This time last year, Japan's diplomacy created political tsunami with a new dynamic leadership and doctrine. Prevailing sentiment in the region was full of excitement and anticipation. It was all about Japan that paid more attention to fellow Asians and leaning less towards the U.S. As the enthusiasm was shaping up, the dream generated by the nine-month old maverick former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama government took a sudden dip and woke up to a new reality. Quite predictably it has a long and nightmarish consequence within the region, ASEAN in particular.
At the moment, Japan is full of anxiety that it has lost ASEAN, its long-time economic backyard or to use the preferred euphemism, economic partners. With the combined rise of China and India dominating news headlines and coffee-table discussions, Japan realizes that the country no longer has the power and niche that it used to enjoy throughout the past four decades. Unfortunately, such self-doubt comes at the most pivotal time when a strong Japanese leadership is needed given the emerging new strategic environment.