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Japan, US must stand up to China's strong-arm diplomacy
Publication Date : 21-01-2013
China is trying to forcibly undermine Japan's effective control of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture by sending government ships and planes to their vicinity. It is significant that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday opposed such strong-arm diplomacy by Beijing.
"We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration" of the islands, Clinton said after holding talks with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington.
She also reconfirmed that the Japan-US Security Treaty obliges the United States to defend Japan in the event of hostilities related to the Senkakus.
Acknowledging Clinton's remarks, Kishida stressed Japan would never concede its sovereignty over the islands. But he also said, "We intend to respond calmly."
If China's high-handed diplomacy, which is trying to alter the reality of the Senkaku Islands through shows of strength, is allowed to prevail, it would have repercussions for other territorial and maritime interests disputes in the East China and South China seas. This would negatively affect many Asian nations.
The nations concerned must work together to avoid such a situation from occurring.
Tokyo should explain to the United States and Southeast Asian countries the significance of the Senkaku issue to nurture international opinion opposing China's modus operandi. At the same time, however, Japan must maintain dialogue with China and seek improved bilateral ties.
Get moving on TPP talks
Meanwhile, Kishida and Clinton agreed Japan and the United States would continue bilateral talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact. These two-way talks are a precondition for Japan joining TPP negotiations.
However, Kishida said that if abolishing all tariffs without exception is a prerequisite to participating in TPP negotiations, Japan will not join them.
Kishida's explanation went no further than the government's conventional position because many members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party remain strongly opposed to or cautious toward liberalising the nation's farm market.
However, some observers say Washington wants to exclude tariffs on sugar and other items from being abolished. It is a fact that Japan can only find out how many items it can exclude from tariff abolition after it actually joins TPP negotiations.
Eleven countries participating in the trade talks, including the United States and Australia, aim to conclude the pact by the end of this year. If Tokyo keeps waiting to see what unfolds, delaying its participation in the negotiations, Japan might consequently fail to have its claims reflected in the new trade rules and hurt its own national interests.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States has been set for the latter half of February. Considering this, Abe should do more to create conditions that will enable him to decide on Japan's participation in the TPP. These conditions would include the government officially calculating the economic effects that joining the TPP would produce.
Share info on hostage crisis
Kishida and Clinton also agreed both nations would cooperate closely in gathering and sharing information on their nationals taken hostage by Islamist militants at a gas plant in Algeria.
Many of the hostages, including foreigners, were reportedly killed during an assault the Algerian Army launched to try to free them. The international community has expressed concern over this hard-line operation.
Japan and the United States should work jointly with countries concerned to urge the Algerian government to take action that places top priority on protecting the lives of the hostages.