Editorial Notes

Criticism that Abe is 'America's sycophant' too shallow: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shaking hands with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House on Feb 10, 2017.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) shaking hands with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House on Feb 10, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on Feb 16, the paper defends Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to build a close relationship with United States President Donald Trump.

It is important for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to apply the fruits of the recent Japan-US summit talks to foreign policy in the days ahead, while explaining it to the public in detail.

At a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Tuesday (Feb 14), Seiji Maehara of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party (DP) questioned Abe about whether he had perceived the "risk" of being viewed critically by the international community for becoming close to much-criticised US President Donald Trump.

Abe said: "Only the United States will jointly defend [JAPAN]from a missile from North Korea and that has retaliatory capabilities. There is no other choice but to build a close relationship with the president and show it to the world."

The growing threat from North Korea's nuclear and missile developments and from the military provocations of China is a bigger "risk" for Japan. It is utterly reasonable to deepen the trust between the leaders of Japan and the US and reinforce the bilateral alliance.

With regard to Abe not commenting on US-Israeli relations during the summit, Maehara lambasted Abe, likening him to "a chicken meekly obeying a beast."

Abe refuted by saying, "Is there any merit in my commenting on it?"

In foreign relations, there are at times occasions when it is deemed better to refrain from making unnecessary remarks. In dealing with the self-righteous Trump, in particular, a cautious approach is needed.

Abe disclosed that during the summit talks he called on Trump to "assume a role of respecting freedom, democracy, human rights and other principles." It is important to persuade Trump in a level-headed manner and taking plenty of time, rather than loudly criticising him.

Such criticism as saying that Abe is "America's sycophant," made by the DP and other opposition parties, is just too shallow.

Abe said: "I'm willing to convey President Trump's thoughts to countries that have various concerns about his administration, and relay their concerns to the president." This showed his willingness to serve as a go-between among the US and other countries.

Based on his own diplomatic experience, Abe should persistently persuade Trump on the importance of international cooperation.

Regarding economic relations, Abe said, "President Trump gave an ear to the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement." Abe also said emphatically that the Japan-US joint statement mentioned options for utilising "existing initiatives," including the TPP, as the basis of a free trade zone.

In the Japan-US economic dialogue that will be newly established, Japan should proceed with discussions by considering both the TPP and the bilateral negotiations sought by the US.

The opposition parties launched an intensive attack on Defence Minister Tomomi Inada over the issue of the daily activity logs created by Ground Self-Defence Force troops operating in South Sudan. When questioned why it took one month for Inada to be informed after the logs were found [in the Defence ministry], Inada said: "It should have been reported to me swiftly. I gave a strong warning to departments and quarters concerned."

Why was the reporting delayed so long? The Ministry needs to examine the case properly and implement thorough measures to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.