(Sankei: January 22, 2016 – p. 7)
By Yoshiyuki Kasai, honorary chairman of Central Japan Railway Company
The Japanese and ROK governments agreed on a “final and irreversible” end to the comfort women issue late last year and this agreement was endorsed by the U.S. government. This laid the groundwork for strengthening the Japan-U.S.-ROK relationship. The timing of North Korea’s nuclear test on Jan. 6 seems to indicate that it was prompted by this development to make a show of force to raise the morale of its people. China’s negative attitude even as the international community was condemning North Korea and considering tougher economic sanctions led U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to complain that “China is not functioning.”
China needs North Korea to remain as a buffer against the U.S. in its pursuit of military and economic hegemony in East Asia. Therefore, it will not inflict any real harm on North Korea even though it is going along with international public opinion. This is consistent with such developments as the sharp increase in Self-Defense Forces aircraft’s scrambles, repeated intrusions into Japan’s territorial sea near the Senkaku Islands, and the building of military bases on the Nansha [Spratly] Islands with absolutely no regard for international law.
Over 20 years have passed since the end of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War and the start of the search for a world order for the 21st Century. A stable framework for the international community is still elusive. However, the nation state is still the basic unit of the international community. The 21st Century is certain to move forward with regional partnerships centered on the Pacific area, the Indian Ocean, China, Russia, the European Union, and so forth.
China’s moves to change the status quo backed by military power constitute the risk factor. Japan’s only option is to convince China that it has to build gentlemanly relations with its neighbors. The enactment of the peace and security laws and the basic TPP agreement last year are epoch-making in the sense that they further clarify and strengthen Japan’s standpoint.
Another distinguishing feature of the world in the 21st Century is the turmoil in the Islamic states in the Middle East and the spread of terrorism perpetuated by the extremist group Islamic State. How to respond to this is an urgent issue for the international community amid the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
A historical transition period is usually plagued by unpredictability and upheaval. History teaches us that a new era cannot begin without going through this phase. What is needed in times like this is a strong leader capable of making the right decisions from a broad perspective and responding to change flexibly. The Shinzo Abe administration’s promotion of proactive pacifism and the TPP has strengthened the Japan-U.S. alliance to an unprecedented level. His vigorous summit diplomacy has built a network of trust with the leaders of many countries. I believe that Japan should define its position in the 21st Century building on these achievements.
A leader does not follow the masses; he must provide the direction. Yet, a leader cannot carry on without the masses’ support under a parliamentary democracy. Populism growing from this paradox weakens the people’s self-reliance in peacetime. This gradually leads to social degeneration or the aging of society. In a transition period of the century, this will ruin the nation.
The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty of 1960 represented Japan’s decision to stake its fate on the Japan-U.S. alliance in the 20th Century. At that time, there was strong opposition to the security treaty both in the universities and on the streets. The newspapers were steering public opinion toward opposition to the security treaty, championing the absurd proposition that a majority vote by Diet members was undemocratic. Then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi remained unperturbed. He went ahead with the normal procedures under a parliamentary democracy. Japan owes its prosperity today to that decision.
The peace and security laws last year represent the choice Japan has made to maintain the effectiveness of the Japan-U.S. alliance in the 21st Century. Like during the time of the struggle over the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960, the media cited incredible reasons – such as Japan will be embroiled in war or this will lead to the revival of conscription – to oppose the bills. The opposition’s interpellations in the Diet consisted mostly of abstract arguments and fault finding echoing such opinion.
The leader’s role is to lead the nation, but it is the people who elect the leader. Unless the people have an awareness of crisis, there will be no role for a strong, stable leader to play. The world is in the final stage of transition to a 21st Century regime. North Korea’s nuclear test, developments in China, and the Islamic State’s terrorism are indications of the bumpy road ahead. I believe the issue for Japan this year is to consolidate a stable and strong long-term administration. (Slightly abridged)