The connectivity agenda is essential to Asia’s economic growth: from the supply of high quality infrastructure to enable efficient production and transportation networks, to the dissemination of digital standards critical to information flows, services, and the burgeoning digital economy. While discussions on Asia’s connectivity agenda have focused on China’s growing influence through its Belt and Road Initiative and its plans for a Digital Silk Road, Japan has long played an important role in financing infrastructure projects in the region and has stepped up its economic diplomacy. In addition to its $200 billion Quality Infrastructure Initiative, Japan has established a cooperation mechanism with the United States and Australia to support private sector investment in regional infrastructure, while also agreeing to some collaboration with China on infrastructure projects in third countries. On the digital front, Japan has made data governance a centerpiece of its G20 chairmanship in 2019, and the recently enacted Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement includes rules that underpin the development of digital connectivity.
On February 11, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies hosted Kohei Toyoda, director for international coordination for the Trade Policy Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, for a keynote address on Japan’s goals and policies to advance Asian connectivity. Following Mr. Toyoda’s remarks, a panel of experts examined how to balance competition and collaboration among great powers in supplying Asia’s connectivity infrastructure, how much traction Japan’s Quality Infrastructure Initiative has gained in the region, and limitations and opportunities for Japan-China business cooperation in third countries. They also addressed the prospect of a U.S.-Japan partnership on infrastructure and digital connectivity, as well as the challenges ahead for Japan to become a leader of digital connectivity. After the discussion, panelists questions from the audience.
Senior Policy Fellow - Center for Global Development
Director - The European Centre for International Political Economy
Senior Fellow - London School of Economics
Senior Consulting Fellow - Asia Pacific Initiative
Chief Representative for Strategic Research - Japan Bank for International Cooperation
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While there’s some debate about the precise state of North Korea’s missile capabilities, including the new hypersonic missile it claims to have tested, what is clear is that North Korea’s continued advancement of its nuclear and missile programs are exacerbating the security dilemma in the region. Because diplomacy has failed thus far to restrain Pyongyang, Northeast Asian states, especially South Korea and Japan, feel as if they have no other choice but to increase their own military capabilities and joint capabilities with the United States to deter, or in the worst case, preempt, a North Korean attack. Beijing, however, claims these moves shift the military balance in the region in a way that threatens its own security, and that it must continue to advance its own strategic capabilities in response. In sum, North Korea’s ever-advancing missile and nuclear programs are creating major ripple effects on the region.