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2014年4月26日 (土)

日米首脳会談 中国念頭に強固な同盟を築け

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:26 pm, April 25, 2014
Stronger Tokyo-Washington alliance key as a check on ambitious China
日米首脳会談 中国念頭に強固な同盟を築け


Building synergy between the “principle of proactive contribution to peace” espoused by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the “rebalance” policy of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, which reprioritizes the Asia-Pacific region, is a matter of utmost importance. The Japanese and U.S. governments should coordinate closely on policies to effect this end.

Abe and Obama met Thursday in Tokyo. The two leaders used the summit as a forum to reaffirm the leading role the Japan-U.S. alliance plays in ensuring peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, and to express their mutual dedication to further enhancing bilateral ties.

This week was the first time in 18 years a U.S. president visited Japan as a state guest. What made these talks between Abe and Obama especially significant was that they sent a message to the world about the spirit of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Observers had sensed strain in the relationship after Washington expressed “disappointment” with Abe’s December visit to Yasukuni Shrine, but the talks appear to show that the vitality of Japan-U.S. relations has been restored.

Senkaku remarks a victory

At a joint press conference following the summit talks, the prime minister stressed that the Japan-U.S. alliance is “more robust than ever before.” Obama, for his part, said the United States is eager to see Japan make “even greater contributions to peace and security around the world,” a development he said “the United States very much welcomes.”

Particularly worthy of note for Japan were President Obama’s remarks at the summit concerning the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, to which China lays a claim. He stated an explicit and unequivocal position that Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty “covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands.” This is the first time that the U.S. president has publicly acknowledged that Article 5 of the pact regarding the United States’ obligation to defend Japan in case of a military attack applies to the Senkaku group of islets. This clear commitment by the United States can be called, without qualification, a milestone achievement of Japan’s diplomacy and relations with the United States.

The two leaders also reconfirmed their opposition to any attempt by China to “change the status quo” by force, while also pressing forward with a policy of cooperation aimed at engaging Beijing in the creation of a free Asia-Pacific region open to the rest of the world.

China’s recent actions in the region include the unilateral declaration of an air-defense identification zone in the East China Sea and repeated intrusions into Japanese territorial waters in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands. In the South China Sea, too, China has been moving openly to expand its territorial and maritime interests with the leverage of its military might.

Regional deterrent capabilities and the effectiveness of the Japan-U.S. alliance are crucial instruments in pursuing greater self-restraint from China and an end to such actions.

The next key task for the government is to make the political message born from the latest bilateral summit meeting a reality by further bolstering cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military.
Working-level negotiations to lay the groundwork for a review of Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines need to be accelerated, in order to make clear what joint Japan-U.S. responses to contingencies should look like.

Endorse collective defense

To make the presence of U.S. forces in Japan more stable and sustainable, the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture to the Henoko district of Nago and the transfer of marines from the prefecture to Guam must be expedited. Similarly important is the steady alleviation of the burden on Okinawa Prefecture imposed by hosting U.S. military bases.

During the summit, Obama expressed appreciation for and backed the Abe administration’s move toward revising the constitutional interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.

Changing the interpretation to allow enforcement of the right to collective self-defense would be a fairly effective means of buttressing the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Based on a report to be submitted by an expert panel next month, the government and ruling parties must step up efforts to build a consensus on allowing the minimum necessary exercise of the right to collective self-defense.

On the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, Abe and Obama agreed on the importance of tripartite cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea. Obama met representatives of the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea for the first time and offered U.S. cooperation in resolving the abduction issue.

While leveraging the U.S. backing, Japan must work to realize a fresh investigation into the abduction victims through negotiations between Tokyo and Pyongyang to make concrete progress in resolving the issue.

Regarding the situation in Ukraine, Abe and Obama confirmed that they oppose any attempts to change the status quo by force, with Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in mind. Together with Europe, Tokyo and Washington must explore ways to resolve territorial disputes peacefully, so as to avoid giving Beijing the wrong message on such issues.

Obama will visit South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines after leaving Japan on Friday.

It is crucial for Japan and the United States to build multilayered cooperative ties with South Korea and southeast Asian nations to enhance the maritime surveillance capabilities of each country and ensure safety on sea traffic routes.

Concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade talks, Tokyo and Washington failed to iron out differences in their summit meeting and agreed instead to continue negotiations between Akira Amari, state minister in charge of TPP talks, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

This is because the two countries could not reach a broad agreement over key five trade categories that Japan demanded to be treated as exceptions to tariff abolition.

Path to mutual prosperity

A certain degree of progress has been made on rice, wheat and sweetener sources. But discord has continued in the talks on the beef and pork category. Obama has called for further concessions by Japan, stressing the need for greater access to the Japanese market.

Both Japan and the United States face severe domestic challenges, including pressure from their respective agricultural industries. But now is the time for the two countries to make political decisions based on mutual concessions from the comprehensive viewpoint of promoting economic growth throughout Asia for coexistence and mutual prosperity.

A Tokyo-Washington accord is indispensable for the successful conclusion of the 12-nation TPP negotiations to establish a high-level free trade framework in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is also essential to remember that if the two countries can demonstrate leadership in establishing new rules on trade and investment, it will have the strategic effect of serving as a check against China, which has been making waves internationally.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2014)


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