Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked on a tour of Asia and Oceania amid concerns that the U.S.-led international order may disintegrate and stability may be undermined. There is widespread anxiety in Asia ahead of the inauguration of the Trump administration.
This visit was significant in terms of deepening security and economic cooperation with various countries. However, it will be difficult to maintain stability in the region without the U.S.’s involvement. What the Abe administration needs from now is an effective strategy to prod the U.S. to be seriously involved with Asia.
Abe made two major achievements on his tour of Australia and nations facing the South China Sea, where China is making maritime advances.
First, he affirmed once again cooperation with various countries to maintain the maritime order based on international law. He conveyed Japan’s support for upgrading the maritime patrol capabilities of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia, which will contribute to stability.
Abe also pledged a total of 1 trillion yen in economic aid for the Philippines over five years. This was meant to restrain President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-U.S. statements and China-leaning tendency.
It is necessary to persist in such policies steadily. However, there is a limit to what Japan can do alone. Uninterrupted involvement of the U.S. forces is extremely important for maintaining stability in the East and South China Seas.
It will probably be insufficient to explain the importance of these efforts to President-elect Donald Trump, who regards foreign policy as an extension of business. Japan needs to come up with a clear blueprint of what Japan and the other allies can do to support the U.S. forces’ activities in order to persuade the U.S. to remain involved.
It goes without saying that it is also important to build economic bonds between the Asia-Pacific and the U.S. on top of military ties. Trump’s policies running counter to free trade are a very serious problem.
During his visits, Abe confirmed with the leaders of Australia and Vietnam cooperation for the early effectuation of the TPP agreement. Japan should work together with the other signatories to persuade Trump to accept the TPP. (Slightly abridged)