Japan's Security Policy in Africa: The Dawn of a Strategic Approach? Asie.Visions, No. 93, May 2017
This paper documents new features of Japan's diplomacy that tends to gradually integrate Africa into Japan's strategic interests.
In recent years, Japan's security contribution in Africa rose with the unprecedented participation of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in an international counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden, the subsequent build-up of its first overseas military base in Djibouti, and the SDF's longest participation in United Nations Peace-Keeping Operations (UNPKO), in South Sudan (2012-May 2017). This increased security contribution has been driven by a need to react to various events, such as the rising Chinese presence in Africa and the increase in terrorist attacks and piracy. It is also a means of reassuring a risk-averse business sector and encouraging it to step up its investment in Africa. Finally, it is about demonstrating Japan's identity as a "proactive contributor to peace", and responsible shareholder in international security.
While media attention is drawn to the Japanese SDF presence on the ground and at sea, the bulk of Japan's security contribution to Africa remains low-key, mostly in the form of financial contributions and capacity-building assistance, and is very often channeled through or in partnership with multilateral institutions or a third country, such as France.
This said, Africa is now being associated more tightly with Japan's strategic core interests. Terrorist attacks on the continent are posing a direct risk to Japanese nationals. Threats to the security of vital maritime shipping routes transiting from the Middle East to the Indian Ocean are also directly undermining Tokyo's interests. The inclusion of Africa in the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy" demonstrates Japan's willingness to adopt a more strategic approach to Africa.