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2014年12月12日 (金)

社説:衆院選 ここを問う 日米のつながり

December 12, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
社説:衆院選 ここを問う 日米のつながり
Editorial: Politicians must envision long-term Japan-U.S. relationship


Located on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, Japan and the United States have long been tied to each other through common interests. It was U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield who said, "The U.S.-Japan relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none."

However, for countries with such disparate cultures and histories to maintain an alliance, human exchange and connection are indispensable, and it's questionable whether Japanese politicians are working to lay the foundations necessary for such bonds.

In their campaigns leading up to the House of Representatives election on Dec. 14, Japan's various political parties are all pledging to strengthen and deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance. But none of the campaign platforms expand on that relationship beyond military cooperation, or in terms of long-term prospects.

Japan and the U.S. have found themselves on different wavelengths of late.

The New York Times addressed Japan's treatment of the "comfort women" issue in an editorial Dec. 3, criticizing the Abe government for "playing with fire in pandering those demanding a whitewash of wartime history." The U.S. government also expressed disappointment in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine late last year.

If there are any unfounded criticisms, Japan should make appropriate rebuttals.

But myopic stopgap measures are insufficient. We need to look back to the late 19 century, to the early years of the relationship between our two countries, to determine how to go forward.

The Japan-U.S. relationship can be divided into six periods.

Bilateral relations were amicable from the 1853 arrival of U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry in Japan to the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905 marking the official end of the Russo-Japanese War. The subsequent period saw a mixture of cooperation and antagonism, but after the Manchurian Incident in 1931, relations deteriorated. After World War II, friendly ties returned, peaking with Okinawa's reversion to Japan. This was followed by an ambiguous period that entailed a strengthening alliance and economic friction. After overcoming a crisis in the post-Cold War era, we arrive at where we are now, with each country searching for ways to deepen bilateral ties.

History shows us that prior to World War II, it was tensions over China that split up Japan and the U.S. Lessons from that experience should inform how we in the 21st century maintain the Japan-U.S. alliance while also developing a strategic relationship of mutual benefit with a growing China.

Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and influential Japanese and American figures from politics, industry and academia gathered for the first time in Washington on Dec. 5 to work toward compiling recommendations for a new bilateral relationship as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches. We praise the momentum that both countries have created to expand the network of people -- which can so easily become limited to the same few -- working on such an initiative.

Efforts to cultivate ties between young people of both countries are also important. According to the U.S. State Department, at least 47,000 Japanese students were studying at American universities in the 1997 academic year, but that number dropped by at least half in the next 15 years.

Today, many countries find themselves deeply intertwined with the U.S. on security issues, and with China on economic issues. The late Masataka Kosaka, an expert on international politics who advocated friendly ties between Japan and China wrote in his book, "Kaiyo kokka Nihon no koso" (Vision of Japan as a maritime nation), "Japan must ponder the difficulty of taking a unique stance while at the same time being neighbors to the rest of Asia."

We urge our political parties to build a vision that has Japan and the U.S. at its foundation.

毎日新聞 2014年12月12日 02時33分


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