by the working group has been examined in Sudō, The Fukuda Doctrine and ASEAN, pp. 155–157. Sudō as well as other scholars, emphasizes the existence of a common perspective and, at the same time, the contribution of each member of the group. For example, Nakae and Nishiyama agreed on Japan's political role in the post-Vietnam era and Owada suggested that the best way to explain the new Japanese policy was to present a meaningful rhetorical doctrine, instead of issuing a separate communiqué in each country. Moreover, the famous catchphrase ‘heart-to-heart relationship’ was coined by Tanino.

43 Ajiakyoku (5 July 1977). Wagakuni no tōnan Ajia seisaku. Tōnan Ajia shokoku to no kyōryoku to rentai o mezashite (Fukuda roku gensoku). MOFA, CD-ROM 6, File No. 02-921-04.

44 Wakatsuki, ‘Zenpōi gaikō’ no jidai, pp. 168–169.

45 Owada, H. (2002). Japan-ASEAN Relations in East Asia. Singapore: Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Embassy of Japan in Singapore Google Scholar; available at: www.jiia/report/owada/singapore.html, [accessed 12 February 2013].

46 Ajiakyoku (14 July 1977). Tai ASEAN gaikō suishin no igi. MOFA, File No. 2011-0344.

47 Ochi, M. (1973). Chichi Fukuda Takeo. Tokyo: Sankei Bijinsu, p. 98 Google Scholar.

48 Fukuda, T. (1995). Kaiko kyūjū nen. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, pp. 281285 Google Scholar.

49 Telegram No. 1815 from Jakarta to Tokyo (20 August 1977). MOFA, File No. 2011-0344.

50 Soeya, Y. and Murata, K. (1996). Interview with Nakae Yosuke, George Washington University:, [accessed 9 February 2016].

51 Edamura himself recalls that, in his view, the core idea was the ‘recognition of the importance of ASEAN as a viable organisation’, and that the coexistence with Indochina was ‘no more than a proviso added to reassure the Indochinese countries that Tokyo's support for ASEAN does not mean a hostile attitude towards them’. In short, the search for peaceful coexistence with Indochina to achieve stability in Southeast Asia was a medium- and long-term objective for Japan, but it needed to be announced immediately in order to make the Fukuda Doctrine (i.e. the new Japan's foreign policy) as broad as possible. See Edamura, S. (2013). ‘The Fukuda doctrine: diplomacy with a vision’, in Lam, P.E. Japan's Relations with Southeast Asia—The Fukuda Doctrine and Beyond. London: Routledge, pp. 27 Google Scholar.

52 Ibid., p. 35.

53 Fukuda, Kaiko, p. 271.

54 Kōno, M. (1999). In Search of Proactive Diplomacy: Increasing Japan's international role in the 1990s. Brookings Institution:, [accessed 9 February 2016].

55 Ajiakyoku (July 1977). Mareshia no kangaekata. MOFA, File No. 2011-0723.

56 See, for example, Soeya, Y. (1993). ‘Japan's policy towards Southeast Asia—anatomy of “autonomous diplomacy” and the American factor’, in Chandran, J. China, India, Japan and the Security of Southeast Asia. Singapore: ISEAS Google Scholar, p. 96.

57 Yahuda, M. (2004). The International Politics of the Asia-Pacific. London: Routledge Curzon, p. 198 Google Scholar.

58 Nishiyama, T. (1992). Nishiyama Takehiko ikō tsuitōbun shū. Tokyo: private publishing, p. 98 Google Scholar.

59 Ibid.

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