Japan’s Disaster Diplomacy: Fostering Military to Military Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region


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When: Mar 20 2013 - 12:30pm until Mar 20 2013 - 2:30pm
Where: East-West Center in Washington: 1819 L St. NW, Suite 600. Washington, DC. 22202

Japan’s Disaster Diplomacy: Fostering Military to Military Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region

An Asia-Pacific Security Seminar Featuring:

Hideshi Futori

2012 Japan Studies Visiting Fellow, East-West Center in Washington Japan Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

James Schoff (Discussant)

Senior Associate, Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Japan’s Disaster Diplomacy: Fostering Military to Military Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region from East-West Center on Vimeo.


(Left to Right)Dr. James Schoff, Senior Associate of the Asia Program, and Hideshi Futori following their presentation at the East-West Center in Washington.

One Japanese strategy to contribute to a more stable and peaceful international order in the Asia Pacific is to utilize so-called disaster diplomacy to engage a wide range of actors in Southeast Asia. Alongside principal humanitarian objectives, disaster relief operations that utilize military assets have the potential to institutionalize a framework for military-to-military engagement in the Asia Pacific region, where there is little tradition of multilateral security cooperation.

In his seminar at the East-West Center in Washington, 2012 Japan Studies Visiting Fellow, Hideshi Futori, analyzed Japan’s current disaster diplomacy. Focusing on cooperation with the United States and Southeast Asian countries, he explained that with Japan's experience with natural disasters, and technical capability and expertise, cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) has been a natural niche for Japan's Self Defense Force assets in the region. He examined China’s growing naval capabilities in disaster-related operations, and noted that while Japan has unit-level military-military cooperation with many countries, China is an exception. He feels that disaster diplomacy could be a vector for such interaction between the two militaries.

Discussant James Schoff, an expert on disaster relief cooperation in Asia, explained that military involvement in HA/DR is meant to be a last resort, following the lead of international agencies, NGOs, and the diplomatic corps of the regions involved. Often the role of military is limited to providing logistical support, and always at the request of the affected countries. He went on to describe the ongoing development of the various multilateral HA/DR cooperation and coordination efforts in the Asia Pacific. As Japan has the capability and desire to expand in this area, he concluded that the US should be comfortable with Japan doing these sorts of activities on their own, even outside of the alliance relationship.

Mr. Hideshi Futori was a 2012 Japan Studies Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and currently a Japan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Past research fellowships include the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, Pacific Forum CSIS, and the Center for US-Japan Studies and Cooperation at Vanderbilt University. Prior to his research in the US, Mr. Futori served as Chief of Staff at the office of Akihisa Nagashima, a member Japan's House of Representatives.

Mr. James Schoff is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses US-Japan relations and regional engagement, Japanese politics and security, and the private’s sector role in Japanese policymaking. He previously served as senior adviser for East Asia policy at the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense and as director of Asia Pacific Studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA).

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch
Phone: 202-327-9762