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Asian Opinions

Monday, Apr 14, 2014

Asian Opinions

Soft power capabilities of China, S. Korea on the rise

The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN | Monday, Apr 14, 2014

Kent Calder.

In this fifth and final instalment of an interview series on Japan's diplomacy and military strategy in East Asia, Kent Calder, director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies in Washington, stresses the need for Japan to keep up with the rising soft power capabilities of China and South Korea.

Japan once had a high profile in Washington, D.C., but in recent years it has been eclipsed by China and South Korea.

Washington is not just the centre of the US government-it also plays a substantial global role in its own right. The IMF, the World Bank, and even the Asian Development Bank have major offices here in Washington.

The many think tanks, law firms and mass media organisations here have an impact far beyond American shores. I think this is truer now than it was 10 years ago, or even five years ago.

Often the impact is not only, or not primarily, on the US government, but on other governments elsewhere. High standing in Washington can enhance the credibility of one nation against another.

There is increasing competition in this regard among several Asian countries, including Japan, China, and South Korea. Washington has become a battlefield among Asian nations over current issues, such as the Senkakus, Takeshima, exchange rates, abductees and the comfort women issue.

However, just as the Koreans and the Chinese began opening organisations that are now influential in Washington, many Japan-related ones were closed. Korea and China have been steadily strengthening their presence in Washington, while Japan has been moving in the opposite direction.

The Japan Economic Institute, a Foreign Ministry organisation, closed its office in 2001 because the days of the trade wars were over. The Keizai Koho Center of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) closed their office in 2009.

In contrast, the Korea Economic Institute, which had opened a small and relatively inactive office in the 1980s, began to expand its operation in 2002, moving into an office once occupied by Henry Kissinger.

In 2012 the Korean government bought another property in Washington on Logan Circle to promote Korean culture. The building itself is closely tied with historical issues, as it used to be the Korean Embassy until Korea's ownership of the building was lost to Japan in 1910 after the Russo-Japanese War.

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