- Japan’s Foreign Policy Process
- Japan-North Korea Relations
- Northeast Asian Security Affairs
Focusing Events and Foreign Policy Process: Change and Immobilism in Japan’s North Korea Policy
Ruling and opposition politicians, mainstream media, and a mass of societal actors have come to view North Korea as Japan’s nemesis. While officially maintaining an ‘enemy-state’ status, Japan’s Cold War relations with North Korea were largely subdued and constructive – including periods of notable economic and human exchange. Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, however, Japan’s strained relationship with North Korea has increasingly become focused around Pyongyang’s advancement of nuclear weapons, missiles tests, and the North’s state-sponsored abductions of Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s. Mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula were accompanied by intense political and scholarly debates on the future of Japan’s national security. As social science scholarship on contemporary Japan investigates the trajectory and main drivers of Tokyo’s post-Cold War security and defense policies, the purpose of my study is to illustrate how North Korea evolved into a critical narrative within Japan’s public sphere. My dissertation aims at providing a thorough examination of the construction of the North Korean narrative within Japan and the causal pathways by which this narratives impact Japan’s foreign and security policy. By applying the concepts of ‘focusing events’ and ‘causal stories’ to the analysis of policy agenda formation and change my research identifies the actors, institutional mechanisms and conditions that determine the influence of newly constructed narrative frames on policy agenda dynamics. As such, this study offers insights into the causal mechanisms that link external security crises to domestic policy discourses and concrete policy outcomes within Japan’s evolving national security system.