Editorial: Japan should brush up its diplomatic instincts
Japan's diplomatic policy for the New Year is set to begin. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is responsible for the new agenda, is the grandson of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, while Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who supports Abe, is the grandson of former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.
Yoshida signed the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty with the United States, which has served as the foundation for Japan's postwar development and stability, and Kishi revised it into its current form.
The grandsons of these two former prime ministers are set to work closely in breaking the diplomatic impasse amid growing concern about what is widely perceived as a diplomatic crisis.
Kishi based his governing of Japan on the country's security policy.
In his book, "Oiso Zuiso" ("Essay from Oiso"), Yoshida quoted Colonel Edward House, a foreign policy adviser to former U.S. President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, as saying that countries that have no diplomatic instincts would fail.
Prudent diplomatic policy is indispensable for not only the survival of countries but also to allow governments to put their utmost efforts into domestic policy issues, including economic revitalization, social security and education. Moreover, intensifying friction with other countries could fuel the public's anxiety and eventually give rise to exclusive nationalism. To prevent such a situation, it is necessary for the Japanese government to reconfirm that diplomatic policy is the basis for ensuring the country's stability.
A diplomatic crisis, which should be dubbed a "national crisis," has continued in Japan in recent years as tensions between Japan and its neighbors heightened over territorial issues. The year 2013 must be the year when the wisdom of the whole nation will be fully utilized to break the deadlock.
Prime Minister Abe took over the reins of government after bitterly criticizing as a "diplomatic defeat" Japan's friction with China, South Korea and Russia over the Senkaku Islands, the Takeshima Islands and the Northern Territories, respectively, as well as the meandering over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture under the previous administration. There is no denying that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led previous administration that lacked diplomatic instincts brought about the mess. However, no one can tell for sure that Japan would not have suffered the same diplomatic defeat if the LDP had been in power.
The current diplomatic crisis is attributable to the ambiguous diplomatic policy carried out by the longstanding LDP-led administration. It was when the LDP was in power that China enacted a law on its territorial waters in 1992 to recognize the Senkaku Islands as part of its territory, which was an overture to its provocative acts around the area. The dispute over the relocation of the Futenma base is the result of the past LDP-led administration's longstanding appeasement policy in which it forced Okinawa to host an excessive number of U.S. bases in return for massive financial assistance.
The world is undergoing rapid changes. The current international situation is different from that when the LDP was in power until 2009 when the DPJ took over the reins of government. The United States' influence on the world has relatively declined while China, which has replaced Japan as the No. 2 economic power, is also showing military ambitions. South Korea now needs to rely less on Japan. Russia and India have also been increasing their presence as new regional players. Simply responding to changes in the situation in its neighboring countries and complying with U.S. wishes is no longer effective.
As such, Prime Minister Abe is required to work toward rearranging and stabilizing Japan's diplomatic policy that fits with the times instead of rehashing the LDP's previous diplomatic policy. He should begin efforts to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance by seriously considering the purpose of the agreement.
Former Prime Minister Yoshida wrote in his book that both Japan and the United States should hold frank discussions on enforcing the Japan-U.S. security treaty, noting that both countries signed the accord from the standpoint of their respective national policies.
"I think the United States signed the bilateral security treaty out of the need for its Pacific strategy and from the standpoint of a broad U.S. national policy. Japan, for its part, also signed the treaty from the standpoint of its own defense and broad national policy," he wrote. "In enforcing this treaty, our two countries should frankly discuss a wide variety of matters."
The Japan-U.S. alliance will remain solid as long as the two countries need each other. However, the pact will collapse if either side deems that such cooperative relations detrimentally affect their national interests. Japan should clearly show its policy of responding to the Senkaku Islands issue and the relocation of U.S. bases in Okinawa and pursue a solution that will contribute to both countries' national interests and to the stability in the whole region through frank dialogue. Japan and the United States are required to transform the bilateral alliance from one in which Japan unilaterally follows and relies on the United States.
At the same time, Japan should strengthen its solidarity with the entire international community. Media outlets throughout the world have expressed grave concern and criticism of China's provocative acts over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. Japan's position over the issue has been supported by the international community. Behind such support is the world's understanding that Japan is a country that peacefully settles its disputes with other countries through negotiations and that Japan attaches importance to broad-minded nationalism, in which it seeks to peacefully coexist with other countries, rather than narrow-minded nationalism.
Japan must respect such international opinion. The advantage of Japan, which does not measure national strength by military capability, is its close bonds with the international community. Whether the Abe administration can manage relations with countries that are difficult to get along with by increasing its supporters and decreasing its enemies is being called into question.
The image a leader of a country portrays to the international community is a crucial matter that can largely affect national interests. It has been largely pointed out in the international community that Japan has been leaning toward the right following the House of Representatives election in December last year. Under the circumstances, the Abe administration must be cautious about the interpretation of Japan's history of wartime atrocities by its Asian neighbors. In the LDP's previous administrations, gaffes by Cabinet members over the matter often ended up damaging Japan's national interests. The new administration must not repeat these mistakes. The Abe administration should exercise prudence, brush up its diplomatic instincts and break the diplomatic impasse in 2013.
January 07, 2013(Mainichi Japan)