Country Report: Japan (December 2015)

The September 28 Yomiuri Shimbun argued that anti-Americanism is the crux of the opposition to the new law on collective self-defense. Reviewing a book by Miura Ruri (juxtaposing it to Hosoya Yuichi’s writing on internationalism), it credits Abe with the achievement of overcoming grassroots anti-American thinking both in leftist pacifism and in rightist anti-globalism. Deep-rooted xenophobia manifests itself as anti-war smugness, it asserts, charging that such thinking overlooks such new phenomena as the Islamic State and the changing technical demands of war, which put a premium on command and information systems. No mention is made of Abe’s ambivalence about historical symbols of internationalism in this effusive embrace of what he has accomplished in the face of deep-seated obstacles at home.


On October 4 in Yomiuri, Hosoya Yuichi looked back at the heated debates inside Japan over the summer at a time when, he argued, a calmer discussion had, at last, become possible. As Abe had said at the start of 2015, the outcome would determine what kind of a country Japan would seek to be and what kind of contributions to the world it would make. It would be the start of new nation building. When the most conservative Prime Minister Abe affirmed the statement of the most progressive one in postwar history Murayama, Hosoya concluded it meant that Japan would contribute to international society reflecting on its history and as a peace state; but even more difficult was the question of security. In the postwar era, the political axis was split ideologically on this, and the old socialist stance was resumed by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) this year. While the seventieth anniversary was on people’s minds, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Cold War tested national identity on more than history, after Japanese had clashed over values during the interval. Globalization has intensified cross-border security threats and made multilateral cooperation indispensable for the maintenance of peace, Hosoya ventures. Under this wave, each country has had to change the essence of its security policies; yet it took Japan a full quarter century to make this switch, e.g., ISIS requires a different response from international society than in the Cold War. With new security laws, Japan has softened its value conflicts and increased its role in international society. In contrast to its misunderstanding of pre-war internationalism, it has adapted to the post Cold War reality and can now occupy an honored place in international society. Without international cooperation, Japan cannot maintain its own security and peace, Hosoya concludes optimistically.


Japanese media conveyed an impression of troubled US summits that reinforce the need for close US-Japan relations. The Obama-Xi and Obama-Park summits seemed to find Obama applying more pressure—unlike in earlier meetings with these two leaders—on matters of central Japanese concern. Only on Russia was there discord in Japanese-US relations, according to many articles, insisting, for the most part, that a clash of national interests was occurring over the priority of threats from Moscow and Beijing and over Japan’s specific focus on regaining territory. Little notice was given to the US perspectives that Abe as well as Park needs to do more to improve this bilateral relationship and that splitting Russia from China and regaining islands without paying a hefty price—breaking G-7 unity in the process—are only illusions.


Conservatives in Japan were generally ecstatic over developments, crediting Abe’s leadership. In Sankei’s Seiron on October 20, Abe’s achievements were listed as long-sought educational reform, agricultural reform combined with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), establishment of the National Security Council (NSC) as well as setting a long-term course for foreign policy with the United States and China, breaking a pattern of balance between right and left in the Liberal Democratic Part (LDP) that had left Japan with an unsteady direction and officials waiting out one leader in anticipation of an early replacement. Not only in the LDP, leftists have been routed in the opposition, turning that to the right too. On historical consciousness, South Korea and China have lost their impact on Japan, the article concludes, expecting the legacy of Abe to be long lasting, given his transformative impact on Japan’s politics. Yet, some conservatives remained angry over compromises in the Abe statement. Ito Takashi and Nakanishi Terumasa blamed Kitaoka Shinichi, foreign ministry figures, and historians for the acknowledgement of Japan’s “aggression.” Only two—the choices of the prime minister’s office—of the sixteen on the commission had been opposed. Similarly, readers are informed, Kitaoka steered the joint history textbook with China in 2006-2010 in many ways the author finds unacceptable. Using the word “traitors” and singling out China hands, the article demands that history be removed from the worldview of the victor countries. This Sankei piece also blames Yomiuri, seen as close to Kitaoka, confirming the split in the conservative movement.


A common conservative refrain is that Obama is weak with his non-interventionism, letting the world descend into chaos, while Abe is strong, Japan’s diplomatic “brain”; Obama must face the world’s gravest threat by working closely with him. In the November issue of Bungei Shunju, Miyake Kunihiko asserted that all are awaiting a new US leader, but not the extreme rightist Trump nor the extreme leftist Sanders. As China strives to revive a sinocentric order and expel the United States, without respecting modern international law, shared interests compel Japan and the United States to isolate China and establish a wide-ranging regional alliance system.


In writing about the TPP agreement, Yomiuri on October 10 argued that Obama began to soften the US line in April 2014 from zero tariffs, and Japan, in response, began to give on its five special items, followed by a Tokyo sushi parlor exchange where Obama and Abe went further. There was still rough sailing ahead, as Tokyo protected agriculture and Washington countered with auto parts protection. A low point occurred in September when the trade representatives had a tough exchange, Amari showing anger over Froman’s rigidity. With Democratic losses in the fall elections, the pace of talks accelerated. Finally, when trade promotion authority (TPA) was approved, a quick result was anticipated, but New Zealand’s push on dairy products interfered. With China’s establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as further impetus and then Xi’s visit to Washington, the final push occurred, Obama yielding both on auto parts and on the duration of property rights protection. The article sees China’s shadow in allowing for the deal.



The October issue of Sentaku bluntly discussed US dissatisfaction with Abe’s policy toward Russia. It noted that, in contrast to the past, Japan’s response to Medvedev’s visit to the “Northern Territories” as well as the visits within the next two weeks of the agricultural and transportation ministers led only to a telephone call to the ambassador of Russia in Japan, not to recall of Japan’s ambassador in Russia. It also speculated that beneath the surface Yachi Shotaro is conducting talks while Foreign Minister Kishida on September 21 met for about four hours with Sergei Lavrov, including about an hour on the territorial issue, despite Lavrov’s denial that the theme was raised. Citing a State Department briefing asking Japan to proceed carefully with Russia in its international isolation, the article reveals a sharp gap between allies. Despite some Japanese restraint in acknowledging this problem, it persisted as a thorn in the side of relations unresolved in the Obama-Abe summit.


Yomiuri continued to back talks with Russia, stressing their potential to break the territorial deadlock. There was an air of unreality to its reporting about the first-name bonding between Abe and Putin, the downplaying of Russian tough rhetoric as if it were only for domestic consumption, and the minimization of the effects of persistent US pressure on Japan. On September 30, reporting on the shift back to Gromyko rhetoric by Russia’s chief negotiator Morgulov, i.e., the territorial issue was resolved 70 years ago, Yomiuri recognized the hard line and asserted that there is no necessity for Putin to come to Japan before year’s end. However, it still praised the trust between Abe and Putin and urged proceeding by building a foundation in economic relations. Japanese did not seem able to take “no” for an answer on what consumed their quest for a breakthrough—the return of territory. In contrast, Asahi on September 25 concluded that Japan, while still keeping “pipes” to Russia going and looking for energy diversification and a security order in Northeast Asia, should take a long-term view, while legitimizing its voice in international society and standing for the principle of not recognizing the use of force to change the status quo, as has been done by Russia in Ukraine. Yet, as seen in an October 15 article, Asahi saw an opening in Russia’s isolation and the weakening of Obama’s leadership as a lame duck president plus Russia’s desire for both energy exports and investment in its Far East and Siberia. It too saw a way forward with Putin on the territorial issue.


Historical memory flared in Japan-Russia relations. Sankei reported on November 24 that Japan and Russia were quarreling over the records of UNESCO and how to refer to Japanese held by the Soviet Union after September 1945—prisoners of war or prisoners taken after the end of the war. Similarly, reports had discussed whether the islands were taken during the war in accord with international agreements, as Russia insists, or after the war ended in violation of existing principles, Japan’s view.


Central Asia

Prime Minister Abe’s travel around Central Asia in late October drew media attention. Sankei Shimbun on October 26 pointed to substantial official development assistance (ODA) offered to Uzbekistan with China and Russia in mind, especially China’s effort to forge a vast economic zone in Central Asia. Abe in Tashkent also laid flowers at the grave of Japanese POWs, who had been sent there after WWII and attended a concert at a theater built by them. An October 24 article in Asahi Shimbun focused on economic diplomacy and the 50 companies and groups whose representatives were traveling with Abe. It noted that Turkmenistan is fourth in the world in natural gas deposits, but has been slow in building infrastructure. Explaining that China’s presence is driving Japan’s interest, it warned that after the September 3 parade in Beijing, which some Central Asian leaders had attended, it is not easy for Japan to make its presence felt as a force for development in this region. Yomiuri on October 26 referred to the countries visited, including Mongolia, as pro-Japan (shinnichi), but pointed to China’s rapid advances and the prospect of the AIIB supporting the east-west continental plan of China and China becoming the master of Central Asia. Also noted was Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) along with the idea that if there is increased investment by Japan and trade, dependence on China and Russia can be diminished. Coverage of the aspirations linked to Abe’s meetings was bereft of: the limits of Japan’s means, the problems facing the region as commodity prices fall, and the danger of further problems of instability. Articles verged on boosterism rather than real analysis.


In Sankei’s Seiron on October 23, Hakamada Shigeki strongly urged readers to grasp the importance of Central Asia, where Japanese leaders had not visited in nine years. He said that Russia at first had opposed China’s Silk Road concept, but, lacking the economic means to resist it, is trying to coexist with China. Even so, Hakamada sees a Sino-Russian power struggle ahead with Europe and the United States drawn into it by Central Asian states. These states oppose Russia establishing new, Soviet-type control, more so after the Crimean annexation. Hakamada details serious problems that they face. He mentions their overall pro-Japan attitudes and eagerness for ODA and foreign direct investment (FDI) from Japan, and Japan’s interest in energy, rare metals, and uranium. Yet, he warns of a bad investment climate, limited markets, as well as the restraining effects of Japan’s economic stagnation, noting that as China has risen, interest in Japan has cooled, while its presence has gone less noticed. Now, however, growing alarm over China and Russia has raised expectations for Japan again, making Abe’s visits timely. Hakamada concludes with what Japan should do next: deeply understand the area’s problems; and cooperate on stability, economics, and democracy and human rights in a context of the world being shaken by the West versus Russia paradigm. This response befits a Japan that speaks out more to the world, beginning with China and Russia, he adds.


North Korea

Warming relations between Beijing and Pyongyang were showcased in coverage of North Korea’s seventieth anniversary parade on October 10. The next day newspapers did not diverge greatly in pointing to this trend. Sankei gave the most stress to this. For Asahi, China is mixing soft and hard policies toward the North, and with this softer turn it is hoping for economic reforms that will benefit its three Northeast provinces as they face new economic troubles. Yomiuri explained that China is insisting on no nuclear tests, while also seeking to sustain relations to use as a “card” against the United States. Clearly, Sankei is most concerned about closer Sino-DPRK relations, while Yomiuri on October 12 stressed that Kim Jong-un seeks to improve his image, especially in his talk that day, restraining criticism of both Washington and Seoul.


Sankei on October 18 made clear that among the countries involved in the Six-Party Talks the existence of sharp gaps on foreign and security policy interferes with cooperation on North Korea. On the long list of gaps, it included US concern about closer Sino-ROK relations as well as the territorial and historical problems in Japanese-ROK relations. Doubting Obama’s words with Park about the positive state of US-ROK relations, it pointed to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and also to differences in whether they see Russia as helpful on the Korean Peninsula. (Park mentioned Russia twice; Obama omitted it.) It added that Russia is going forward with a plan to deliver surplus electricity to North Korea from the Russian Far East. Sankei on September 30 also charged that Japan’s sanctions are being violated by massive shipments of North Korean matsutake mushrooms labeled as Chinese from Jilin province. It blamed the pro-North Korean groups in Japan and Japanese companies, warning that this was harming the pressure to get abductees back, while also supporting both the North’s military programs and luxury goods for the North Korean elite.


With Japan back in the Security Council, Sankei urged it—against the vetoes of China and Russia—to press for action on North Korea’s human rights violations and on the abductee issue. On October 26, this message stressed raising international opinion about them as well as expanding the Security Council and abolishing the veto. Also appealing for such reform was Yomiuri on October 25—the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations—, justifying Japan’s case as the second biggest financial contributor and a peacekeeping operations (PKO) participant and explaining that this was no longer an organization of victors in WWII. It bemoaned the Security Council’s inaction in the face of Russian and Chinese use of force to change the existing situation, but it did not just blame those countries for standing in the way of reform, fingering South Korea and Italy as rivals opposed to Japan and Germany, respectively, joining, and blaming the other three permanent members for opposing reform that would damage their existing rights. Earlier, on October 17, Yomiuri had urged Abe to boost awareness of Japan’s presence there in order to make the case for becoming a permanent member, notably by leading in addressing the North Korean nuclear and missile issues. With that in mind, Japan has invited the UN ambassadors of about 60 countries to visit Japan, and it has won the support of 184 of 193 member states for reform. Yet, eschewing optimism, the article notes that South Korea and Australia serving on the Security Council sought to get action on North Korea, but failed. This brief note adds a small touch of reality.


On October 21, Yomiuri reported that North Korea had not fired a long-range missile on October 10 because its technological preparations were insufficient, but a further nuclear test or missile challenge could come soon. It left unclear if China has altered its attitude toward North Korea, even as China continues to provide 500,000 tons of oil annually for free. In North Korea, as seen in rising defections of officials abroad, loyalty to Kim Jong-un is weakening, while materialism makes control more difficult. The article is inconclusive about what will happen and unclear about Japan’s policy.


South Korea

On October 27, Yomiuri wrote about the impending Abe-Park summit after three years as something sought by Washington but not a reason for expecting the two states to bridge the divide as Park insisted on just a 30-minute session without lunch. Calling it a “cold summit” with no positive result apart from the fact of the leaders meeting, it contrasted this with Li Keqiang’s extended official visit to South Korea over three days during the course of the same trilateral China-Japan-Korea (CJK) summit.


Japanese were suspicious of Park’s October effort to nationalize control over middle and high school history texts, as if it were aimed at rehabilitating her father. Citing resistance by university historians and teachers’ unions as well as a sharp impact on Park’s falling poll numbers, the October 27 Yomiuri did not discuss bias in existing textbooks in seizing this opportunity to cast further doubt on Park. With cases of slander riling bilateral relations, sentiments toward Park were unlikely to improve.


Kohari Susumu in the September Gaiko explained that Park had shifted her stance on Japan, separating security from history in May, reflecting the impact of the Abe visit to Washington; but that has not stopped Koreans from missing the positive role of Japan in Korea’s modernization from the 1970s and in ignoring today’s Japan as if the only images that count are Japan the victimizer and Korea the victim. Negative thinking toward Park persisted in coverage of her October summit in Washington.


The Park-Obama summit led to renewed discussion of the state of this bilateral relationship. Asahi on October 18 described the visit as part of a series of strategic summits in DC with the leaders of important Asian states, launched with Abe’s April visit and specifically focused on managing China’s rise as well as North Korea with a triangular alliance framework. Obama wants the November 1 summit of Abe and Park to be forward-looking, seeking compromises from both, according to the article. The second theme is Obama’s effort to clear away talk of Park leaning to China while getting Seoul to raise its voice that China must follow international norms. Sankei on October 18 focused on the divide over China, insisting that, despite reassuring words, Obama was pressing Park to joint the fight against China. Other coverage stressed the strengthening of encirclement of North Korea, a positive outcome of the summit, but it was dwarfed by the sense, as in Yomiuri on October 18, of a wide gulf in viewing China and the South China Sea issue and of more US pressure on Park to meet with Abe, obliging her not to make her preoccupation with the “comfort women” issue a precondition. There was an unmistakable image of a rocky summit in such coverage, intimidating that Washington is not satisfied with Seoul’s tilt toward China and is putting the burden on Park to work with Abe. On October 17, Yomiuri put it bluntly: Seoul was bending to Washington’s will. Sankei was less sure, on October 18, insisting that Washington is still upset with Seoul for leaning to China and resisting US arms technology despite Obama’s pressure, using Park’s willingness to stop joining China on history and to be forward-looking with Abe as tests of whether she would now speak with one voice with Abe and Obama.


China-US Relations

The Obama-Xi summit offered Japanese media a chance to emphasize Obama’s new policy toward China, ignoring the label of a “new type of great power relations,” even as Xi kept using it, and taking a more critical attitude at last. Looking back at what Yomiuri on October 4 identified as earlier dealings that put too much weight on Sino-US relations and agreed to respect core interests—blamed on Susan Rice—, it said that the credibility of Obama’s “rebalance” was being tested. With China’s use of force in the South China Sea and East China Sea, Obama finally has turned away from earlier conciliatory treatment of Xi. Sankei on October 1 similarly emphasized the failure of the summit, explaining that Obama had tried to impress on Xi that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was damaging China’s interests, but that Xi’s goals placed form over substance. He sought to raise international respect for himself and to exaggerate his authority at home before those who might oppose him as China is being accepted as an equal. It is taboo for China’s top leaders to lose face; so China had strived to get the Pope’s overlapping itinerary in Washington changed, and Xi could not be seen as yielding ground. Chinese coverage kept quiet about gaps between the two countries, leaving a misleading impression. In the October 1 Yomiuri, an article concluded that the visit had led to increased suspicions in the United States of China despite Xi’s aim to forge an image, unlike Putin’s, of not challenging the world order. The visit ended, readers were told, with no answer to the question of how to keep bilateral tensions under control. Xi’s UN speech offering similar assurances about supporting the existing international order had drawn like criticism, as in Asahi on September 28, which saw China as in unison with Russia in the Security Council against the other three permanent members. Cynicism toward his summit with Obama was compounded by doubts about his UN presentation. The recent resumption of bilateral meetings of Abe and Xi had done little to change the pessimistic outlook on China’s intentions.


On September 22, Wang Yizhou in Yomiuri argued that China is in a transitional stage, turning away from Deng’s low profile and anticipating a new world order. While many are wondering if China is a “second Soviet Union,” China’s leaders see this as foolish, not wanting to follow Putin’s path in decisively opposing the West. They are clever and recognize the need to avoid Sino-US confrontation or to send the message that they want the United States to be excluded from Asia. Instead, they assert that there is space for both countries in the Pacific, and they limit talk of Asian exclusivity to a “community of common destiny.” Given the US elections in 2016, for the next two to three years Sino-US relations should not change greatly, the Chinese expert Wang insisted. Yet, if China does not reform and nationalism as well as a leftist line intensifies, China could be pulled along Putin’s path, he warned. China’s future will be determined by domestic politics, and its civil society could lead it forward through reform, Wang boldly suggested, amid surprisingly dire warnings about prospects.


China-Japan Relations

Repeated meetings of Abe and Xi did not lead to more positive coverage of China. The history issue reemerged with UNESCO’s approval of China’s proposal to include Nanjing massacre documents in its records, although “comfort women” documents have yet to gain that status as historically important. Yomiuri reported on October 11 that Japan has protested to UNESCO, doubting the completeness and accuracy of the materials. On the “comfort women,” China may appeal, and South Korea is preparing its case. When, as Yomiuri reported on October 14, Yachi met with Yang Jiechi, the political use of UNESCO was bemoaned as was China’s development of a gas field in the East China Sea, but they agreed that bilateral relations are improving.


On November 6, Gendai Business discussed the resumption of CJK talks focusing on Xi Jinping’s calculus. Japan was always open to talks; when Xi agreed, Park could not disagree. Xi had focused on the United States, dismissing Japan’s presence and even preparing for war with it, which was avoided due to the extreme caution of Japan’s forces, the article argues. At Sunnylands, Xi had tried to get Obama to agree to a line across the Pacific near Hawaii, but Obama refused, insisting that Japan is an ally. Then Xi had declared China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), aimed mainly at Japan, but Obama rejected it. What followed was a transformation of the Japan-US alliance and agreement on TPP that completed the containment of China. Instead of the division of the Pacific Ocean, the focus shifted to control over the South China Sea. In turn, as South Korea saw the danger of China’s economy sinking, it knew that its economy needed diversification away from China and sought to enter TPP, while in facing North Korea, it depended on Japan and the United States for security. China’s economy was in trouble; it was undergoing a power struggle, and in the South China Sea US resistance was firm. As Japanese companies began quietly leaving China, Xi had to recalculate. The article concludes that the South China Sea issue remains, Japan should toughen its stand with the United States, and China would be under more pressure. Throughout, South Korea is treated as a feckless, unprincipled state to which Japan does not need to pay direct attention, since it is weak and will, presumably, oblige the great powers.


Reports in Sankei on October 20 on the number of times Japanese aircraft scrambled indicated a record of 231 in the first half of the year due to Chinese incursions with 117 more in the third quarter, and 108 in the first half due to Russian incursions—a decline from 324 in the corresponding period of 2014. The article added that Russia has not stopped its incursions, while it warned that China is not letting up of late.


A Yomiuri article on October 22 observed that the pace of Chinese tourism to Japan is not diminishing despite China’s economic slowdown. Chinese comprise about 30 percent of the tourists to Japan. The September total was twice that of a year earlier. As many as 120,000 came by cruise ships. (Hong Kong and Taiwan arrivals have also been up, readers are told.) More flights are being added, two a day on the routes to Haneda Airport from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Including local Chinese airports, the number of flights has risen by 20 percent in half a year. A cautious estimate is that this year 19 million Chinese will visit. There is an image of “wild shopping,” notably in home electronics and pharmaceuticals, as airport stalls are added to catch last-minute shoppers before their departure. These surprising data about tourism are a bright spot in relations. In contrast, exports to China are barely rising—0.9 percent over the first half of the fiscal year (April to September). While auto exports to the US market are rising and low energy prices are driving down Japan’s overall trade deficit, auto exports to China fell 22.1 percent—offset by a 60.2 percent rise in exports of pocket electronics and other communication devices. This is not a pessimistic picture on trade, but it does suggest a lack of new momentum.


Southeast Asia

A Sankei article on October 25 noted that one area in Vietnam had prohibited apple imports from China packed in boxes that declare the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese. The words were added in boxes from late September, and the ban was explained as due to the bad impact on Vietnam-Japan relations. Japanese notice such slights.


Asahi on October 23 reviewed the Sino-US conflict in the South China Sea, calling on China to support freedom of navigation, while also appealing to Japan to recognize that diplomacy, not military involvement, is the best response, working closely with ASEAN and international society. It also covered Chinese violations of human rights in various articles that left no doubt that leftist sympathy for China is absent today even amid strong opposition to collective self-defense and idealism over diplomacy.


Kuroyanagi Yoneji’s article in Gaiko in September reviewed the 70 years of the postwar era from the point of view of Southeast Asia, focusing on the US-China-Japan triangle as the Sino-US divide over the South China Sea is splitting the region. On the history issue, noting Abe’s August statement, he found that ASEAN, which suffered under occupation, as well as the West, have accepted Japan’s approach. One issue to be resolved is regionalism. Given cultural differences and fragmentation due to colonization by different powers, mutual understanding and cultural exchange started at a low level in the postwar era. Kuroyanagi traced, under the ASEAN Way, how they have developed even as lingering traces of the Cold War have survived. As for early anti-Japan sentiments, they have been dispelled, he argues, especially with the “Fukuda Doctrine.” He sees Northeast Asia as less receptive, since the emotions about Japan are deeper rooted, there are territorial disputes, and Japan is used as a means for legitimizing regimes. The “Abe Doctrine” of 2013 has replaced Fukuda’s vision, which defined Japan’s role as an economic great power contributing to the region’s peace and prosperity, but not a military great power; which sought to build trust through “heart to heart” relations beyond shared material interests; and which built a bridge with ASEAN and Indochina for regional peace. Japan’s horizons were widened, making the pillars of its diplomacy the Japan-US alliance and strengthened linkages with maritime Asia. Kuroyanagi enunciated five principles for today: 1) support for universal human values and respect for freedoms, such as of speech (no mention is made of earlier inclinations toward Asian values); 2) maintenance of rule of law and international public goods (not the unspoken earlier “free rider” policy); 3) pursuit of open economic linkages (not a closed “flying geese” formation); 4) expansion of cultural linkages with ASEAN countries (nothing new here); and 5) forging of generational exchanges for the future (an old ideal as well). Kuroyanagi agreed that 4) and 5) are not new and adds 3) to this category, stressing that 1) is meant to constrain threats to Japan’s security from China and 2) is for forging a new framework. He warned that Japan should not overlook that ASEAN states do not want to have to choose China or Japan, and even while Japan respects universal values tied to a closer US alliance, ASEAN’s thinking on China does not support outside powers clashing in this region. ASEAN seeks increased centrality to ameliorate Sino-US tensions. Views of history differ from those in China and South Korea, as states look to the future.