During the Cold War, Japanese foreign policy was not self-assertive, relatively focused on their economic growth. However the end of the Cold War and bitter lessons from the Gulf War changed the policy slowly. Japanese government decided to participate in the Peacekeeping operations by the UN, and sent their troops to Cambodia, Mozambique, Golan Heights and the East Timor in the 1990s and 2000s. After the September 11 attacks, Japanese naval vessels have been assigned to resupply duties in the Indian Ocean to the present date. The Ground Self-Defense Force also dispatched their troops to Southern Iraq for the restoration of basic infrastructures.
By 1990 Japan's interaction with the vast majority of Asia-Pacific countries, especially its burgeoning economic exchanges, was multifaceted and increasingly important to the recipient countries. The developing countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarded Japan as critical to their development. Japan's aid to the ASEAN countries totaled US $1.9 billion in Japanese fiscal year (FY) 1988 versus about US $333 million for the United States during U.S. FY 1988. Japan was the number one foreign investor in the ASEAN countries, with cumulative investment as of March 1989 of about US $14.5 billion, more than twice that of the United States. Japan's share of total foreign investment in ASEAN countries in the same period ranged from 70 to 80 percent in Thailand to 20 percent in Indonesia.
In the late 1980s, the Japanese government was making a concerted effort to enhance its diplomatic stature, especially in Asia. Toshiki Kaifu's much publicized spring 1991 tour of five Southeast Asian nations—Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines—culminated in a May 3 major foreign policy address in Singapore, in which he called for a new partnership with the ASEAN and pledged that Japan would go beyond the purely economic sphere to seek an "appropriate role in the political sphere as a nation of peace." As evidence of this new role, Japan took an active part in promoting negotiations to resolve the Cambodian conflict.
In 1997, the ASEAN member nations and the People's Republic of China, South Korea and Japan agreed to hold yearly talks to further strengthen regional cooperation, the ASEAN Plus Three meetings. In 2005 the ASEAN plus Three countries together with India, Australia and New Zealand held the inaugural East Asia Summit (EAS).
According to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's arc of freedom, Japan courts India to counter China. To this end, Japan has funded many infrastructure projects in India, most notably in New Delhi's metro subway system and Maruti.
Indian applicants have been welcomed in 2006/7 to the JET Programme, starting with just one slot available in 2006 and 41 in 2007.
Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu signaled a broadening of Japan's interest in South Asia with his swing through the region in April 1990. In an address to the Indian parliament, Kaifu stressed the role of free markets and democracy in bringing about "a new international order," and he emphasized the need for a settlement of the Kashmir territorial dispute between India and Pakistan and for economic liberalization to attract foreign investment and promote dynamic growth. To India, which was very short of hard currency, Kaifu pledged a new concessional loan of ¥100 billion (about US$650 million) for the coming year. Sri Lanka and Japan are two close friends since the early stages of post World War (II) since Sri Lanka extended a great support for Japanese development plans at the UN secretarial discussions.
On May 15, 1952, diplomatic relations were established with the government of Japan at a Legation level. However, the Japanese government refrained from appointing a Minister Plenipotentiary to Israel until 1955. Relations between the two states were distant at first, but after 1958, as demand no break occurred. This had been at the same time that OPEC had imposed an oil embargo against several countries, including Japan.
Some Canadian-Japanese contacts predate the mutual establishment of permanent legations. The first known Japanese immigrant to Canada, Manzo Nagano, landed in New Westminster, British Columbia in 1877.
Canadians G. G. Cochran helped in founding Doshisha University in Kyoto, and Davidson McDonald helped in establishing Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.
In the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, a Canadian steamship, the RMS Empress of Australia and her captain, Samuel Robinson achieved international acclaim for stalwart rescue efforts during the immediate aftermath of that disaster.
Canadian military attaché Herbert Cyril Thacker served in the field with Japanese forces in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), for which the Japanese government awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class and the Japanese War medal for service during that campaign.
Canada and Japan have had diplomatic relations since 1928. Both countries are characterized by their active role in the Asia-Pacific community, as well as a relationship consisting of important economic, political, and socio-cultural ties. As major international donors, both Canada and Japan are strongly committed to promoting human rights, sustainable development and peace initiatives.
Canada-Japan relations are underpinned by their partnership in multilateral institutions: the G-7/8; the United Nations; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Quad (Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States), and by their common interest in the Pacific community, including participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
H.I.M. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit Canada in 2009.
In 1897, the 35 members of the so-called Enomoto Colonization Party settle in the Mexican state of Chiapas. This was the first organized emigration from Japan to Latin America.
President Álvaro Obregón was awarded Japan's Order of the Chrysanthemum at a special ceremony in Mexico City. On November 27, 1924, Baron Shigetsuma Furuya, Special Ambassador from Japan to Mexico, conferred the honor on Obregón. It was reported that this had been the first time that the Order had been conferred outside the Imperial family.
In 1952, Mexico becomes the second country to ratify the San Francisco Peace Treaty, preceded only by the United Kingdom.
Mexico and Japan on September 17, 2004, signed the "Agreement Between Japan and The United Mexican States For The Strengthening of The Economic Partnership." This was the among many historic steps led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to strengthen global economic stability.
The United States is Japan's closest ally, and Japan relies on the U.S. for its national security to a high degree. As two of the world's top economic powers, both countries also rely on close economic ties for their wealth, despite ongoing and occasionally acrimonious trade frictions.
Although its constitution and government policy preclude an offensive military role for Japan in international affairs, Japanese cooperation with the United States through the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty has been important to the peace and stability of East Asia. Currently, there are domestic discussions about possible reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. All postwar Japanese governments have relied on a close relationship with the United States as the foundation of their foreign policy and have depended on the mutual security treaty for strategic protection.
The relationship probably hit a post-war nadir around the early 1990s, when Japan's "economic rise" was seen as a threat to American power. Japan was the primary financier of the Gulf War, yet received major criticism in some US circles for its refusal to commit actual military support. Following the collapse of the so-called Bubble economy and the 1990s boom in the US, the Japanese economy was perceived as less of a threat to US interests. Some observers still feel that Japan's willingness to deploy troops in support of current US operations in Iraq, as spear-headed by Koizumi and the conservative LDP, reflects a vow not to be excluded from the group of countries the US considers friends. This decision may reflect a realpolitik understanding of the threat Japan faces from a rapidly modernizing China, which from its continued and indeed growing pattern of anti-Japanese demonstrations reveals the belief that old historical scores remain unsettled.
Australia-Japan relations have elements of tension as well as acknowledged mutuality of strong interests, beliefs and friendship. Memories of World War II linger among the Australian public, as does a contemporary fear of Japanese economic domination over countries, particularly Australia, although such fears have fallen off in response to Japan's economic stagnation in the 1990s. At the same time, government and business leaders see Japan as a vital export market and an essential element in Australia's strong future growth and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region.
Australia is also a major source of food and raw materials for Japan. In 1990 Australia accounted for 5.3 percent of total Japanese imports, a share that held relatively steady in the late 1980s. Due to its ability to export raw materials, Australia had a trade surplus with Japan. Australia was the largest single supplier of coal, iron ore, wool, and sugar to Japan in 1990. Australia is also a supplier of uranium. Japanese investment by 1988 made Australia the single largest source of Japanese regional imports. The ban on American and Canadian beef recently made Australia the largest supplier of beef in Japan. Resource development projects in Australia attracted Japanese capital, as did trade protectionism by necessitating local production for the Australian market. Investments in Australia totaled US$8.1 billion in 1988, accounting for 4.4 percent of Japanese direct investment abroad. Australia and Japanese relations have been growing for some time and will most likely continue to do so in the future. There is some tension regarding the issue of whaling.
Japan's relations with Russia are hampered by the two sides' inability to resolve their territorial dispute over the four islands that make up the Northern Territories (Kuriles), which the U.S.S.R. seized towards the end of World War II. The stalemate has prevented conclusion of a peace treaty formally ending the war. The dispute over the Kuril Islands exacerbated the Japan-Russo relations when the Japanese government published a new guideline for school textbooks on July 16, 2008 to teach Japanese children that their country has sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. The Russian public was outraged by the action the Foreign Minister of Russia criticized the action while reaffirming its sovereignty over the islands. The United States supports Japan on the Northern Territories issue and recognizes Japanese sovereignty over the islands. Despite the lack of progress in resolving the Northern Territories dispute, Japan and Russia have made some progress in developing other aspects of the relationship. Even without a peace treaty, most Japanese do not feel that relationship with Russia is troubled. That said, remembrance of the almost last-minute Soviet declaration of war on the defeated Japan in World War II and subsequent exploitation of former Japanese soldiers in harsh Siberian prison labor camps remains.
Although cultural and noneconomic ties with Western Europe grew significantly during the 1980s, the economic nexus remained by far the most important element of Japanese-West European relations throughout the decade. Events in West European relations, as well as political, economic, or even military matters, were topics of concern to most Japanese commentators because of the immediate implications for Japan. The major issues centred on the effect of the coming West European economic unification on Japan's trade, investment, and other opportunities in Western Europe. Some West European leaders were anxious to restrict Japanese access to the newly integrated European Union (until November 1993, the European Community), but others appeared open to Japanese trade and investment. In partial response to the strengthening economic ties among nations in Western Europe and to the United States-Canada-Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement, Japan and other countries along the Asia-Pacific rim began moving in the late 1980s toward greater economic cooperation.
On July 18, 1991, after several months of difficult negotiations, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu signed a joint statement with the Dutch prime minister and head of the European Community Council, Ruud Lubbers, and with the European Commission president, Jacques Delors, pledging closer Japanese-European Community consultations on foreign relations, scientific and technological cooperation, assistance to developing countries, and efforts to reduce trade conflicts. Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials hoped that this agreement would help to broaden Japanese-European Community political links and raise them above the narrow confines of trade disputes.
In 2004 the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and South Korea also criticized Japan for sending its Ground Self Defence Forces to Iraq, which was seen as a return to militarism. The government of Japan insisted that its forces would only participate in reconstruction and humanitarian aid missions.
There is a strong anti-Japanese sentiment in the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and South Korea. However, division is not always the case. South Korea and Japan successfully dual-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup together bridging a physical and political gap between the two countries. The high popularity of Bae Yong Joon, a South Korean actor, in Japan was also seen as a sign that the two cultures had moved closer together.