I would also invite Britain and France to stage a comeback in terms of participating in strengthening Asia’s security. The seafaring democracies in Japan’s part of the world would be much better off with their renewed presence. The UK still finds value in the Five Power Defense Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. I want Japan to join this group, gather annually for talks with its members and participate with them in small-sized military drills. Meanwhile, France’s Pacific Fleet in Tahiti operates on a minimal budget, but could well punch above its weight.
That said, nothing is more important for Japan than to reinvest in its alliance with the US. In a period of US strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, the US needs Japan as much as Japan needs the US. Immediately after Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in 2011, the US military provided for Japan the largest peacetime humanitarian relief operation ever mounted — powerful evidence that the 60-year bond that the treaty allies have nurtured is real. Deprived of its time-honored ties with the US, Japan could play only a reduced regional and global role.
I, for one, admit that Japan’s relationship with its biggest neighbor, China, is vital to the well-being of many Japanese. Yet, to improve Sino-Japanese relations, Japan must first anchor its ties on the other side of the Pacific; for, at the end of the day, Japan’s diplomacy must always be rooted in democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These universal values have guided Japan’s postwar development. I firmly believe that, this year and beyond, the Asia-Pacific region’s future prosperity should rest on them as well.
Shinzo Abe is the newly appointed prime minister of Japan. He wrote this article in November, before Japan’s parliamentary election.
Copyright: Project Syndicate