By Abiru Rui, member of the Editorial Board and a senior Political News Department staff writer of the Sankei Shimbun
Reading the statement issued as U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on the evening of Aug. 2, I felt the importance of the strategy conceived by former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo during his first administration and given form over the years by drawing together democratic countries. The statement said: “(Our discussions with Taiwan leadership) will focus on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
This initiative is the first time in history that the United States adopted a Japanese strategy as its own, and the concept has gone on to earn not only the support of India and Australia but also that of Europe. The initiative is indispensable today as the United States is at odds with China, an autocratic nation that brazenly flaunts its military strength and huge population.
The Alliance requires ongoing care
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel visited Prime Minister Kishida Fumio at the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei] on Aug. 3. “We talked about how to strengthen economic security, national security, and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he told reporters.
Here as well, the key phrase is a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The Ambassador visited the Kantei right after Kishida had returned from his U.S. trip to participate in a Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The first Japanese prime minister ever to attend this gathering that discusses the peaceful use of nuclear power, Kishida set forth in his speech the ideal of a “world free of nuclear weapons.”
To the press, the Ambassador praised the speech the Prime Minister gave at the NPT Review Conference. In reality, though, the Ambassador’s visit was to remind Kishida “to first look at the reality in front of us.” It would not be reading too much into it to say the Ambassador visited to confirm that the Prime Minister’s pledge to “substantially increase defense spending” would be realized.
The fact that the Alliance needs constant care is something Abe used to openly say, as well.
Japan would be in crisis if ties unraveled
On July 29, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Hagiuda Koichi, who used to be Abe’s aide, held a press conference in Washington. He was visiting the U.S. capital to attend the first-ever Japan-U.S. Economic Policy Consultative Committee (EPCC), also known as the “Economic 2+2” meeting. After thanking the American people for their expressions of condolence over the passing of Abe, he said at the press gathering, “Throughout his life in politics, Abe consistently dedicated himself to further strengthening the ties between Japan and the United States and between their peoples.”
This reminded me of an address Abe gave in English at a joint session of Congress in April 2015 titled “Toward an Alliance of Hope.” The speech was on the reconciliation and friendship between Japan and the United States, two nations which had once been enemies. Abe received a standing ovation for his speech, and high-ranking MOFA officials said to me at that time with surprise, “Pelosi was moved to tears.”
At his press conference, Hagiuda went on to talk about Abe’s contributions: “Over the course of a decade, Abe created various foundations to support the peace and prosperity of this region: the CPTPP, the free and open Indo-Pacific, the Quad.”
“Japan is here to stay,” said Hagiuda, playing on Abe’s “Japan is back,” which he said when he came to serve as prime minister once again. Hagiuda continued, “Japan will continue to work hand in hand with the United States for the peace and prosperity of the world. I came here to make that clear commitment.”
The security environment is steadily deteriorating around the world. If the partnership among allies and democratic nations unravels, Japan will immediately be plunged into a crisis. We have no time to lose in strengthening our defense capabilities.