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When Disaster Isn’t a Zero-Sum Game (Page 2 of 3)

Still, it’s far too early to count Japan out on global warming. Despite the review of its energy plan, Japan hasn’t given up on tackling climate change—although the country lost reactors at Fukushima, Japanese delegates to climate talks in Bangkok earlier this month announced Japan’s continued commitment to fulfilling its Kyoto Protocol pledge of cutting emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

Such continuity is also being seen in the diplomatic arena. Japan’s engagement on the North Korean nuclear issue, for example, remains firm. Not only has Tokyo continued to call on Pyongyang to resolve issues concerning its nuclear and missile programmes, as well as the abductions of Japanese by North Korean agents, but Tokyo also recently extended sanctions against Pyongyang for one year, while siding with Seoul and Washington in refusing a UN request to provide food assistance to Pyongyang.

Such moves have taken place against a backdrop of continuing and steady diplomatic engagement, especially with neighbouring countries. Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, for example, represented Japan in a mid-March G-8 meeting and also hosted a meeting of his Chinese and South Korean counterparts on March 19. In addition, Japan has remained firm over the sovereignty issues that have dogged its ties with other nations in East Asia. Perhaps the clearest sign of Japan’s diplomatic consistency, though, is its continued firmness regarding territorial disputes with China, Russia and South Korea.

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In addition to maintaining its diplomatic stances, Japan looks set to continue its robust overseas military engagement. Aegis destroyers and P-3Cs from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) continue to conduct anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Similarly, SDF units remain engaged in the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, staff/liaison officers remain working in Sudan and Haiti, and on March 23, new SDF members began working in Timor-Leste as part of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste.

So far, the only noticeable impact on Japan’s military engagement has been over its participation and co-hosting of the 2nd ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise, which was held March 14-19. Originally, Japan was scheduled to participate with SDF assets and about 400 members of the SDF and the Japan Disaster Relief Team (JDRT). But with heavy domestic demands on the SDF, Japan was forced to recall all its SDF personnel and assets, leaving about 40 JDRT doctors and nurses. In addition, Tokyo is still mulling whether to participate in the Pacific Partnership 2011, an annual exercise launched after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that’s designed to improve interoperability of regional militaries, governments, and non-governmental organizations during disaster relief operations.

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