Crafting Policy for Contested Commons: Insights from Japan’s Approach to the Outer Space, Cyberspace, and Maritime Domains
Japan’s Leadership in the Liberal International Order: Impact and Policy Opportunities for Partners, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs Joint Policy Paper Series, University of British Columbia
6 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2020 Last revised: 27 Apr 2021
Date Written: June 16, 2020
Part of a series on Japan's leadership in the liberal international order, this paper examines Japan’s changing approach to the global commons, tracing commonalities across the outer space, cyberspace, and maritime domains. As security threats have emerged in these domains, Japan has continued to uphold the principles of the liberal international order based on rule of law, but it has also hedged against risk by securitizing issues, by turning its existing diplomatic and technological tools to new purposes, and by linking the commons with security structures related to the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the U.S.-Japan alliance. This examination of Japan’s approach to the global commons has broad implications for policy. First, there is a clear need for serious attention to the maintenance and/or construction of governance regimes that will promote the use of the global commons in ways that benefit all countries. Second, the increasingly crowded and competitive environment in the global commons presents new challenges in terms of cultivating consensus and regulating activity, but it also offers opportunities to create coalitions of like-minded countries, and middle powers have an important role to play in this process. Third, the clear parallels in changes across the outer space, cyberspace, and maritime domains suggest that there is something valuable to be gained from fostering dialogue among their respective scholars and practitioners, to find best practices that can be shared or transferred across domains. Although the onset of COVID-19 has drawn the attention of many countries away from developments outside their national borders, it has not lessened the importance of these issues — indeed, there is evidence that the global pandemic may be providing a convenient distraction that is enabling additional incursions in these domains and further eroding norms regarding their shared use.
Keywords: Japan, Global Commons, Outer Space, Cyberspace, Maritime, Security, Liberal International Order
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