Steering Japan's foreign policy in uncertain times: The Japan News

Pedestrians holding umbrellas walk in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, January 29.
Pedestrians holding umbrellas walk in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, January 29.PHOTO: REUTERS

How should Japan steer its foreign policy amid increased uncertainty in international affairs? 

We want political parties to discuss the matter fully during the campaign for the upcoming House of Councillors election.

With the exclusion of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, the principal parties share the understanding that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the key to Japan’s foreign policy. 

The important thing is what sort of diplomacy to carry out based on the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In its campaign pledges, the Liberal Democratic Party lists “pursuing proactive peace diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the globe.” 

The party advocates ramping up cooperation with Australia, India, the Asean, Europe and other countries with which Japan shares universal values.

It has been confirmed in recent months that Chinese military planes flew close to the airspace around the Senkaku Islands several times, in addition to its military vessels’ intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters.

Maintaining a maritime order based on international law is an interest commonly shared by the international community. 

An Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and an Asean-related summit are scheduled for mid-July and early September, respectively. 

Japan should lead discussions in these meetings to call for China to exercise self-restraint in its self-centered maritime advances.

In carrying out diplomacy vis-a-vis China and North Korea, the key point is to build a substantive relationship of trust with South Korea in addition to beefing up the Japan-U.S. alliance based on security-related laws.

In its campaign promises, Komeito calls for improvement of Japan-South Korea relations and steady implementation of the bilateral agreement reached last December on the issue of so-called comfort women.

It is necessary to hold a Japan-China-South Korea summit meeting, in which Japan will serve as chair, in autumn or later, and encourage forward-looking discussions among the top leaders as the three Asian countries work toward stabilising the Asia-Pacific region.

The Democratic Party advocates that security measures “must be realistic nearby and restrained far away” and calls for abolition of the security-related laws and establishment of a territorial security law for the protection of remote islands. 

The major opposition party says it will expand the range of Japan’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations and promote humanitarian assistance proactively.

The DP mentions “deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance” in its campaign pledges but stops short of presenting concrete measures that are essential. 

This leaves much to be desired. 

The party’s position is also unclear on how to deal with China’s moves to build military strongholds in the South China Sea.

The JCP, for its part, calls for a “diplomatic strategy for peace.” 

The party says the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development can be resolved through further six-party talks. 

It is doubtful whether North Korea’s stance of continuing missile launches in defiance of warnings by the international community can be corrected through conducting talks only.

Concerning the northern territories off eastern Hokkaido, the Takeshima islets and the Senkaku Islands, all the parties define them as inherent territories of Japan and stress the need for disseminating information overseas on Japan’s position. 

The LDP lists a plan to establish a third-party organisation, consisting of researchers and other experts, to study the matter.

The external public relations strategy concerning sovereignty and territories is becoming increasingly important. 

It is essential to hold discussions on effective strategic measures.

The Japan News is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.