Under the policy of “America First,” the United States is turning its back on multilateral frameworks. The authoritarian regimes of China and Russia are threatening the international order.
What form should Japan’s diplomacy take in this chaotic world? It is regrettable that debate on the matter has been given little priority in the House of Councillors election campaign.
Since the end of World War II, Japan’s diplomacy has been based on its alliance with the United States and the principle of international cooperation led by the United Nations. It is in Japan’s national interests to strengthen relations with the United States, which leads the international order based on such values as freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
However, in recent years, just cooperation with the United States has not been enough to deal with the various issues.
U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that the United States has been forced to bear a heavy burden for the safety and benefit of its allies and friendly nations, and has also expressed dissatisfaction with the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, calling it “unfair.”
Proactive foreign policy corresponding to changing circumstances is needed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe places importance on protecting Japan’s national interests through candid exchanges of views with the United States. There is no doubt that his long-standing administration has helped Japan increase its presence and build a close relationship with Trump.
Relations with China key
The Liberal Democratic Party puts diplomacy and defense at the top of its campaign pledges, saying that the party will “lead the international community in unification and the establishment of rules.” It is hoped that Japan will play a more active role in such fields as the environment and disarmament, and build on specific achievements.
Opposition parties are criticizing the prime minister’s diplomacy, saying it depends too much on Trump, and calling for the abolition of the security-related laws that allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense in a limited manner. Is this a realistic policy to maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific region?
It is important for the ruling and opposition parties to engage in extensive discussion over fundamental diplomatic policies and issues related to national interests, in order to establish a common understanding.
Another important issue is how to build a stable relationship with a rising China.
China continues its aggressive maritime expansion in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It forces foreign companies to transfer technology and infringes on intellectual property rights. The security of Japan and other countries is under threat.
The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping shows a willingness to improve relations with Japan. Beijing apparently aims to dodge U.S. pressure on China and drive a wedge between Japan and the United States. There are still pending issues between Japan and China, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
China must be told of the importance of abiding by international rules and also called on to address human rights issues.
Japan has good relations with both the United States and China. By taking advantage of these favorable conditions, Japan should also play a role in preventing the expansion of turmoil resulting from trade friction between the United States and China.