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Ties between Japan, US, ROK essential for Obama’s diplomacy
Publication Date : 21-02-2014
To maintain peace and stability in Asia, the United States and its allies, including Japan and South Korea, must deepen their cooperative relations.
US President Barack Obama has started to reshape his administration’s “pivot to Asia” diplomacy in an effort to restructure the currently shaken cooperative relationship among Japan, the United States and South Korea.
Earlier this month, after US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington, he visited South Korea, China and Indonesia. In late April, Obama is scheduled to make a tour of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Within Asia, China has made such conspicuous moves toward expansionism as the declaration of an air defense identification zone. The ongoing instability in North Korea has only heightened the nuclear threat. We believe Obama must have concluded that he ought to place greater emphasis on US engagement with Asia.
In a meeting with Kerry, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his desire to shape a “new type of major country relationship” with the United States. While the United States would like to discourage China from going too far militarily, the two countries’ relationship of mutual economic dependence has served to further increase China’s importance.
With complicated interests at stake, how can the two countries shape a “major country relationship”? It is indeed a difficult issue.
In light of such circumstances, it is all the more indispensable for the United States to beef up cooperative ties with its allies.
Crisis felt by US
Kerry has strongly urged the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers to improve their nations’ relationship. The US administration must have felt a heightened sense of crisis over the deterioration of unity among Japan, South Korea and the United States, a cornerstone of its Asia strategy, due to Japan-South Korea confrontations over historical and other issues.
At a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, Kerry said, “We urge both of them [Japan and South Korea] to work with us together” to find a solution. His statement is regarded as an announcement that the United States will serve as a mediator between Japan and South Korea.
However, remedying the situation will not be easy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wishes to hold a summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye with no preconditions. However, Park has put forth various conditions, including that Japan yield to South Korea over the so-called wartime comfort women issue.
We are also concerned that the Japan-US relationship has been on the rocks since the United States announced its “disappointment” over Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in late December.
On the Yasukuni issue, Kerry said at the press conference, “I don’t think we need to dwell on it now.” However, the tone of some US media outlets suggests distrust toward Japan.
The Japanese side has also expressed dissatisfaction. On a video sharing site, Seiichi Eto, a special adviser to the prime minister, made a public statement criticising the United States, saying, “It was we who were disappointed that the United States said it was disappointed.” Although he later deleted the upload, his actions caused controversy.
Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae made a local plea for the US government to clarify its stance. “We also want to see the United States make clear” who its friends and allies are, and who the troublemakers are, he said.
We ask Obama, who is strengthening his administration’s commitment to Asia, to adopt an attitude that recognises afresh the importance of the Japan-US relationship.