Japan and Security in the Indo-Pacific

Course description

The Indo-Pacific has become the centerstage of the shifting global balance of power. From the rise of China and the US – China rivalry, to tensions on the Korean Peninsula and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas, regional security developments have far-reaching consequences for the functioning of international affairs and economy. Proposed by the BSoG Japan Program, the course explores the regional security environment through the lenses of Japan’s foreign policy. What are the main security trends  shaking and shaping regional affairs?  What is Japan’s role in the Indo-Pacific, and how are Tokyo’s strategic policies and foreign relations evolving?  And what are the implications for Europe?  


Course format

The course follows a practical, executive-style format, combining traditional academic lectures with interactive seminars and interventions of renowned external experts  from Europe and Asia. It will provide you a thorough picture of the current security challenges in the Indo-Pacific, an opportunity to engage with experienced policy-makers and the analytical tools to assess geopolitical trends.

Course structure

Module 1: Japanese foreign and security policy (Autumn 2021)

The first module aims to provide an understanding of the historical, institutional and strategic context that defines Japan’s foreign and security policy. Its lectures will focus on the evolution of Japan’s foreign policy post-WWII; the domestic political environment; the contours of its security and defence policy; and the specific profile and role of Japan as maritime power.  This module follows a more traditional approach, based on academic-style lectures to ensure the students have the necessary background to follow the ensuing, more specialized modules.


Module 2: Japan’s contribution to regional security (Winter/Spring 2022)

The second module focuses on Japan’s role and contribution to regional security in Asia. It will explore Tokyo’s evolving vision of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, focusing on the main regional security hotspots and relationships with key partners. Taking the form of public lectures, it combines a traditional “main lecture” – delivered by an external, high-level lecturer, with an input from a discussant. To keep a more practical focus, the lectures will be moderated and allow for an interactive discussion with the students and the general public.


Module 3:  Japan’s contribution to global security and Europe- Japan relations (Spring/Summer 2022)

The third and final module will be devoted to Japan’s global contribution to global security and its relations with Europe, paying particular attention to the EU and NATO. This will be more dynamic, with a view to reflecting the evolving agenda in EU-Japan and NATO-Japan relations. It will also pay particular attention to interaction with those policy-makers responsible for setting out the agenda of Europe-Japan relations. This final module will focus on Japan’s contribution to global security (i.e. beyond the Indo-Pacific), and zoom in on Europe-Japan relations. It will combine short lectures and roundtables on Japan-EU and Japan-NATO relations. 


Course team

Dr Eva Pejsova - Senior Japan Fellow, Japan Program, VUB

Céline Pajon - Senior Researcher, Japan Program, VUB

Prof. Dr. Luis Simón - Research Professor, VUB

Maaike Verbruggen - Teaching Assistant, VUB


The course will be supported by interventions of external lecturers, experts and policy-practitioners from Japan, the EU institutions and NATO.