Friday, November 21, 2008

JAPAN needs to create an independent foreign policy

Japan needs to create an independent foreign policy

World War Two (WW2) finished a very long time ago, however, in Japan it appears that time is standing still because this nation is over compliant towards America. Also, Japan is still alienated in Northeast Asia because of her past history. For unlike Germany, which became sincere after WW2, too many nationalists remain within the ruling inner-circle in Japan and symbolic nationalist issues like Yasukuni Shrine continues to add "fuel to the fire." Therefore, Japan needs a sincere approach and to move closer to her natural environment, rather than "hanging on to the coat" of America. So can Japan revolutionize her thinking and establish an independent foreign policy?

Firstly, this article is not aimed at being anti-American, it merely applies to the need for Japan to develop an independent foreign and monetary policy. Of course relations should remain strong with the USA and shared interests will be natural. However, at the moment it appears that Japan is a mere "lackey" of America and this simply isn’t good enough. So of course both nations must continue to foster close relations but not at the expense of Japan’s independence. Given this, Japan must move closer to other regional nations and firmly set her sights on being independent.

Ex-PM Abe hinted at a shared alliance based on "democratic principles" and this applies to America, Australia, India, and New Zealand, respectively. Also, ex-PM Abe focused on NATO and how Japan can play a role within this institution. Much of his domestic thinking was a little strange and out of step with public opinion, however, his foreign policy objectives did make sense. Yet he suffered from two major weaknesses. Firstly, ex-PM Abe was "toothless" when it came to America, just like other past leaders. Secondly, and sadly, he embroiled himself in nationalistic scandals, for example speaking negatively about the "comfort women" issue and then endorsing "revisionism" with regards to historical events which took place in Okinawa.

So can a future political leader stand up and be counted? I certainly hope so because how can Japan be trusted within the international community if nations don’t take her independence seriously? This is a serious issue because Japan desires to become a permanent member of the United Nations but under the current circumstances, then many nations have reservations about this. Given this reality, it is vital for Japan to change direction and embrace not only Asia but the international community.

If Japan does not change her thinking then her reputation within the international community will be further weakened. Also, regional nations, for example China, the Russian Federation, North Korea, and South Korea, will merely ignore Japan’s thinking and they will not trust the motives of Tokyo. Therefore, the time is right to transform the foreign policy of Japan. After all, the current American "lackey" status is hindering Japan. So surely Japan needs to become independent and play a leading role within the United Nations and other major institutions.

This also applies to Japan's monetary policies because even in this field it is clear that Japan is offering the hand of friendship towards America. For example, around 90% of all Japanese reserves are held in either American bonds or in the dollar. Yet with the current weakness of the dollar and the American economy, then is this policy justified? Also, what about supporting the Japanese yen with regards to major foreign transactions? To me this policy is either naive at best or at worse it is further evidence about her limited independence. Once more, Japan must diversify her monetary policies and look to the Euro, gold, and other currencies or international bonds, while of course still holding dollars and American bonds, but not at the current level.

So can Japan develop a new way? Sadly, under the current leaders of Japan, then the answer may still be no. However, to be fair to the current leader of Japan, PM Aso, then we can not judge him because he only took office recently. Yet, despite this, it would appear that PM Aso will maintain the current status quo and he will follow a pro-American foreign policy.

However, PM Aso should refrain from this and instead he should focus on regional powers and important international blocs, while preserving close ties with America. For if Japan wants to become accepted internationally, an independent policy is essential. Also, Japan must "build sincere bridges" with China, North Korea, and South Korea; and leaders in Tokyo must "break the chain" with regards to the Russian Federation. Yet can the current ruling party do this given past history?

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA