Prime Minister Abe has travelled widely as part of his ambition to promote Japan as a ‘proactive contributor to international peace and security’.
As well as seeking to reinforce close ties with the US, he has sought out new partners in countries such as Australia, India, the UK, France and ASEAN states.
Japan has also focussed on progressing free trade agreements.
Despite US withdrawal, prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are being investigated by the remaining members, including Japan.
To help address these issues, drive growth and combat deflation the Japanese government initiated in 2012 an economic policy known as ‘Abenomics’, deploying the 3 ‘arrows’ of monetary easing, a flexible fiscal policy, and structural reforms.
These were augmented by additional ‘arrows’ in 2015, which included measures to address population decline.
A territorial dispute exists between Japan and Russia over the sovereignty of 4 islands located between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia.
Japan also disputes the sovereignty of a group of islets between South Korea and Japan, known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
The US maintains significant military deployments in Japan, and is committed through the alliance to guaranteeing Japan’s security.
Japan’s major growth driver is exports, despite external demand accounting for 16% of its GDP.
Average annual economic growth since 2012 has been around 1%.
Domestically he has undertaken a number of security reforms.
These include the creation of a National Security Strategy and National Security Council, and legal reinterpretations which will allow Japan’s Self-Defence Forces to cooperate more with the US, including in aspects of collective self defence, and with the UK and Australia through bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements that allow for increased co-operation on logistical and medical support. It is the UK’s largest export market after Europe, the US and China, and one of the leading inward investors in the UK.
They are known as the Senkaku islands in Japan (the Diaoyu islands in China, and the Diaoyutai in Taiwan which also claims the islands).