Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Quality matters in US-Japan ties

By Go Ito (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-23 06:57

To maintain security, one usually has only two options. The first is to strengthen oneself, and the second is to look for powerful partners to maintain a stronger position vis-a-vis others. In international relations, the former means building defense capabilities so that one state can attack another to maintain its security, while the latter uses a variety of security alignments, including entering alliances.

US President Barack Obama is on a three-day visit to Japan starting Wednesday and will discuss issues relating to Asia, including security, economic partnerships and international crises.

In September last year, Obama said on TV that the US would no longer act as a world policeman. Since then the US has been reluctant to act against authoritarian political leaders and terrorists. Because of this, leaders who considered the US an unjust policeman have hardened their stance against the US. This fact is evident in the recent cases in Syria and Ukraine - the US president lost the time to resolve these conflicts during his consultations with Congress.

We are entering a new age of more complicated, turbulent international relations where there will be no leader or at least a weak leader who lacks sufficient capability to stand against sources of threat.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to tell Obama that Japan is now ready to make greater contributions to international peace and stability if the restrictions on its collective self-defense rights are lifted and the National Security Council gets to function freely by devising a new "Defense Program Outline".

At their talks, Obama and Abe will recognize the strength of the US-Japan security alliance and the need for both countries to address ambiguous international configurations in Asia such as the nuclear issue of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, China's rapid military rise and its related maritime issues.

Abe will emphasize the global aspect of Japan's ties with the US, although Obama will like to lessen the global overstretch of the US' provision of security. In this sense, both leaders have a common interest in maintaining security in the region, but their methods of doing may be opposite.

Abe seems quite future-oriented, but his "global face" cannot be separated from his motto of freeing Japan from the postwar international restrictions. It implies that Japan, which lost the Pacific War, should recover its confidence and regain its honorable status. Abe thinks that, despite its huge contribution to the international community, Japan has been directed by the countries which won the war, and that such an unequal relationship between victors and vanquished should be rectified.

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