A new architecture for peace? Reconfiguring Japan among the great powers

Hendrik Spruyt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In time Japan will shed domestic and historical constraints and engage in a more activist foreign policy commensurate with its great power status. Given the end of the Cold War, multipolarity, the uncertain security environment of East Asia, the growth of intra-state conflicts, the relative shift in the balance of power, and American dissatisfaction with external engagements, Japanese elites will necessarily re-examine the country's traditionally passive foreign policy. Because of current domestic constraints such activism will be oriented towards multilateral fora as the Security Council. Multilateral engagement will supplement rather than displace other modes of conflict management and should be welcomed by the other great powers. Multilateral security institutions, such as permanent membership on the Security Council, strengthen the hand of Japanese domestic elites who favor an active and multilateral role. Thus, permanent membership can counteract regionalist tendencies within the Japanese government, and counter elites who equate foreign policy with economic policy. Such an approach will assuage the apprehensiveness of other states in the region about Japanese activism, and it will mobilize Japanese resources for inter-state and intra-state conflict management in a multilateral setting, rather than in an ad hoc, bilateral manner, as occurred during the Gulf War. This essay also suggests interim measures should Security Council reform be untenable in the short run.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-388
Number of pages25
JournalPacific Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Japan
  • Multiculturalism
  • Security Council
  • United Nations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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