Military tensions between major countries are increasing across the world. Both China and the United States and its allies have conducted military drills near Taiwan, a maritime neighbor of Japan. The United States flaunted its naval capabilities while China showed off its air power.
Meanwhile, Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, a flashpoint between Moscow and the West. Logistics units are a part of that force, sparking speculation of a Russian invasion.
And in the Himalayas, China and India are facing off in disputed border areas. China is building more military facilities in the region, while India has boosted local troop numbers to 200,000.
An arms race is also intensifying, with China testing a new type of nuclear missile that can just about circumnavigate the globe at hypersonic speeds, making it difficult to intercept. This shocked the U.S. to a degree that could be likened to the "Sputnik crisis" 65 years ago, when the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite.
World powers are showing off their strength, and competing to be at the forefront of new weapons development. It is as if the clock has been turned back to the Cold War era.
-- Displays of military might by the U.S., China and Russia
This struggle for armed supremacy is dangerously destabilizing to the world. Following the end of the Cold War in 1989, the U.S. vowed to build a world without divisions as the only superpower. But its leadership has been undermined by the prolonged "war on terror," and China and Russia have increasingly moved to fill the gap that has emerged.
While changes in dynamics between countries have shaken the world's free international order, there remains no axis to provide new stability. International cooperation is not functioning either. The United Nations Security Council, which is responsible for world peace, has become immobilized by the United States' and Britain's confrontations with China and Russia.
In the five years following the Cold War, there were more than 20 new U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKO), but over the most recent five years, there has been only one, in Haiti. The main way of dealing with conflict recently has been for countries to form coalitions of the willing based on shared national interests, cutting the U.N. out altogether.
Magnetism between nations is weakening, while confrontation and division are becoming more serious. Is there any way to prevent a "new Cold War"?
It is first important for world powers to clarify their overall concept for international society. Surely what everyone wants is a world of peaceful coexistence and concord. To achieve this, world powers must address their own attitudes.
The U.S. asserts that China and Russia are authoritarian regimes in diametric opposition to democratic politics. It is only natural to denounce human rights abuses. But splitting the world into friends and foes is unlikely to be of any use in repairing divisions.
On the flipside, if China and Russia went beyond saber-rattling and invaded Taiwan and Ukraine, how would things unfold? It's obvious that surrounding countries would be dragged in.
Rather than fueling ideological disputes or rushing into expansionism backed by military might, world powers should accept the differences in their political systems and prioritize conflict resolution through diplomacy.
An all-out arms race will lead to unstoppable military expansion. It is the responsibility of world powers to work together on arms control.
Conflicts are flaring across the world. There is a mountain of issues that cannot be solved without the cooperation of world powers, such as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues and the turmoil following the U.S. military's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
-- An "Asia strategy" for Japan
Japan cannot be passive in all this. In autumn 2021, 10 Chinese and Russian vessels passed through the Tsugaru Strait, and the countries' bombers flew a joint air patrol over the East China Sea. Japan needs to respond calmly to the situation, while increasing vigilance.
After World War II, Japan maximized its national interests not through force, but by building up its economy while taking a restrained stance on defense, enabled by its alliance with the United States. Now, that economy cannot stand without a relationship with China. China is Japan's biggest trading partner, and Japan's ratio of trade with China is at an all-time high.
To protect its national interests, Japan should proactively forge a concept for peace in Asia.
April 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and India, while the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China will arrive in September. The same month, we will see the 20th anniversary of the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang declaration. We hope to see wisdom that puts the advantage of time to good use.
Strengthening relations with India is important for bolstering Japan's position on China. It is essential to call for China to expand the foundation for collaboration while raising human rights and other issues with Beijing.
If China can once again be brought into the response to North Korean issues, this will pave the way for discussion on a future Asian security framework.
Diplomacy cannot take only one line. It must involve the United States engaging in summit diplomacy with China and Russia, and the strengthening of military cooperation between Russia and India, as the latter takes part in a strategic framework with Japan, the U.S. and Australia.
At the beginning of this new year, a comprehensive economic partnership centered on Japan and China has begun in Asia. Japan needs to display a multilayered and determined approach to diplomacy.