(Sankei: April 13, 2015 – p. 2)
The U.S.-Cuba summit should be welcomed as a historic watershed, as it ushers in bringing the relic of the Cold War regime to an end.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro met for the first time since their countries severed diplomatic ties more than half a century ago. The two leaders are expected to accelerate negotiations on diplomatic normalization.
“We entered a new chapter,” said Obama. Castro spoke honestly: “Patience is needed, as there are things the two countries can and cannot agree on.”
The U.S. and Cuba agreed to launch normalization talks in December. Their foreign ministers met on April 9 after working-level consultations.
Obama wants to offset his diplomatic blunders in handling situations over Syria and Ukraine through bringing about reconciliation with Cuba. It also appears that he wants to contain China, which is growing its clout in Central and Latin America.
Cuba, on the other hand, has long hoped to restore its ties with the U.S. to pull itself out of years of economic hardships.
Wherever their intentions lie, the two leaders’ decision to reconcile beyond love and hate deserves credit.
Now the focus of normalization talks will move to laying out specific conditions. The Obama administration has decided to accept Cuba’s request for delisting Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, which will likely lead into lifting economic sanctions as well.
But Washington’s move to normalize diplomatic ties with Cuba and lift economic sanctions is drawing cautious opinions mainly from the Republicans, which control both the Senate and the House following midterm elections. Efforts to restore diplomatic ties will hit a snag if they are not approved by Congress. Obama should tenaciously persuade those who take a cautious stance for their understanding.
Over 60% of U.S. citizens support diplomatic normalization with Cuba. Lifting economic sanctions is expected to facilitate trade with and investment in the Caribbean country. And if the Cuban economy perks up, democratization will take shape. Those who are reluctant to normalize diplomatic ties need to take these into full consideration.
Cuba takes the position that it will maintain its socialist regime even though it normalizes relations with the U.S. This is problematical. That it gets all sanctions to be removed and remains tough on its own people should not be accepted. It must lift people from grinding poverty and stop cracking down on anti-regime forces.
Washington’s reconciliation with Havana will deal a blow to Venezuela and other anti-U.S. countries and greatly contribute to the stability of the entire Central and Latin American region. That will also revive a strong America and help it gain ground against China and Russia.
The normalization of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba will also help prevent other countries from holding reservation to Washington. Time will come when countries such as Japan will step up their aid to Cuba.