Mon, Nov 07, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Avoid wishful thinking on Japan

By Tsai Zheng-jia 蔡增家

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently carried out the third and most extensive Cabinet reshuffle of his term.

Among the 14 new members, nine of them are members of the pro-Taiwan Japan-ROC Diet Members' Consultative Council -- the highest number ever.

Some therefore believe that Taiwan-Japan relations will now become stronger.

But this is not necessarily so, because the nine Cabinet members are also members of the pro-China Association of Dietmen League for Japan-China Friendship.

Koizumi also appointed the hawkish Shinzo Abe as the government's top spokesman, and Taro Aso as the foreign minister. Some therefore believe that Japan will continue its tough stance against China.

This is not necessarily so, either. After the elections, it is difficult to distinguish between the doves and hawks in Japan's political circles, because they are all "neoconservatives."

They uphold Japan's national interest without any historical baggage and only have the glorious memory of the post-World War II economic boom.

They strive to restore Japan's economic strength internally and its normalization externally. Diplomatically, they closely follow the US' East Asian policy; domestically, they advocate throwing off the constraints of its anti-war constitution.

This is why Koizumi wants to eliminate party factions and stimulate the domestic economy by actively promoting reform, turn the self-defense forces into a normal military force despite the opposition of neighboring countries.

It is also why he wants to support the US "war against terrorism" and become the nation's most pro-US prime minister ever, in the face of terrorist threats.

Finally, it's why he's pushing Japan to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, knowing full well that China will block that move by exercising its veto right.

Beyond the doves and hawks, the core of Japan's new national interest lies in its homeland security, autonomy, and normalization.

Japan's homeland security is threatened by both North Korea's nuclear program and China's growing military power.

Tokyo believes that it should have a more robust defense capability against such potential threats.

Its autonomy means that it should not have "Sinophobia" as it used to, and should have independent diplomatic, military, and economic policies. Its normalization means that it should stop living in the shadow of World War II, and should bravely pursue a political status that matches its economic strength. All its policies in recent years are based on these three points.

From that observation we can draw the following conclusions. First, Japan's tilt toward the US is not necessarily a tilt toward Taiwan.

After Koizumi came to power, he has always followed the US anti-terror policy and strategic arrangement in East Asia, while gradually changing Japan's domestic defense policy to fit the new US policy.

Japan mostly focuses on defense against North Korea and China. But this does not mean that Taiwan has already been included in the umbrella of US-Japan security cooperation, or that Tokyo will get involved if a war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait.

Thus, Japan's pro-US policy is only a result of its concern about its homeland security.

Second, being tough does not necessarily mean being anti-China. After Koizumi came to power, Japan has replaced its cautious and fearful attitude toward China with a tougher diplomatic line.

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