First Advisor

Mel Gurtov

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Political Science


Political Science




United Nations -- Voting, Japan -- Foreign relations -- 1989



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 155 p.)


Japan has maintained a low profile in its diplomacy since the end of World War II, relying heavily on the United States for its security and prosperity. The cold war structure allowed Japan to maintain its passive foreign policy behavior. By the end of 1980s, West-East confrontations largely ended and global issues such as arms control, environmental problem, human rights, economic development, and ethnic conflicts became the main international concerns. It was expected that in this changed world environment, Japan as an economic power, would take on a more active international role. Yet Japan has not shown any significant political initiative despite of its willingness to contribute to international peace and prosperity. The primary purpose of this thesis is to identify the underlying factors that have kept Japan from being a strong voice and taking initiatives in world affairs. This study presents Japan's official guidelines on global issues as its foreign policy. The guidelines indicate that Japanese foreign policy is too general and broad; it aims at cooperation with everybody. Japan's foreign-policy behavior is represented by its voting behavior in the United Nations General Assembly. Inasmuch as it has adopted a U.N.-centered diplomacy, I believe that Japan's voting in the U.N. delineates its foreign-policy behavior. A statistical method of factor analysis I apply in this study delineates Japan's stance and voting cohesion issue by issue. The voting maps reveal Japan's ambivalent stance on most of the issues. Japan's voting pattern often does not follow its idealistic guidelines. The study further inquires into the discrepancy between Japan's foreign policy and its foreign-policy behavior. The main reasons seem to stem from its dependent security relations with the United States, the close economic ties with Asian countries and the oil-producing Middle East states, and historical constraints in relations with Asia. In addition, Japan's ambiguous foreign policy guidelines are themselves a factor which creates the discrepancy. These factors prevent Japan from independently reacting to international incidents. Yet given its financial and technological advances, Japan could play a leading role within the framework of international organizations, especially on global environmental issues.


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