The Mainichi Shimbun’s Takagi Kota sat down with visiting professor to Ritsumeikan University Yabunaka Mitoji (former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs).
Since early this year, the U.S. has had to focus its attention on Europe because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Under the circumstances, it is significant that the U.S. once again demonstrated its commitment to the Asian region and its emphasis on the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Although the message conveyed by both the U.S. and Japan, such as the provision of “extended deterrence” by the U.S. and the application of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to the Senkaku Islands, are the same as before, the clear statement by the two leaders is a message to China and serves as a deterrent.
It is unclear how the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will be substantially effective. However, if the U.S. intends to actively engage in the framework, Japan should support the U.S. It is important for Japan to be at the center of all frameworks, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The “tools” for confronting China, including the Quad involving Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India, are being put in place. The question is whether Japan can clearly indicate the purpose of these frameworks. It is not to contain China nor to confront the PRC militarily. The goal is to make the Indo-Pacific a free and open region. That is why Japan should clearly emphasize that changing the status quo by force is unacceptable and the rule of law must take root.
Now that the U.S. has expressed a stance of engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan will probably need to strengthen its defense capabilities to some extent in the future. However, it is essential to “develop peace diplomacy in the region” as the third pillar along with maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance and strengthening defense capabilities.
Now that the U.S. and Japan have confirmed their unwavering commitment, it is time to strengthen cooperation with Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) and other countries.