Earlier this month, Japan announced a three-year, $7 billion investment deal with the countries of the lower Mekong River to boost development and improve infrastructure. In an email interview, Phuong Nguyen, an associate fellow with the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussed Japan’s relations in Southeast Asia.
WPR: How extensive are Japan’s ties in Southeast Asia, and with what countries does Japan have the closest relations?
Phuong Nguyen: Japan has a long history with Southeast Asia dating back to the World War II period. Southeast Asia functioned as an important source of resources and later as a market for Japan’s economic recovery after the end of World War II. Thailand, which was allied with Japan during the war, emerged during this period as the regional base for Japan’s economic activities. Tokyo began to formulate a region-wide strategy with the 1977 Fukuda Doctrine, in which Japan stressed the building of mutual trust with Southeast Asia and pledged to forever renounce military power. Economic linkages have come to define Japan’s postwar engagement with Southeast Asia.