pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

Issues & Insights Vol. 16 – No. 8 – The Japanese-European security relationship during the second Abe administration

During the second administration of Shinzo Abe, Japan has shifted away from its traditional postwar policies of limited international engagement and the maintenance of a strictly defensive military posture. This new course has not only allowed Tokyo to assume a more active role in its own national security and reemerge as a prominent player in global affairs, it has also opened the door to strategic partnerships beyond the US-Japan alliance, principally with European governments and supranational institutions. Based on their mutual commitment to the supremacy of international law and the promotion of a peaceful, rules-based order, the Abe administration has worked with European leadership at the national and supranational levels to present a transregional united front opposing coercive revision of the status quo. Tokyo and these Western partners continue to enhance counterterrorism cooperation in the face of the complicated international political challenges and the enduring security threat posed to both Japanese and European interests and citizenry by non-state actors. While the US-Japan alliance remains the codified crux of Tokyo’s security policy, the Abe administration’s pivot away from Japan’s restrictive past has prominently included an initiative to augment Japanese global security posture by upgrading longstanding relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union to include frameworks for security cooperation and concluding defense-focused agreements with European governments. As the Japanese government leaves behind its postwar passivity, European supranational organizations and state governments are emerging as key security partners for Abe and future Japanese leaders.