Japan's Cultural Diplomacy and Cultivation of ASEAN Elites Japan may be an economic dynamo but dire poverty of energy and natural resources makes the country heavily dependent on a peaceful and stable international environment for economic exchange. Thus, to promote its national security, the Japanese government under the banner of its Comprehensive National Security Strategy stresses economic and cultural cooperation to strengthen ties with foreign nations in addition to bolstering the country's diplomatic and defense capabilities. The Southeast Asian region, specially the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are vital to Japan's security because of their strategic location and abundance of natural and human resources to facilitate Japan's economic prosperity and hence its national survival. One important determinant to the continuing cooperation of Japan and ASEAN is the attitude of ASEAN peoples, particularly the elites, toward Japan. In the past decades, Japan has attempted to cultivate a new generation of ASEAN elites more open to cooperation with Japan through cultural diplomacy involving educational, cultural, and athletic exchanges and technology transfers with the region. Despite these efforts and recent improvements in these exchanges, there are still strong criticisms from Southeast Asian recipients. Their grievances are rooted in many bureaucratic and policy shortcomings of the Japanese government. A sincere and genuine effort to improve its cultural diplomacy toward ASEAN is significant in promoting Japan-ASEAN cooperation and Japan's national interests.
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