More on Japan and Central Asia

by Joshua Foust on 8/28/2006 · 2 comments

To follow up on Nathan’s report on Japan’s increasing involvement in Central Asia: Japan has started an exchange program with university students in Kazakhstan. Over the next few years, several thousand Kazakhstani students will be brought to Japan to study. This comes on the heels of Kazakhstan officially endorsing Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

I share Nathan’s belief that Japan’s increasing involvement in the region is both a play for additional leverage, and ultimately positive for American interests. Historically, friendly third parties can have a greater impact than all the good intentions (assuming there are many) from determined but wary countries. Plus, when even the Chechens think the U.S. is rapidly losing the influence game to Russia, something they certainly do not want to see, it might be time to switch tactics. Having Japan act as the bulwark of Western influence would ultimately give U.S. diplomats and businesses a better time of things.

Of course, as has become a tired refrain, don’t expect Russia to take all of this lying down. Good money says Moscow is formulating a response. Seeing as to how Russia has stolen Saudi Arabia’s crown as the world’s leading oil supplier, I suspect it will involve energy rights and transport in some way.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Brian II September 3, 2006 at 11:58 pm

NYT Sunday September 2

“The one issue that roused China to fury was Japan’s bid for permanent membership on the Security Council. China’s all-hands-on-deck mobilization was a reminder that propriety goes out the window on matters China deems to be of national interest, just as had been the case a decade earlier when it openly tried to kill peacekeeping missions in Guatemala, Haiti and Macedonia to punish those countries for their dealings with Taiwan. The merits were plainly not on China’s side. No other country so self-evidently belongs on the council as Japan, which pays 19 percent of the U.N.’s budget, slightly below the U.S. assessment. (China pays 2 percent, and Russia 1 percent.) But Japan is China’s chief competitor in Asia, as well as America’s staunchest ally in the region.”

It seems that movements toward Japan by UZ/KZ suggest:
– More clarity on the definition of the economic/strategic power ‘bloc’ – Central Asia + Russia; or
– KZ and UZ believe what most Americans do, that the UN is a useless organization, hence they don’t ‘burn any capital’ facing down China; or
– As Sean Roberts pointed out, the fear of China overwhelming Central Asia is still quite tangible and much more credible than the non-plussed, Neville Chamberlain-esque bloviations of Martha Brill Olcott.

Counterbalance in the form of Japan’s UN Security Membership…probably (in the long run) will push SCO away from strategic security (ie, NATO-type-prototype) alliance, and squarely into the economic sphere. And Japan as a proxy/bridge for the US (not Europe) will seeminlgy be the extent of the US ‘voice’ in UZ.

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