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Koizumi Diplomacy: Japan's Kantei Approach to Foreign and Defense Affairs
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Manufacturer: University of Washington Press
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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 327.520090511
EAN: 9780295986999
ISBN: 0295986999
Label: University of Washington Press
Manufacturer: University of Washington Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 216
Publication Date: 2007-04-15
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Studio: University of Washington Press

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Japan's policymaking strategy in foreign and defense affairs changed dramatically in 2001 after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took the helm of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Following a series of bland and short-lived prime ministers, Koizumi's infusion of fresh energy into a tired and opaque party has been compared with Tony Blair's successful revamping of New Labour in the U.K. Koizumi, however, had a weak power base in the party and limited diplomatic experience. How, then, was he able to exercise leadership? Tomohito Shinoda analyzes the prime minister's role in policymaking, focusing on the assistance he receives from the Kantei, or Cabinet Secretariat, the Japanese equivalent of the American president's White House cabinet. Since 2001, the Japanese government's center of gravity for foreign policy has shifted from the traditionally dominant Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Kantei, which allowed Koizumi to exercise a top-down style of decision making. Following another decisive win in the election of 2005, he took an even more assertive leadership role in Asian diplomacy. Through case studies and personal interviews with former prime ministers and cabinet secretaries, Shinoda looks at how Koizumi's new system operates on a practical level - how, for example, major post-2001 anti-terrorism legislation has been initiated and prepared by the Kantei-and compares its successes and failures with those of the U.S. system. With frank and engaging commentary by former officials, this book makes a unique contribution to the understanding of contemporary Japanese political affairs.

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Summary: The House That Koizumi Built
Comment: Koizumi Diplomacy is a thoroughly revised edition of a book that the author published in Japanese in 2004 under the title: Kantei Gaiko, or Kantei Diplomacy. This original version had a book cover showing the Kantei, the newly-build official residence of the prime minister which, by extension, designates the Cabinet Secretariat working with the prime minister as its head. The English edition personifies the title with the name of the character that occupied the Kantei from 2001 to 2006 and represents on its book cover the recognizable silhouette of the individual that foreign media invariably associated with the expressions 'maverick', 'lone wolf' or 'cool haircut'.

The noticeable shift between the Japanese and English editions from building to silhouette, from institution to person, is a testimony to the personification of power at the top that Koizumi achieved. No other Japanese prime minister could ever have been recognized by a foreign audience based simply on a shadow profile. It also illustrates the fact that the Kantei still has to achieve the same immediate recognition and brand image that one associated with the White House, 10, Downing Street or the Elysee Palace.

People usually consider that diplomacy is best handled by diplomats and that a country's ministry of foreign affairs, known in Japan as the Gaimusho or MOFA, is in charge of conducting foreign relations with other parts of the world. At the same time, people acknowledge that when vital interests are at stake, there is a need for leadership that can only be fulfilled by a head of state or a prime minister. There is a difference however between leader's diplomacy (Shuno Gaiko in Japanese) and the style of diplomacy that developed under Koizumi and that the author defines as Kantei diplomacy or "a phenomenon in which the Cabinet Secretariat offers institutional support as a core executive for political decisions and policy-making coordination that MOFA cannot provide."

Kantei diplomacy finds its origins in the involvement of the prime minister in international trade issues for which neither the MOFA nor the MITI could provide a clear sense of direction. It is characterized by a top-down process of decision making that usually evolves around a great pair formed by the prime minister and one of his aides: Nakasone and his chief cabinet secretary Masaru Gotoda, or the Takeshita cabinet with Ichiro Ozawa playing the role of chief negotiator and deal maker. The stories of Nakasone's visit to South Korea, where he received a cold welcome but managed to melt the ice before his farewell, or his first meeting with Ronald Reagan, where he declined the invitation to talk about beef and oranges and had a free discussion on global issues instead, are especially worthwhile.

The 1990 Gulf crisis and Iraq war proved a traumatic experience. Although Japan was one of the largest contributors, providing $13 billion in financial support, critics disparaged its effort as "checkbook diplomacy" and brought home the importance of sharing the burden with blood, sweat and tears, and not just with money. Major disasters such as the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 and the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on that same year were also badly managed. The reforms introduced by Hashimoto in 1996 laid the groundwork that allowed the Kantei to function as a 'core executive' leading the policy making process from the top down. The revised Cabinet Law allowed the Kantei to initiate policies by clearly providing the authority to plan and draft concrete law proposals.

Junichiro Koizumi was the first prime minister to use the empowered Kantei in full swing, especially on foreign and security issues. There certainly was a personal element in the way he decided to align with the US after 9/11, gambled the liberation of abductees by the North Korean regime, or passed a legislation which allowed Japan's Self Defense Forces to offer humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Iraq. Intriguingly, his top-down style of leadership also came from a position of relative weakness. Lacking a strong support base in the Liberal Democratic Party and distrustful of bureaucrats, he bypassed the traditional, bottom-up decision making process to seek approval from other parties which were minor partners in the coalition, or to appeal directly to the public who tended to plebiscite him.

The strong hand of the Kantei in diplomatic issues also came from the difficulties that MOFA experienced at that time. The foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka, was at war with her administration. The ministry was also badly hit by scandals, and hadn't fully recovered from its mishandling of the 1990 Gulf crisis. Lastly, there was an element of chance: it just happened that when the US was hit by the terrorists attacks a task force of able administrators was already working on a piece of emergency legislation from a prefab building near the Kantei, and the team was able to finalize an anti-terrorism legislation within three weeks. The same inter-agency teamwork was also used for subsequent pieces of legislation.

Based on interviews with key actors as well as on a firm theoretical framework, this book offers a fine balance of scholarship and testimony, of historical background and detailed case studies. It concludes with a discussion on the merits and drawbacks of Kantei diplomacy, arguing that a stronger leadership also provides more democratic accountability. To those who argue that diplomacy is too complicated for the ordinary citizen to understand and should be delegated to professional experts, the author replies that "the prime minister is in a much more appropriate position than any MOFA official to explain important foreign-policy decisions to the public." The lessons drawn from Japan's Kantei approach to foreign and defense affairs should be meditated by all readers interested in foreign policy.

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