(Sankei: February 2, 2016 – p. 5)
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced at a news conference on Feb. 1 that the next meeting of the Japan-led TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) will be held in Kenya on Aug. 27-28. With Japan also hosting the G7 Ise-Shima Summit and the Japan-China-ROK summit this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated his plan to strengthen Japan’s diplomatic presence. However, what can be achieved at these international conferences is likely to depend largely on the diplomatic goals set by the government.
Suga stressed on Feb. 1 that “the government and the private sector will exert utmost efforts for the success of the TICAD meeting” taking place in Africa for the first time. TICAD is a forum involving the African Union (AU), the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations that has been held in Japan since 1993, which aims at building stronger ties with the African nations through official development assistance (ODA) and private sector investment.
Abe, who will chair the G7 Ise-Shima Summit, stated in his Diet policy speech on Jan. 22 that this year “will be a year when Japan will shine in the center of the world.” He thus declared his administration’s emphasis on diplomacy.
However, certain Liberal Democratic Party members observe that “a grand vision of what Japan wants to accomplish during this glorious year is absent.”
While the regional situation and the international economy change every year, the agendas of many conferences are simply carried over from the previous year. Although the organizers indeed work hard for the success of each meeting, a Kantei (Prime Minister’s Official Residence) source notes that “bureaucratic sectionalism prevents the linkage of various conferences to produce more substantial results.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs created on Jan. 25 a strategic headquarters (chaired by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida) on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to work for realizing Japan’s long-cherished dream to become a permanent UNSC member. The truth is, this goal is not shared by the administration as a whole.
Abe has shown considerable diplomatic skills in building personal relationships with U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The true worth of Abe’s diplomacy with a global perspective will be put to the test this year in terms of his skills and his strategy to make full use of them as the chairperson of important international conferences.