A growing sense of urgency to ensure economic security is precipitating the formation of like-minded groups in the Asia-Pacific, where the re-engagement of the United States is met with China's quest for greater influence.

The new paradigm is putting Japan's diplomacy — and its ultimate vision for its own engagement in the region — to the test.

It is pushing for a rules-based, "free and open Indo-Pacific," seen as a counterbalance to China, but it also needs to avoid alienating countries that are much closer to Beijing than to Tokyo and ruffling the feathers of the Asian powerhouse.