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Japan in the Gulf: Hedging between Washington and Tehran?


Whereas Japan’s hedging vis-à-vis China in the Indo-Pacific has predominantly been the focus of academic analysis, hedging also explains Tokyo’s policy choices in the Gulf to a significant degree. Yet, existing literature has largely overlooked Japan’s hedging behaviour in the Gulf, which had to navigate the uncertainties generated by two competing powers, the United States and Iran. As hedging theory is above all concerned with risk, Japan’s policies demonstrate a concern with managing risks and the adverse consequences of misalignment or alignment. Tokyo’s attempts to serve as what former Foreign Minister Kono Taro called an “honest broker”, however, have not enabled it to shape the evolving regional security architecture. Japan’s propensity to deploy hedging more effectively in the Gulf may be shaped by domestic political considerations, pressing security challenges closer to home and personalities of key Japanese politicians such as late former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.
Keywords: Japan; Gulf; hedging; Free and Open Indo-Pacific; energy security