By Mitoji Yabunaka, former Vice Foreign Minister and visiting professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan University
U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to destroy the postwar world order, defying the multilateral free-trade system and calling the significance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into question. There is also a worldwide trend of objecting to globalization. We have come to the era when efforts based on the old notion of “the Japan-U.S. alliance is everything to Japan” are no longer valid. With that basic understanding in mind, I want the Japanese government to try to live in harmony with the rest of Asia and have the determination to spearhead efforts to establish a peace regime in East Asia.
Japan is trusted by many countries, including those in Southeast Asia. Its relations with China are also gradually moving toward normalization. The challenge for Japan is to find ways to build a relationship of trust with China, which plays an extremely important role in stabilizing East Asia, while being consistent.
Japan-U.S. trade negotiations largely depend on Trump’s judgment. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should say what he has to say by making maximum use of his good relationship with Trump. It is the best opportunity for Japan to show wisdom in protecting the principle of the free trade system while adopting the U.S.’s opinions.
Japan also needs to be aware that it is one of the main parties involved with North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues. The U.S. administration under President Trump could make a rough deal with Pyongyang without progress in denuclearization talks. Japan needs to play the role of warning the U.S. and say, “That won’t work.” Japan should also join the negotiating table. The abduction issue may be resolved only through summits between Japan and North Korea. The abduction issue is very difficult, but its resolution calls for a decision by the prime minister rather than repeated negotiations.
Russia also plays a role in stabilizing East Asia. Japan should sign a peace treaty with Moscow, but resolution of the Northern Territories issue should be a major premise. Japan must consider a mutually acceptable solution and not be fooled by a Russian trick.