This panel enriches the fields of Foreign Policy Analysis and Japan's policy-making and argues that political leadership and professionalized input by military officials, PR strategists and an increasingly politicized decision-making system account for change in Japan's foreign and defense policy.
East Asia's rapidly deteriorating security environment has fuelled Japan's insecurity. The Abe Shinzō administration, in particular, has forcefully responded to the challenges posed by North Korea and an assertive China through important change in Japan's national security system. This project engages with the wider implications of such a change by tracking the evolution of three distinct aspects of Japan's foreign and security policy-making: the conduct of diplomacy in tandem with PR objectives, Japan's strategic arms export policy, and civil-military relations within the Ministry of Defense. By enriching the study of Japan's policy-making and the broader field of Foreign Policy Analysis, this panel argues that, along with systemic factors at the international level, political leadership and professionalized input by military officials or key strategists accounts for change in Japan's foreign and defense policy. It focuses on recent Japanese administrations as case studies, especially the sitting Abe government and its important reforms in security and diplomatic practice. In so doing, this panel gauges the growing impact of the Kantei, the Prime Minister's Office, in foreign and defense policy-making to measure the growing "presidentialization" of Japanese decision-making, an under-researched and highly topical aspect of Japanese politics. This panel is multi-disciplinary in spirit, also in terms of methodologies adopted: it will combine traditional Political Science approaches with narrative accounts that are closer to political history. As understood by diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, historical narratives qualify as a useful common ground with Political Science's process-tracing 'to extract generalities from unique sequences of events.' Lastly, the panel makes active use of primary sources, including newspaper articles, official documentation, leaked State Department cables and elite interviews. This work is the culmination of the authors' recent, extensive fieldwork experiences in Japan. Each panel presentation sheds light on new thinking on Japanese diplomatic and security practice, while presenting new empirical evidence on topical matters, such as Sino-Japan and Japan-Russia relations, Japan's security activism, and the role of the military in policy-making.