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Scholars discuss U.S. missile attack on Syria, U.S.-China summit

NHK’s “Nichiyo Toron” Sunday debate show aired a discussion by five experts on the U.S. missile attack on Syria. Former Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka said it will be necessary to closely watch what steps the United States will take next, saying that the Trump administration’s unexpected shift from the “America First” domestic-oriented policy to such decisive involvement in Syria came as a shock to him and made him nervous about unpredictability in the Trump administration’s decision-making process. However, Yabunaka welcomed Prime Minister Abe’s expression of Japan’s support for the resolve of the United States, saying that it made sense for Japan to make such a move as an ally of the U.S. The former diplomat added that Abe’s teleconference with President Trump on Sunday was useful for maintaining close coordination between Washington and Tokyo.


Takushoku University Professor Takashi Kawakami said that the U.S. action sent a message to China and North Korea. Hosei University Professor Nobuo Shimotomai speculated that President Putin must have been shocked by the U.S. strike because he was preparing to discuss cooperation with the U.S. in responding to ISIL and other terrorist groups. Speculating that relations between Washington and Moscow will become increasingly complicated following the U.S. attack, the scholar conjectured that Secretary of State Tillerson, who has strong connections with Russia, holds the key to improving ties between Washington and Moscow. National Defense Academy President Ryosei Kokubun said it is certain that the U.S. missile attack on Syria sent a strong warning to China and North Korea. Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Professor Hiroyuki Aoyama stressed that it is necessary to carefully determine whether the Assad regime actually used chemical weapons because no concrete evidence has been presented yet. However, Yabunaka commented that discussions should be focused on how to end the prolonged internal conflict in Syria.


In a separate discussion on U.S.-China relations with experts on China, Yabunaka and other panelists shared the view that at last week’s U.S.-China summit no tangible progress was made on how to respond to North Korea.

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