as a partner for strengthening a values and rules-based world order
01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas
RELEVANCE: What relevance does Japan have for Germany in terms of bolstering the values-based and rule-based world order?
Japan is one of Germany’s most important partners in values in the Asia-Pacific region. The two countries are closely linked, politically, economically and societally. In addition to their desire to work together to maintain and refine the multilateral, rule-based order, they hope to work even more closely together at a security policy level. Among the most important multilateral forums for cooperation with Japan, in addition to the G7 and G20, are the United Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and also (with Japan as a Partner for Cooperation) the OSCE and NATO.
In 2020, the German government approved its Indo-Pacific Guidelines, which were instrumental in setting the course for German foreign policy in a region of growing geopolitical importance. Intensifying cooperation with Japan is a key element of this strategy.
In view of the many threat situations in the Indo-Pacific region, whose political, economic and humanitarian repercussions would potentially spread as far as Europe, interaction at an institutional level is in both countries’ interests. Regular inter-governmental consultations will be held in future as a result.
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is a current illustration of how important trusting and values-based partnerships are in terms of ensuring robust responses. Together with the G7 countries, Japan and Germany are the pillars supporting sanctions, humanitarian aid, and also the supply of protective equipment and weapons to Ukraine. Given their own war histories, both countries have a particular responsibility to make an active contribution toward peace, disarmament and rapprochement.
WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Japan willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?
In times of increasing geopolitical uncertainties, Japan bases its security and defence policy on three pillars: Diplomacy, its bilateral security partnership with the US, and a reform of its Self-Defence Forces aimed at credible deterrence, a rapid response capability and a highly networked structure. Japan’s pursuit of these objectives is doubly restricted by a strongly pacifist security and defence policy, but it aims to increase its defence budget to more than two percent of GDP nonetheless. As an island nation that is highly industrialised but short on raw materials, and dependent on exports for its added value, Japan fundamentally relies on open seaways.
Top of the list of Japan’s perceived threats is therefore the military expansion by the People’s Republic of China in the East China and South China Seas, especially given the highly non-transparent nature of China’s military strategy, the country’s constantly growing defence budget, and the technological advances it has made in recent years in electronic warfare. A second serious threat to Japan is the active expansion of North Korea’s missile programmes, and a third relates to increasing Russian military activity on Japan’s northern periphery. Russia has postponed negotiations on a peace treaty with Japan indefinitely. The territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands is thus highly topical. And that is not all: Russia has announced it intends to occupy and develop part of the islands. The entire area around the South and East China Seas is thus a potential source of military conflicts.
For these reasons Japan is heavily dependent on reliable security and alliance-based partnerships. In addition to its close defence-policy collaborations with the US and Australia, the EU – and thus also Germany – is increasingly on Japan’s radar. In its Indo-Pacific Guidelines, Germany put itself forward as a key partner. This was followed by the first 2+2 discussions between Japan and Germany, and the frigate ‘Bayern’ was sent for joint manoeuvres and to monitor UN sanctions against North Korea. A start has therefore been made on both sides toward increased cooperation. In addition, during the 2+2 talks, Japan expressed a desire to include Germany in future naval manoeuvres.
In March 2021, Japan and Germany also signed the Japanese-German Agreement on the Security of Information. This agreement enables confidential information to be shared between authorities and businesses in the two partner countries. It also allows for enhanced cooperation in defence technology and in questions of space and cyberspace.
STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Japan's current cooperation in this area?
Germany and Japan still lack high-level institutional formats. The 2+2 talks have been held only once thus far, but government consultations at a ministerial level have only been considered at this stage. The trip by the German Chancellor to Japan in April 2022 showed that Japan is high on Germany’s foreign-policy agenda. Japan will now observe very closely the level of determination shown by the new German government in pursuing its promising initiatives. The Russian aggression against Ukraine illustrates the value of reliable, values-based partnerships. The “new era” that has been proclaimed in Germany can only start in collaboration with other strong, like-minded nations.
Clear parameters and goals for cooperation, separate from those of the Indo-Pacific Guidelines, have been put in place in the form of the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between Japan and the EU, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Connectivity Partnership. The process of implementing these agreements, however, is still only in its initial stages, partly owing to Covid-19.
POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Japan in this area?
There is major potential for Japan in this area, and also a need, considering the threat scenarios discussed above. Both countries meet the preconditions for a more in-depth relationship in the form of Declarations of Intent and the agreements that have been concluded. In addition, the Merkel cabinet set the course for German commitment in the Indo-Pacific region with the Indo-Pacific Guidelines. Japan expects the new federal government to continue its key role in the Indo-Pacific. From Japan’s perspective, both countries have a special position in the free world, and Japan is prepared to enter into a stronger bilateral relationship.
In addition to Russia, China also poses a growing challenge for both Japan and Germany. The economic interrelationships between both export-driven economies and China are comparably close, and comparably awkward if regional conflicts were to arise. “Decoupling” is a goal for both Japan and Germany in equal measure. The security policy exigencies therefore go hand in hand with opportunities for greater economic cooperation. Both countries have committed to sustainability and climate-neutrality and are performing in-depth research into alternative, green forms of energy, and can – for example – successfully compete with China’s power of innovation only by working together. At an economic strategy level, too, Japan is becoming an important partner in efforts to better offset disruptions in the supply chains for key technologies.
The Indo-Pacific Guidelines are expressly designed for broad-based cooperation, in the areas of digitalisation, networking, cyber, and also visionary, future-oriented technologies, for example.
POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?
Political and economic developments in Asia are the drivers of growth, well-being and progress for us all. As the continent holding the most promise for the future, Asia should therefore occupy an even stronger position in Germany’s foreign, security and economic policy. Germany, and also the EU, are competing with China, the US, Australia and India for trade agreements, talents, innovation and investments. Although the Indo-Pacific Guidelines take account of these factors, now is the time to underpin them with specific, long-term projects.
And to be relevant to Japan as a security partner, Germany needs to feel a genuine sense of obligation toward the Indo-Pacific region. Specific areas within a very broad-based strategy should be prioritised, and regular interaction with a range of players at various levels should be initiated. The paradigm shift in defence policy in Germany was very positively received in Japan. Thus, for example, upgrading the Bundeswehr, boosting the defence budget and the plans for energy independence are definitely blueprints for Japan, where they are being very positively received. This is where it pays to have closely dovetailed interaction between the relevant government departments and offers of discussions with Japan.
Ultimately, both Japan and Germany are medium-sized powers with a degree of influence, although not decisive influence, on global developments. Both countries attribute their success to a strategic (and also pragmatic) balancing of interests and objectives between various partners. In times of systemic rivalries and growing bipolarisation, strategic collaboration between medium-sized powers is all the more important. The quality of the transatlantic relationship can improve or worsen in future, depending on who is President. The pragmatic relationship with China could take a sudden turn if Taiwan is made a province of China by force. Germany – ideally together with Japan, its partner in values – must deal with these consequences in specific terms, acknowledge its own leadership responsibilities within Europe and do them justice.
Rabea Brauer heads the KAS Country Programme Japan and the Regional Programme “Social Economic Policies” in Asia, based in Tokyo.
02 — Foreign Office
Foreign Office Japan / Social and Economic Governance Programme Asia
OAG Haus 4F, 7-5-56 Akasaka
Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107-0052
04 — The region
Asia and the Pacific
Taiwan has developed into a leading market-economy power for prosperity and innovation in the Indo-Pacific region. Taiwan’s semiconductor manufacturers, led by global market leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), have a global market share in the foundry market of 67 percent (2020) and are irreplaceable as chip suppliers for German industry in the medium term. Taiwan’s added value, like Germany’s, is driven by foreign trade.
- Population: 23.900.000
- Capital: Taipeh
Today, climate protection is an integral part of German foreign policy. In this context, Germany considers China’s role in international climate policy to be particularly important. China is both the world’s largest emitter of CO2 and largest consumer of coal. On the other hand, China’s expansion of renewable energies is unrivalled anywhere else in the world. If China succeeds in rapidly driving forward the energy transition it has already initiated, this will not only directly impact the global CO2 balance sheet but will also have a signal effect on other countries. Cooperation with China on environmental and climate policy thus helps protect global public assets.
- Population: 1.450.233.966
- Capital: Peking
For Germany, Japan is one of the most important partners in Asia, in terms of economic relations and common values. In addition to the determination to maintain and enhance the multilateral order together, there is also the desire for closer cooperation in future technologies. Japan and Germany face similar challenges, particularly with regard to the future of manufacturing and the demographic development of their societies.
- Population: 126.476.461
- Capital: Tokyo
Since the end of 2016, Uzbekistan has been pursuing a course of liberalisation and opening. Comprehensive five-year development strategies are being implemented, including reform plans for security policy and foreign policy. Uzbekistan pursues a multilateral and proactive foreign policy.
- Population: 34.437.655
- Capital: Taschkent
Pakistan is a country of origin, a destination, and a transit country for those fleeing or migrating. In its region, Pakistan is one of the largest countries of origin for migrant workers, the great majority of whom (96 percent) are concentrated in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
- Population: 229.545.115
- Capital: Islamabad
Japan is one of Germany’s most important partners in values in the Asia-Pacific region. The two countries are closely linked, politically, economically and societally. In addition to their desire to work together to maintain and refine the multilateral, rule-based order, they hope to work even more closely together at a security policy level.
- Population: 126,476,461
- Capital: Tokyo
Germany has a vital interest in maintaining and consolidating a world order based on the values of liberal democracy and on the centrality of the United Nations (UN). Given the USA’s global withdrawal, which the coronavirus pandemic has made even more evident, Germany needs to pursue this goal together with other international partners. With the Indo-Pacific Guidelines that were released in September 2020, the Federal Government expressly commits itself to this task in the region that is taking centre stage in the 21st century. India’s importance can hardly be overestimated in this respect: India is already the largest democracy in the world, and within the 2020s, it will replace China as the most populous country. Like Germany, the subcontinent at the Indo-Pacific interface is dependent on a solid security structure, an open trading system, and free navigation in international waters. India is especially severely affected by the consequences of global warming due to its vulnerable ecosystems and is reliant on multilateral approaches to solve this global problem.
- Population: 1,380,004,385
- Capital: New Delhi
When the Partner Atlas was first developed (2019), Afghanistan was chosen as the fifth country of the region Asia and Pacific. The seizure of power by the Taliban in the summer of 2021, however, makes it currently impossible to think about deepening cooperation with the new government in the area of migration.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation will keep working on Afghanistan within the framework of its regional programme on Southwest Asia. Please visit the website of the Department Asia and Pacific (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung – Europäische und Internationale Zusammenarbeit (kas.de)) as well as our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for the latest information and analyses.
- Population: 38,928,346
- Capital: Kabul
Pursuing a multi-vector policy, the country’s leadership has built close economic and political ties to its big neighbours Russia and China, but also to the US and the European Union as well as to the Arab world, Turkey, South Corea, Iran and others. By now, Kazakhstan has also established diplomatic relations to many countries in Africa and South America. For Kazakhstan, there is no alternative to its multi-vector policy, especially in light of the current war in Ukraine.
- Population: appr. 19 million
- Capital: Nur-Sultan
Vietnam is one of the few communist countries. A “socialist-oriented market economy” determines the country’s economic status, the communist party vigorously enforces its claim to total power, and the country is subject to fierce criticism in reports on human rights. At the same time, more than three decades of economic growth and political stability have led to Vietnam establishing itself as an influential player in Southeast Asia.
- Population: 95,529,003
- Capital: Hanoi