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Japan's policy flawed

Publication Date : 27-12-2012

 

Though his nation is in East Asia, newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has driven home the message that he will give diplomatic priority to the Japan-US alliance.

This is because he is looking to the United States for support when dealing with "the threat from China".

Days before he was elected Japan's new prime minister, Abe told US President Barack Obama the security environment in East Asia is "severe" because of China's growing "assertiveness" in the East China and the South China seas. He failed to mention that it was his predecessor's Cabinet that nationalised China's Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, and triggered the tension between the two countries.

Abe has excoriated his predecessor Yoshihiko Noda for a failed China policy, but if he follows the diplomatic policy he outlined during his campaign he will only aggravate the tension.

During the campaign he stressed his desire to make Japan a bigger player on the world stage. He vowed to take a tough stance in territorial disputes and "stop the challenge" from China. To that end, he intends to visit the US in January - his first overseas trip - to solidify the bilateral alliance.

He also vowed to protect "every inch" of Japan's sacred land and sea - in which he intentionally includes China's Diaoyu Islands - by re-examining the self-imposed restriction that Japan spend no more than 1 per cent of GDP on defence and seeking to change Japan's pacifist constitution so the country can expand its military.

The election manifesto of Liberal Democratic Party also pledged to take steps to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defence. When Abe was prime minister in 2007, he set forth four different scenarios in which Japan could exercise its right to collective self-defence, and the new government is likely to discuss the issue thoroughly.

Japan must be reminded that its intention to use its alliance with the US as pressure to deter China or stabilise the bilateral relations will not work.

During his first term as prime minister, Abe worked on improving Japan's relations with China by seeking to establish a partnership of mutual benefit between the two countries. Now he has been given a second chance in the role, we hope that he will keep a broad perspective on the bilateral relations.

 

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