How do states renegotiate their status in international organizations? I evaluate two hypotheses about renegotiation strategy choice. The first hypothesis conceptualizes renegotiation strategies as intertwined with challenger state objectives: reformist states will opt for integrative strategies – principled persuasion or strategic cooptation – while revisionist states will pursue distributive strategies – power bargaining or rhetorical coercion. The second hypothesis assumes states choose renegotiation strategies instrumentally, combining integrative and distributive strategies to maximize the likelihood of a successful alteration of the status quo. I evaluate the hypotheses by examining Japan, a country that has pursued renegotiation diplomacy across many institutional contexts. The case study evidence broadly favors the instrumental hypothesis: despite reformist objectives, Japan has often used power bargaining in tandem with integrative strategies. Contrary to the first hypothesis, Japanese objectives have not been clearly intertwined with renegotiation strategy choice. I further argue that future research should examine domestic political determinants of strategy choice, which have been important in the evolution of Japanese renegotiation diplomacy.
- States defending the status quo in international institutions should expect to encounter the simultaneous use of multiple renegotiation strategies by challengers, as demonstrated by Japan’s postwar approach toward institutional renegotiation.
- Policy makers should avoid misinterpreting renegotiation strategies that involve threats and pressure as signs of revisionism. Such strategies are not used exclusively by revisionist states, and responding in good faith can strengthen international cooperation.
- International organizations and foreign counterparts should expect the increasing use of confrontational renegotiation strategies by Japan due to domestic political shifts during the past thirty years.
- When engaging in institutional renegotiation, policy makers should seek to understand and seek solutions that are sensitive to the domestic political motivations of their counterparts.