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Abe talks up significance of Japan-US security ties

Publication Date : 22-02-2013


America's continued military presence in East Asia, coupled with a strong Japan-US security alliance, will help counter China's increasing belligerence over disputed islands in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made this point in an interview with The Washington Post before leaving yesterday for talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington. The two leaders are expected to emphasise the strength of their two countries' security partnership.

It will be Abe's first meeting with Obama since taking office in late December.

Abe said China has in recent years turned to the sea to procure the natural resources needed for the country's high economic growth, using coercion or intimidation in the process.

"It is important to make (China) realise that it is impossible for them to try to get their way by coercion or intimidation. In that regard, the Japan-US alliance, as well as the US presence, would be critical," he said.

China has a longstanding feud with Japan over ownership of the Senkakus in the East China Sea which the Chinese call Diaoyu islands. But Japan, which has administrative control of the islands, insists there is no territorial dispute with China.

But since Japan nationalised the islands last September, China has periodically sent ships and planes to stake out the surrounding waters.

During Abe's first stint as prime minister in September 2006, he flew to Beijing immediately after taking office to mend bilateral ties frayed by his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni war shrine.

This time, Abe focused his efforts on beefing up Japan's defence of the Senkakus.

"For the first time in 11 years, I have increased our defence budget, as well as the budget for the Japan coast guard," he told The Washington Post.

He warned China that its behaviour over the islands would have an adverse impact on its economy, by driving away Japanese and other foreign investors if they lose confidence in China.

"I believe it is fully possible to have China to change their policy once they gain that recognition," he said.

China's actions, however, have strong domestic support, as young Chinese have undergone patriotic education, focusing on anti-Japanese sentiment.

Abe noted that such anti- Japanese patriotic education has undermined the friendly ties between the two countries and has an adverse impact on China's domestic growth.

"What is important, first of all, is that their leaders as well as business leaders recognise how deeply ingrained this issue is. Because, without having this recognition, they will not be able to find a solution that can produce results," said Abe.

Without economic growth, China, he said, will not be able to control its 1.3 billion population under the one-party rule of the Communist Party.

The Washington Post quoted Japanese officials as saying that it was unusual for Abe to make such detailed remarks about China in an interview.

The conservative Prime Minister, who ran an election campaign last year vowing to review past official statements apologising for Japan's wartime aggression in China and other parts of Asia, has since tempered his views.

"My basic notion regarding the matter of historical recognition is basically, it's a matter that should be left to the good hands of historians and experts," he told the Post.


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