Japan’s Effort to Boost Ties with China and North Korea in Summer 2017 and its Newfound Realism

This article examines Japan’s diplomatic situation with regards to China and North Korea in the summer of 2017.  Major findings are the following: 1) Japan faced limited options during the North Korean crisis; 2) Japan confronted a drastic intensification of the North Korean crisis, and the government was also concerned about improving Sino-Japanese relations; and 3) the recovery of Abe’s declining political power in Japan’s domestic scene was closely linked to the success of Abe’s diplomacy toward China and North Korea. In May, Yang Jiechi visited Japan and faced appeals by Yachi Shotaro and Abe to control fishing boats rocking Sino-Japanese relations in the East China Sea, while Abe’s emissaries attended the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in China and met with Yang and others to discuss a Japanese role. By June, Abe had settled on improving bilateral relations through economic cooperation—viewed as a new approach. If the foreign ministry was wary about supporting BRI, which could boost China’s power, others prevailed with the argument that due to the North Korean danger, Japan had to improve relations with its neighbors.1 Realism borne of the Korean threat was now driving Japan’s China policy.

Evolving Realist Framework

Against the background of the escalating danger from North Korea as felt in Japan, a realist framework is becoming pervasive in its consciousness toward China. The role of realism grew larger in 2010-12 with the deterioration of Sino-Japanese relations, notably when the post-1972 way of thinking was transformed with the conflict over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands from September 2012. With this upsurge in realism came discussion of a power shift or hegemonic transfer, but in the summer of 2017, such exchanges were no longer abstract. Today, the mainstream is preoccupied with talk of “coercive diplomacy” and strengthening behavior to suppress fundamental threats. It is hard to exaggerate just how dramatic the effect has been from the North Korean nuclear and missile question on Japan’s foreign policy realism.

Expectations are low for US, Chinese, and Russian responses to North Korea. While Japan is reliant on US armed forces and cannot rule out the possibility of President Trump conducting a military strike on North Korea, the policymakers around him fear the enormous human and material losses. The impact on Japan would be extremely grave, and the Abe administration has no desire for that. Despite the importance to Japan of the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles, there are other things Japan is equally concerned about. For example, it recently strengthened its security cooperation with India in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean in order balance against China.2 Already in 2016, the Abe administration launched its “strategy of free movement in the Indian and Pacific oceans,” seen as a framework for the rule of maritime law. Since the July 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea, Japan has been struggling against Chinese attempts to treat the ruling as illegitimate and to constrain the rule of law.3 Further, Japan responded to Trump’s discarding of TPP by keeping it alive as a platform for Japan’s leadership, while proceeding on “four fronts”—TPP, RCEP, Japan-US economic dialogue, and EPA with the EU—but it risks dissipating its energy on so many fronts.4 In all of these efforts Japan has distanced itself from China, but readjustment in 2017 is not impossible.

Following closely Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power in the run-up to the 19th Party Congress, and any possible impact this might have on China’s foreign policy, Japan must now respond to a dynamic, multi-dimensional environment, which it put off thus far. However, recent debates in Japan are not very satisfying in indicating any clear direction forward. Abe needs greater legitimation of his security policies, as developments in North Korea and China become deeply intertwined with Japan’s domestic politics.

Abe’s Diplomacy

From cooperating with China’s BRI, appealing to Xi for improved ties in Hamburg, to calling for intensified summitry in September at an event in honor of the 45th anniversary of normalization of relations, Abe has been striving to put Japan’s relations with China on a better track. Over the summer of 2017, Abe first fell victim to scandal as his ratings plummeted, then recovered substantially in September as he stood firm in the face of North Korean missile and nuclear tests. No other politician had appeared equipped in the face of this crisis, and opposition parties did not rise in support. With this domestic background, Abe’s September 22 UN speech showcased Japan’s international presence more than ever—an important progress in Japan where the prestige of the UN is high. On September 18, Japanese newspapers introduced Abe’s speech, and on the 28th, they revealed the schedule for the dissolution of the Lower House of the Diet and the upcoming elections. Sino-Japanese ties had little impact on the Abe cabinet’s support, but he was thinking about them anyway. On the 28th, Abe attended an event in honor of the 45th anniversary of normalization of relations hosted in Tokyo by the Chinese embassy, stating in his greeting that he would like a trilateral summit including South Korea before the end of the year and suggesting that he visit China and Xi, Japan.5 Xi did not provide a clear response, and the Japanese side took that as an indirect rejection.

The Unfolding of the North Korean Issue at the United Nations and China

In his September 22 speech, Abe called for pressure, not dialogue, a very clear posture in support of “coercive diplomacy” based on the absence of results from past dialogue. This contrasted with Wang Yi’s call at the UN for emphasizing dialogue and negotiations while acknowledging the application of pressure in a two-track approach involving a dual freeze in line with earlier Chinese appeals, as on March 8, to get both sides back to the table. The dual track also involved combining the realization of denuclearization with the establishment of a peace mechanism.6 The Chinese media reported Wang Yi’s March proposal as demonstrating China’s important role as a mediator, and at the Security Council on April 28, Wang made the proposal. But Japan paid almost no attention.

On the surface, China did not strongly criticize Trump’s UN speech. At a September 21 press briefing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson argued that there is no case where sanctions alone succeeded, and peaceful resolution requires dialogue and negotiations, differing from Trump’s appeal but avoiding direct criticism of it. In contrast, Chinese media was extremely cold to Abe’s UN speech. One net news source sneered that there were few listeners attending Abe’s speech, and only the North Korean representatives appeared enthusiastic about it.7 In reports and commentaries, one can see that China is portrayed as anxiously seeking peace while Japan’s speech is seen as jingoistic, aimed primarily at pleasing its domestic audience.

The PLA’s criticism of Japan, as in a signed commentary in Jiefangjun bao (PLA Daily) on September 21, had a different nuance than one posed by the Chinese foreign ministry. The PLA charged that Abe had “succumbed to the myth of a military great power,” stating that it is not North Korea but the Abe administration that pursues an expansionist defense policy and has stopped acting in self-defense to fulfil its ambitions of becoming a great power, fueling US warships at sea and using the pretext of a deteriorating security environment in surrounding areas.

In general, Jiefangjun bao avoids saying much about the North Korean issue. Analysis of contents that stands even a little apart indicates that it is spread by military specialists and research organs of the PLA, and on the internet, if not the “Zhongguojunwang” (China Military), it is limited to Xinhuawang (Xinhua Net), Renminwang (People’s Daily Online), and Zhongguowang (China Net)—all very close to the party and the government. Also, Jiefangjun bao introduced the words of Swedish foreign ministry on Trump’s speech: “the wrong speech given at the wrong time to the wrong audience.”8

In September, China tightly controlled its criticism of the United States, but in Jiefangjun bao, critical opinions were aired. Yet, on the whole, speaking at the UN on the North Korean issue, the Chinese government eschewed sharp commentaries, showing restraint toward the United States and Japan, but domestically one could decipher stronger opinions.

As reported later, a fierce debate unfolded inside China on Jia Qingguo’s critique of preparations for contingencies on the North Korean issue, pointing to serious, latent dissatisfaction inside China toward its foreign policy. As Wang Yi’s speech at the UN showed, China’s diplomatic behavior is restrained, if not to a certain degree, in agreement with Japan and the United States’ attempts to pressure North Korea. In fact, Chinese banks have stopped dealing with North Korean firms and individuals. But while this is reported in detail in Japan, in China there is minimal detail accompanying any general assessment. Thus, while China criticizes Japan for stressing pressure, it, to a degree, is intensifying pressure on North Korea.

The North Korean Issue and Japan: A Lesson in Realism

In Japan, debate on the North Korean question is directly tied to the question of how Japan will fare in international politics in the context of China’s rise. Nakanishi Hiroshi summarizes three scenarios under debate.9 The first is gradually tightening sanctions against North Korea and, at the same time, as pressure is being applied, there is no North Korean provocation. Second, the United States decides in actuality to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, suspending US-ROK military exercises and removing THAAD as demanded. Nakanishi stresses that this scenario would have a great possibility of transforming the East Asian order in the long term, causing a loss in US deterrence power and trust in alliances. The third scenario is a military confrontation, which Nakanishi sees as the Unites States forcing the collapse of North Korea and reassuming the burden sought by neighboring states.

Similar discussions can be found elsewhere, as in Hiraiwa Shunji’s comments that in regard to the North Korean question, Japan needs to be on guard against both US military action and sudden US-North Korean dialogue.10 Different policy responses reflect divergent thinking about North Korea’s strategic goals.11 Michishita Narushige discusses the paradox of simultaneous stability and instability—fear of nuclear war and of limited military conflict limiting escalation.12 The mechanism would be “stability of terror” risking a limited, non-nuclear war, while Japan, the United States, and South Korea waited for concessions from North Korea. This could easily turn into a military confrontation. Even after a ceasefire, the danger would persist of a limited, persistent war. Michishita sees the regional order dominated by this paradox.

In the language of international relations, the first scenario is alliance entrapment, and the second, alliance abandonment. In the “decoupling” argument of Jimbo Ken, extended deterrence is cut as the United States only looks to protect its own security, pointing to a scenario of actually abandoning Japan and South Korea.13 Making the issue more complicated, there are judgments of the possibility in the second scenario of other states rushing to acquire nuclear weapons similar to North Korea.14 In general, analyses with links to the North Korean issue are not very common in Japan if we set aside television commentaries and personal blogs.

Deciphering Chinese Views of the Transfer of Hegemonic Power

In Japan, Chinese consciousness on Sino-US relations since 2012 has been viewed quite simply. Around the time Xi took office, the Chinese government began using the expression a “new type of great power relations.” This was taken to mean that relations would be on an equal footing unlike before—the United States should accept that—and instead of an all-encompassing, direct conflict between the new and old hegemonic powers in transition, as has occurred historically, China as a rising power would seek coexistence with declining America. Having overtaken Japan in GDP, it is only a matter of time before China surpasses the United States; most agree with this observation even if there is a split on the rate of US decline and the magnitude of its impact on US leadership within the foreseeable future. The mainstream in propaganda sees China’s growing international role, but this may not reflect Xi’s thinking since Jiang Zemin’s forces are ensconced there, and there is analysis suggesting wariness of insufficient Chinese power. As purges of top military and party leaders proceed and in light of the unexpected success in getting Great Britain, Germany, and others to join the AIIB, the Xi administration is appealing at home and abroad for an increase in China’s international role, which, in advance of the party congress, would raise his prestige and authority. One example is the May 2017 BRI summit in Beijing, introducing the notion of “Xi Jinping Diplomatic Thought,” which in Japan is taken as an indication of Xi’s consolidation of power.

Toward Improvement in Japan-China Relations

Signals of Japanese desire to improve Japan-China relations had become clear earlier, as seen in the positive posture toward cooperation on BRI at the June 5 “Asia’s Future” international conference sponsored by Nihon Keizai Shimbun.15 On July 8, Abe and Xi met in Germany. Given the 45th anniversary of diplomatic normalization in 2017 and the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China peace treaty in 2018, the atmosphere over these two years should be favorable for improving relations, Japanese media reported. On July 9, Renmin ribao stated that this meeting took place at the request of the Japanese side. In other words, the superior accepted the request of the inferior and generously agreed to meet. This language is frequently used by China, having been a formal expression in imperial times.

On September 14 in Shijie Zhishi, No. 18, Zhang Yunling wrote an opinion piece on the 45th anniversary, urging Japan to cooperate with China in forging a framework for a new peaceful order in the Northeast Asian region, rather than just following the United States when the region is again at the precipice of war and peace, owing to the North Korean question. Zhang is well-known in Japan through the ASEAN+3 multilateral framework and track-2 talks, and this is one of the journals connected to China’s foreign ministry.

On July 12, Zhongguowang carried an editorial asserting that the Trump threat is causing Japan and China to draw closer and that the Abe administration is shifting its policy toward China toward improving relations, introducing the views of Funabashi Yoichi. This opinion piece was reprinted in Renminwang and posted on the net in Japanese. In fact, Funabashi’s argument was not simply to draw closer to China.16 He did not advocate distancing from America, and used the unusual term for Japanese international relations of “tsutsumikomu” to offer a nuanced approach to forging cooperative security with China. Attention is needed when reading Chinese articles and commentaries, which are often aimed at domestic audiences.17 In today’s China where public opinion has come to have an influence on foreign policy, it is necessary to explain domestically a transition in China’s policy toward Japan.

In media close to the CCP and government, reporting is dominated by the logic that while many Japanese would like to improve relations with China, Abe stands in the way, by strengthening the Japan-US alliance, passing a new security law, etc. In contrast, Japanese diplomacy has actually evolved into putting China at the center. A string of summits including with Putin on July 7 at the G20, with British prime minister May on August 30 in Japan, and his visit to India on September 13-15, are interpreted by many analysts in Japan as laying the groundwork for negotiations with China.

In contrast to expectations that drawing closer to Russia and India was in order to increase Japan’s negotiating power toward China, more pessimistic coverage indicated that it was limited to keeping relations with China from collapsing. However, in 2017, explanations pointed to the return in Asia of Great Britain, which needs to open new markets after Brexit, and to a policy aimed against Trump’s protectionism. Great Britain maintains commonwealth ties to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, etc. It conducts joint exercises with Japan, as security cooperation is advancing, and it is a cog in the US return to Asia.

To what degree have Japan-China relations stabilized? After 2012, a revival of the “honeymoon era” when Japan and China were normalizing relations is widely recognized to be impossible. There had been a group of Japanese who were eager to construct a permanent and irreversible friendship between Japan and China. But in 2017, most thought that only tentative stability of Sino-Japanese relations was practicable. They were not completely satisfied with this, but reluctantly accepted it. Japan’s diplomacy toward China was becoming realistic and pragmatic under the Abe administration.

Compared to 2010-12 when bilateral relations worsened, there has clearly been a stabilizing trend. However, seen through South China Sea strategies and calculations of economic and political interest, this is a temporary compromise that has not led mutual distrust to dissolve. Japanese distrust does not merely derive from separate events at Tiananmen, in the Senkaku Islands, and in the East China Sea gas fields. Japan is not mistaken to fear possible Chinese retribution for what Japan did to China in the past. There is a question of fundamental values, as Japanese fear authoritarianism leading to the construction of an imperial, non-democratic, and hierarchical world order.18 Between Japan and China, there is a sharp contrast of opinion over the emerging China-centric order. While China presumes it to be a legitimate recovery of its glorious past, Japan takes it as injurious expansionism and destruction of the existing liberal world order. Japan, which cannot find any effective means to bridge the fundamental perception gap between itself and China, has a realistic awareness that stability between the two countries will remain vulnerable and transitory.

Deterioration of ROK-China Relations: THAAD

It is widely accepted in Japan that China is imposing sanctions on South Korea over its THAAD deployment, even if unofficially. It is not strange that Japan is alarmed about its growing dependence on the Chinese market, China’s rising technological power, and its companies buying Japanese companies and property. Japan was concerned when Moon Jae-in, who had been opposed to THAAD prior to taking office and had favored North-South dialogue, met on July 6 with Xi over the fate of THAAD.19 But on July 27, when Moon decided to deploy four additional launchers after the North’s nuclear test, Chinese foreign ministry strongly protested, followed by demonstrations on September 6 and 7 when deployment occurred. In addition, China conducted its low-flying missile defense exercise near the Bohai Sea, which it insisted was not directed at any country in particular, but Japan and South Korea took it as Chinese attempt to contain THAAD deployment. China’s measures against South Korean firms have been extremely strict. In July, it was reported that in the second quarter Hyundai car sales in China had fallen 40 percent compared to the prior year. Lotte’s Paradise Supermarket, which had been forced to close 80 percent of its stores operating in China after providing land for THAAD on a golf course, faced intense pressure from China, and sales in the second quarter were down 10 percent. For that reason, on September 15 it sold China Lottemart and reportedly departed from China.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea fell sharply—60 percent from March to June 2016. While the Chinese government denied it was responsible, most in Japan did not believe this. After the Hamburg Sino-ROK summit, Xi lost “face,” and one could expect a strong Chinese response. This follows from the logic of China’s criticism of Park’s attitude shift toward China in 2016, which had been aimed at defending Xi’s authority domestically, showcasing anti-THAAD demonstrations in South Korea, and giving the impression that South Korea was isolated due to its decision to deploy THAAD.

China’s criticism of South Korea, and the style in which it was expressed, has much in common with China’s view of Abe as isolating Japan, but China has not launched a significant campaign criticizing Japan and has been more careful. Should China initiate a more intense attack, this could accelerate Japan and South Korea drawing closer. With its vast economic and military power China is presumably intent on applying more pressure in its neighborhood. The way Sino-ROK relations have unfolded over THAAD is not just a response to current security issues, but one model for how future Sino-Japanese relations will evolve. The Japanese regard China’s antagonism against South Korea over THAAD as disingenuous—not a product of rational geopolitical calculation but of China’s frustration over its imperfect and fragile imperial order in East Asia.

However, the dilemma is that it is extremely difficult for Japan to escape from its dependency on China. South Korea and the countries of Southeast Asia face the same problem and have not found any way to fundamentally resolve it. There is unlikely to be any major change following the October 22 Lower House elections. Whoever the next prime minister is, he or she would face the same diplomatic challenges that test Japan’s evolving realism.

The North Korean Issue and Japan’s Exploration of the Link to China

On May 29-31, when Yang Jiechi visited Japan, the main themes were the 45th anniversary of Sino-Japanese normalization, next year’s 40th anniversary of their friendship treaty, and mutually beneficial strategic relations. In the five-hour conversation including dinner with Yachi, they exchanged views on the North Korean issue and maritime security without any public indication to date of
concrete proposals on North Korea. Around this time, an editorial appeared in Xuexi shibao (July 28) on certain foreign policy decisions in China, which are not widely understood, praising Xi’s personal instructions on such matters as the East China Sea air defense identification zone, patrols by Chinese ships near the Senkaku Islands, and filling in islands in the South China Sea as well as establishing “Sansha city.” In Japan, these were considered proof that Xi personally directs foreign policy, although attributing much to Xi may be convenient while much about the process remains obscure.

In July to September, assessments of foreign policy in Japan dwelt on analysis of North Korea’s immediate actions, while awareness of China’s long-term objectives was relatively weak. Gradually, discussion of whether China can or should control North Korea gave way to broad acceptance that China really could not as it would come at huge political and economic cost, which it did not want to bear.20 

In this period, Takahara Akio offered a comprehensive analysis of China.21 Prior to this time he had argued that Chinese thinking on the Korean Peninsula was dominated by a desire, related to the need for a geopolitically hospitable region and ideology, to avoid instability no matter how angry China was with North Korea, and now a debate was unfolding on overcoming these “concerns.” Moreover, Takahara argued that China was not only conscious of the serious deterioration in its security environment and more signs of US intolerance for North Korea possessing nuclear weapons, but also the possibility of Japan and South Korea acquiring these weapons. In other words, because the positive role of North Korea in forging a hospitable region had ended and instead, it had become a source of large burden and risk, Chinese authorities were searching for a different approach.

Around the time of the National People’s Congress in March 2017, this sort of opinion was appearing inside China; we can surmise from the fact that one of those who voiced it then, Jia Qingguo, published in September a similar argument that, in fact, tacit arguments by Chinese authorities on this huge question were occurring as part of the government’s ongoing campaign to shape public opinion and smooth a transition in China’s policy toward North Korea.22 Indeed, Jia’s article was quickly translated and posted on the Chinese Internet, arousing a fierce counterattack from Zhu Zhihua, who charged that by completely taking the US-ROK position and advocating cooperation with them on the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis, Jia was leading public sentiment askew on China’s foreign policy decisions. Jia swiftly countered in a debate that became the object of attention inside China.

Jia’s article was introduced in Japan too.23 Japanese media reported about the internal dispute that was unfolding in China, but the contents were not followed in detail. The mainstream stressed that China should prepare for a military clash in interpreting this debate.24 At this time in Japan, however, a debate on the East Asian regional order that is likely to emerge once China changed its North Korea policy had not even materialized. As an exception, Japanese discussed—albeit with little depth—how Japan and China would react if a “new Cold War” era emerged, with a nuclear-armed North Korea facing the United States in East Asia.


Under “taoguang yanghui,” China would not take strong leadership on the North Korean question. Even when it became positively involved, it kept to a minimum its responsibility and burden. Not only on North Korea but regarding Japan, China tried to keep a low profile. There was no campaign of criticism against Trump, and when Trump gave his UN speech, what Chinese government media clearly criticized was directed against UN bureaucracy. Regarding reports of the speech’s criticism of various countries, China’s criticism of Trump was only indirectly expressed. Setting aside spokespersons for the foreign and defense ministries, government media offered little notable criticism against Japan and the United States. This actually reflects the very lively Chinese public relations campaign to the outside world since the May BRI conference.

Japan’s Introduction of Aegis Ashore and China

Directly linked to the issue of North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles with a deeper resonance on Japan-China relations is the introduction of Aegis Ashore, which has aroused a separate discussion.25 On May 7, Cankao Xiaoxi called this a much bigger danger than THAAD and not only aimed at self-defense. For example, on March 30 at a press conference, a defense spokesperson took up LDP plans to deploy this and THAAD in response to the threat from North Korean missiles, declaring China’s opposition to this for harming other countries’ security and the regional situation. This followed official Chinese statements that Japan’s missile defenses use North Korea as an excuse and are actually intended for China.

On May 23 in response to a question regarding foreign minister Kuroda’s statement that in place of THAAD Japan would introduce Aegis Ashore, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Japan’s moves in the field of military security have been met with deep concern in neighboring states and international society, and that Japan should proceed with caution in fortifying its missile defense. Kishida’s words on May 18 were received more moderately than in March, and on August 31 when asked about US “freedom of navigation,” THAAD, and Aegis Ashore, only the first two were cited with no mention of the third.

On August 18 Defense Minister Onodera in talks with Secretary Mattis made clear Japan’s intention to introduce Aegis Ashore, and on August 21 Jiefangjun bao criticized this as nothing less than a new beginning for Japanese military expansion. According to one analyst, the intention is to kill three birds with one stone: 1) to use a “crisis” as a pretext for military expansion; 2) to further integrate the Japanese and US militaries; and 3) to demonstrate Japan’s even bigger role through the military alliance, to which was added winning Trump’s favor through a huge arms purchase. Arguments abounded, finding it hard to understand why China is so alarmed over THAAD and Aegis Ashore with their defensive objectives, as if they undermine the regional military balance and start an arms race, while destabilizing security in Northeast Asia.26


For Japan, threat of North Korea was acute and imminent, while that of China was rather remote, but vital and persistent. Japan was frustrated by these two different types of challenges but did not panic. Presumably Chinese leaders interpreted Japan’s hawkish attitude toward North Korea as its indirect message to China that Japan would fight back against China’s pressure, if necessary.

With regards to the Sino-Japanese relationship this summer, there was a room for limited cooperation between the two potentially hostile countries. The traumatic confrontation of 2010-12 had an anchoring effect on foreign policy decision-making of both countries. Both Abe and Xi tried to prevent rekindling mutual hostilities between them. Moderate level of external turbulence, if controllable, might be favorable for their respective domestic popularity in the short run, but a real crisis that induces excessive rise of tension would have devastating effects on power bases of the both. This was the hidden yet prevailing reason why they were avoiding treacherous escalation between them.

There was a tacit mutual understanding between Japan and China—persistently uncomfortable partners in East Asia—to cooperate with each other to maintain bilateral stability, even though both of them apparently anticipated eventual disruption of their relationship in the not too distant future. However, at this moment, they were carefully minimizing the possibility of highly dangerous synchronization of North Korean crisis and the rapid deterioration of Sino-Japanese relationship, which would easily upset the whole regional dynamic in East Asia.

Precarious and unpredictable behavior of President Trump was another factor of promoting discreet compromise between Japan and China. Japan was not able to neglect the possibility of Trump’s “grand deal” with China. If it happens, it would decisively marginalize Japan’ regional role in East Asia. On the other hand, China, facing tough pressure from the United States over the issue of bilateral trade balance, could use its limited compromise with Japan as a tactical tool to manage risk. Also, it is probable that China thought this was the good opportunity to try to weaken the US-Japan ties.

In this type of complex and dynamic international environment, seemingly the best and rational scenario in one game often becomes the worst and irrational scenario in another. Likewise, the best decision in the short run often invites the worst result in the long run. Probably the best condition for this region in the remote future cannot be viable without confusion in the near future. The best choice in a comprehensive framework that consists of various games would not necessarily satisfy domestic audience (including the leaders themselves) of every country that is interested in its own respective partial games. The second best and only one feasible choice that satisfies the domestic audience at this moment might turn out to be the first step to catastrophe in the long run. Only once the outcome of current crisis is fixed, we can start a more matured argument about the validity of decisions by each concerned country in the summer of 2017.

1. Asahi Shimbun, September 7, 2017, p. 4.

2. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, September 13, 2017.

3. Kaneko Yoshiki, “Asean Sosetsu 50nen: sono seika to Beichu taiji shinjidai no ‘Chugoku Keisha,’” Toa, No. 603, September 2017.

4. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, September 13, 2017.

5. Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/97_abe/actions/201709/28reception.html

6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/zyxw/t1443990.shtml

7. Xinlang Xinwen, September 22, 2018.

8. Jiefangjun bao, September 21.

9. Nakanishi Hiroshi, “Kokusai Chitsujo Hokai no Osore,” Mainichi Shimbun, September 13, 2017. His view was shared by leading journalists, notably Akita Hiroyuki. See his commentary titled “North Korea: Weak Points of Containment Policy,” Nihon Keizai  Shimbun, October 4, 2017.

10.   Remarks by Hiraiwa Shunji, NHK, Kokusai Hodo, September 15, 2017. 

11. Remarks of Watanabe Tsuneo and Hiraiwa Shunji, NHK, Close-Up Gendai Plus, September 4, 2017; Remarks of Michishita Narushige, NHK Jiji-Koron, September 14, 2017.

12. Remarks of Michishita Narushige, NHK Jiji-Koron, September 14, 2017.

13. Yomiuri Shimbun, September 25, 2017.

14. Yamaguchi Noboru, Koda Yoji, & Nagaiwa Toshimichi, “Kita no Kaku de Nihon to Sekai ga ‘Hi no Umi’ ni Naru Hi,” Chuo Koron, October 2017. These three figures are retired high-ranking officers of Japan’s Self-Defense Force.

15. Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet, http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/97_abe/statement/2017/0605speech.html

16. Bungei Shunju, July 2017.

17. Kawashima Shin, Kurata Tetsuya, & Fukuda Madoka, “Minshu to Jiyu no Sai-Zensen,” Sekai, August 2017.

18. Ibid. This is the implication of their argument.

19. Sankei Shimbun, July 8, 2017.

20. Yomiuri Shimbun, September 16, 2017.

21. Asahi Shimbun, September 13, 2017。

22. Jia Qingguo, “Time to prepare for the worst in North Korea,” PacNet, No. 64, September 14, 2017.

23. Yomiuri Shimbun, September 16, 2017; Sankei Shimbun, September 16, 2017.

24. Sankei Shimbun, September 16, 2017.

25. Takahashi Sugio, “North Korea and Asia’s Evolving Nuclear Landscape: Challenge to Regional Stability”, NBR Special Report, No. 67, August 2017, http://www.nbr.org/publications/specialreport/pdf/Free/10012017/SR67_North_Korea_and_Asias_Evolving_Nuclear_Landscape_August2017.pdf#search=%

26. See Liu Shaobo, “Meiguo Zaishi ‘Sade’ Huo Jiang Yinfa Diqu Junbei Jingsai,” National Institute for South China Sea Studies, HP, July 18, 2017, and Wang Peng, “Riben Ni Xuan Luji ‘Zhousidun’ Tidai ‘Sade’ Goujian Fandao Tixi,” Zhongguo Qingnian Bao, June 5, 2017.