PM Shinzo Abe has bee in the Middle East (ME). Some reports say that this trip marks a shift in the Japanese Foreign Policy due to Japan's energy needs (after the nuclear issues in Fukushima).
The brief four notes that you are about to read, also mark this blog's turn to the East.
US$2.5 billion pledge
PM Abe, in Cairo, promised 2.5 billion US dollars in “non-military fields including humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, intended for the entire region”; he also stated that Japan will pledge US$200 Mio to assist those countries fighting the Islamic State (IS) to absorb refugees – is Japan suggesting that Arab countries should absorb more refugees in exchange for pecuniary assistance? Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt top the Arab nations that have received over 2 million Syrian refugees alone (of a total of 2,979,315 registered refugees [source]); but it's interesting how prospective Arab oil suppliers refused to absorb large numbers of their brethren despite having more means to do so – the same very nations who are prolific in pledging funds to humanitarian causes but seldom ever deliver (yet when we speak of funding madrassas and terror, their name always comes up). Will Japan try to advise those suppliers or will it opt by the "business as usual" doctrine?
The 2.5 billion dollars also include funds to improve Egypt's power grid: this is an excellent idea; one that opens many other possibilities (other than the most obvious ones, like job creation and industrial development).
Japan, in July 2014, reformed Article 9 of its constitution (that outlawed war as a means to settle international disputes involving the country) meaning that the Japanese State will be able to defend other allies in case of war being declared on them; but how does this move apply to the ME? PM Abe promised Jordan that his country, in the future, will be able to contribute more to help fighting threats to the region (by mentioning UN peacekeeping ops and "other activities" without specifying which kind of activities); however, is Jordan or any other ME nation Japan's ally or was PM Abe referring to Japan's status as a Major Non-NATO Ally?
"Japan believes that the day will come in the near future when we can recognise Palestine as a state, (...) In order for that day to arrive sooner, we will appeal to both Israel and Palestine to resume negotiations to advance the so-called Two-State Solution." -- PM Abe in Cairo
The use of the expression “so-called” indicates that Japan has learned that, in order to make business with Arab nations (from whom it intends to buy oil from), it has to repeat that famous mantra in favour of a ex nihilo state; even though the Japanese are not very certain of the viability of such state. But if repeating a diplomatic platitude is all it takes in order to comply to the Japanese voters' demands (i.e. depend less on nuclear energy), so be it.
Is this trip really about Japan's energy needs or is it just another way of further challenging China (who, by conceding that the US is leader of the world, seems to be re-directing its focus towards keeping its regional hegemony [since India and Japan are both challenging the Red Dragon in a very clever fashion])? We'll see...