SSU Forum/GraSPP Research Seminar“ Indo-Pacific Strategy: The Netherlands Indo-Pacific Guidelines and the European Union Context”

  • Date:
  • Time:
    10:30-11:30 am JST
  • Venue:
    Online seminar (Zoom Webinar)
    The Zoom Meeting URL will be delivered by mail on the day before this event.
  • Language:

    English *Japanese simultaneous translation will be provided

  • Hosts and Co-Host:

    Security Studies Unit (SSU), Institute for Future Initiatives
    Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan
    Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSSP)

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Registration is now closed for this event.

Over the course of the last decade, the Indo-Pacific region has rapidly become the engine of global economic growth. However, this development has been accompanied by an increase in geopolitical disputes and tensions over the waterways that constitute the trade routes of the region. The Netherlands and the EU have a strong interest in the stability and respect for the rule of law, human rights, and free trade in the region.
The Netherlands formulated its own Indo-Pacific Guidelines in 2020, with the aim to contribute to strengthen its ties with this vital region. Since then the Netherlands has moved towards the practical implementation of the guidelines: on 22 March 2021, it announced that it would dispatch the frigate HNLMS Evertsen to the Indo-Pacific region, demonstrating the Dutch commitment to this region.
Taking these developments as its backdrop, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan, H.E. Mr. Peter van der Vliet, will explain the Dutch endeavors under the banner of the Indo-Pacific Guidelines at this webinar co-organized by Security Studies Unit(SSU), Institute for Future Initiatives and Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSSP) of the University of Tokyo. During this SSU Forum/GraSSP Research Seminar Ambassador Van der Vliet will explain the genesis of the Guidelines, the goals it seeks to attain, and Dutch involvement on the European process of formulating an EU Indo-Pacific Strategy. From the University of Tokyo, Professor Yee-Kuang HENG will participate as a discussant. This webinar will be moderated by Professor Kiichi Fujiwara.

We hope that you will join us for this webinar on the Netherland Indo-Pacific Guidelines.


Peter van der Vliet, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Japan
Kiichi Fujiwara, Professor of Graduate Schools of Law and Politics (opening remarks, moderator, and discussant)
Yee Kuang Heng, Professor of Graduate School of Public Policy (discussant)

The Security Studies Unit of the Institute for Future Initiatives and the Graduate School of Public Policy of the University of Tokyo were delighted to host a webinar with Peter van der Vliet, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Japan. The session was chaired by Kiichi Fujiwara, professor of international politics at the Graduate School of Law and Politics, while Yee Kuang Heng, professor of security studies at GraSPP, acted as discussant.

The webinar was opened by Professor Fujiwara, who welcomed the Ambassador and reminded the audience of the historical importance of the Netherlands as the gate to the world for Japan during most of the Edo period, when the Dutch were the only Europeans allowed to trade with Japan. However, the role of the Netherlands goes far beyond that. The Netherlands, the birthplace of Hugo Grotius, has been at the very centre of the creation of international law and of the modern rule-based system of international governance. The country has also been supporting international efforts for conflict resolution, with generous contributions to international peacekeeping missions. Last year, the Dutch government formulated for the first time its Indo-Pacific strategy, thus providing an excellent opportunity to think about cooperation and joint implementation of strategies in this region of the world.

Ambassador Van der Vliet opened his talk by explaining the issuance of the Indo-Pacific Strategy guidelines in 2020. The reasons underpinning such move are multifaceted. The Indo-Pacific region is now of enormous importance, as the world geostrategic and economic centre of gravity has shifted to the East. Politically, numerous issues revolve around what happens in the Indo-Pacific, such as the question of sustainable development, climate change, poverty. The Indo-Pacific strategy aims at preventing the emergence of a single hegemonic power, which could force other actors to accept unfair arrangements. In other words, the emergence of a unipolar Indo-Pacific region has to be prevented. The best way to protect Dutch interests lies therefore in ensuring the sovereignty and freedom of choice of all countries. This aim and this strategy do not belong to the Netherlands only, but to the European Union as a whole. Even if the EU seems to be a faraway place, the interconnectedness of this world makes distances almost irrelevant. The recent Suez Canal accident and consequent closure, to name just one example, has directly impacted the port of Rotterdam and retailers in Europe. Indeed, 35% of EU export head to the Indo-Pacific, and 4 out of 10 of the EU major trade partners are in Asia. Numerous other international and global questions have ramifications for both the EU and the Indo-Pacific region, for instance: trade wars, overdependency on vital production chains, fake news, the rise of authoritarianism, the hardening of debates in multilateral organizations, and many others. All this highlights the need for deeper cooperation among like-minded countries, such as the Netherlands and Japan, and more broadly, the EU and Japan. Such cooperation should aim at strengthening the rule of law, freedom of navigation, free trade, and democracy, which have all come under increasing pressure in recent years.
While the Netherlands is a relatively small country, it can produce a large global impact as part of the EU, whose bigger states, Germany and France, have also already issued their Indo-Pacific strategies. The EU at large, with like-minded partners in the region, including Japan, can help with the creation of a counterweight to the emergence of a single regional hegemon. This is particularly important in matters like compliance with the law of the seas. As an aspect of this effort, both Japan and the Netherlands are providing resources for capacity building in ASEAN nations. Other examples are in the domains of cybersecurity, non-proliferation, disarmament, arms export control.

The above are not simply lofty ideals, the Netherlands and the EU are aware that they must ‘walk the talk’, so to speak. The recent deployment of the Dutch frigate Evertsen as part of the UK-led Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) demonstrates this intent. However, this is not meant as a signal to a single country, as is demonstrated by the cooperative nature of the deployment and the adherence to international norms and rules.

The Netherlands and the EU are also committed to the promotion of democratic values and norms, as well as human rights. Overall, there is a degree of convergence in the strategic goals of the EU and Japan, through which cooperation and the strengthening of individual initiatives can be achieved. This conclusion was stressed in the recent Joint Declaration issued during the EU-Japan summit. Furthermore, these efforts directly complement the policies of the new Biden administration in the US, which is calling for the creation of coalitions of like-minded democracies.

Professor Heng commented on the Ambassador’s talk highlighting how the Netherlands’ Indo-Pacific guidelines can help to preserve “ASEAN centrality”, a concept which is routinely praised by ASEAN members. Furthermore, stressing the long list of interests that the Netherlands has in this region, Professor Heng asked how the international legal order and its preservation can be ranked within that list.

Ambassador van der Vliet replied that the Dutch approach to the Indo-Pacific region is based respecting the independence and sovereignty of states around the world. When asked about the importance of the international legal order, Ambassador van der Vliet replied that this legal order forms the foundation for the functioning of our globalized world. Because of this the safeguarding of any Dutch interest in the Indo-Pacific region will, as a prerequisite, require a healthy international order.

=The SSU Forum/GraSPP Research Seminar=