Maximizing the Potential of a Japan-Turkey Strategic Relationship: The Security of Middle Eastern Energy Supplies

Maximizing the Potential of a Japan-Turkey Strategic Relationship: The Security of Middle Eastern Energy Supplies

Devrim Şahin (Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus) and Ahmet Sözen (Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4203-2.ch010
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The international system has experienced a shift from a Western-centric world dominated by the United States to a decentralized world. This accompanies a shift in the distribution of energy wherein China overtakes the US as the biggest oil importer. Energy is vital for the survival of countries' economic facilities. Japan is a country that needs to import the energy resources to run its industry. Thus, the security of its economic activities is dependent on the security of energy supplies. The fact that Turkey is a country with ambitions to become a regional energy center and has strong ties to the Middle East makes it vital to Japanese interests. Also, Japan's advanced technology and economy are vital to Turkey's ambitions of becoming an energy hub. These reciprocal interests make it possible for both countries to attain a high level of cooperation. Nevertheless, this depends on their self-awareness and political will in order to exhibit a more independent behavior which transcends their previously US-dominated foreign policy.
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What is the potential of a Turkey-Japan strategic partnership and how can they reach a high level of cooperation? Rapidly changing international circumstances bring to the fore a Turkey-Japan strategic partnership which is vital for the security of energy supply, particularly in their engagement with the Middle East. A strategic partnership can be accomplished as a result of a partnership which includes Japan’s advanced technology and economy, and Turkey’s strong ties in the region. Nevertheless, this depends on the self-awareness and political will of both Turkey and Japan to exhibit a more independent behavior which transcends their previously US dominated foreign policy. The ambition to control valuable energy resources fuels protracted historic tensions as experienced in Cyprus, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, the Crimea, Ukraine, and the South China Sea. This proves how timely it is to reconsider how Japan and Turkey can reach a high level of cooperation on the security of the Middle Eastern energy supply.

Energy security is a complicated issue that offers opportunities as well as perils for contemporary politics. While classical economists define energy as a basic good that influences every process of manufacturing and services, scholars of politics define it as a strategic good with a comparatively high utility which is difficult to replace. Nowadays more than ever, uninterrupted access to petroleum and other liquids restructures more intensely contemporary politics. The supply of energy is related primarily to pipeline security. This raises questions regarding the stability of the supplying and transit countries. It has been a high priority the way in which this stability and security of supplying and transit countries will be provided locally, regionally and globally. Turkey as a transit country has ambitions of becoming a regional energy center. It can use its hard power as complementary to its soft power in the Middle East. Turkey has strong bonds and influence within the supplying countries such as Qatar, where it has a military base and is ready to play a mediating role. Thus, this role of Turkey is vital to Japan’s interests in order to ensure the latter’s uninterrupted access to energy supplies. Turkey, nevertheless, needs Japan’s energy technology and the money of Japanese investors to carry out its projects, such as a greater investment in Turkey’s atomic sector, as soon as possible. Turkey can model its best experience from partnering with Japan in projects in various fields such as energy, technology industry or university education.

Japan as the world’s third largest economy has experienced advances in industrial, information and energy technologies. Japan has achieved the most efficient energy utilization in the world by a very efficient use of imported raw materials and saving in resource consumption. Japan has highly efficient energy technologies including nuclear power, natural gas and coal fired power generation, fuel cells, energy storage systems and conversion materials, heat pumps, and renewable energy systems. Japanese high technologies when coupled with its experience and investment power provide the country with the capabilities to deliver solutions to common problems in the energy field such as maximizing the efficient use of resources. Japanese technology can be used to construct highly efficient energy plants in any place of the world, particularly in the Middle East region, which is rich in fossil fuel energy sources, and pipelines to transfer the energy produced in these plants. The country has the investment power to finance these constructions. Herein, the problem that Japan faces is to securely transfer energy through long distances from production sites to where it will be used. Japan’s dependency on secured energy sources, as well as Turkey’s dependency on the transfer of advanced technology skills generates a mutual dependency. They can complement each other’s power in the Middle East. Japan’s technology and investment can be used to build pipelines to transfer Middle-Eastern energy resources, while Turkey can provide security of these energy routes. This mutual inter-dependency stems from the search for stability in the Middle East, which can be fulfilled through a Turkey-Japan strategic partnership based on shared economic benefits.

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