Published: 12:05, April 18, 2024
PDF View
Japan boldly doing US' bidding
By China Daily
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a joint meeting of Congress, as US Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) listen, at the US Capitol in Washington, US, April 11, 2024. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

For the first time in five years, Japan's annual diplomatic report calls for the promotion of strategic and mutually beneficial ties with China.

Yet the same document identifies China as an unprecedented strategic challenge for Japan, which suggests its approach to bilateral relations will be less than conducive to realizing such ties.

The top leaders of the two countries reached a consensus on the need for such a relationship at their meeting in San Francisco in November last year.

Yet Japan has done little since then to match its words with deeds. In fact, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's recent busy diplomatic schedule would suggest it has instead been intent on reinforcing the false notion that its neighbor presents a challenge to Japan rather than an opportunity.

Kishida's visit to Washington last week, for example, not only helped strengthen Japan's strategic alliance with the United States but also helped usher in a new small clique, grouping the country with the US and the Philippines, with the aim of impressing trilateral security cooperation on the East and South China seas. To Kishida and like-minded Japanese, these diplomatic overtures are no doubt satisfying as they further consolidate Japan's image as being the US' most important regional ally, which in their eyes raises the country's status on the world stage.

To those with a more objective perspective, it simply makes the country a stooge of Washington. By echoing Washington's scaremongering of a "China threat" and advocating for a tough stance against China, Tokyo has revealed it lacks the confidence to follow its own path. Hence, if any neutral or positive words about China have been included in Japan's 2024 diplomatic declaration this week, it only exposes Japan's opportunist and double-dealing intentions.

True, differences do exist between Beijing and Tokyo, notably over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, Japan's attempts to whitewash its imperialist past, and, the latest addition to the list, its reckless move to discharge the nuclear-contaminated waste water accumulated at the tsunami-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea.

But none of these justifies Japan linking arms with the US against China.

Apart from making waves over the East China Sea disputes, Japan has also repeatedly interfered in the Taiwan question and actively meddled in the South China Sea disputes, stoking confrontation in a region in which, by and large, countries have made concerted efforts to maintain the peace and stability that has enabled them to prosper in recent decades.

In his speech at a state dinner in the White House, Kishida quoted the famous line from the TV show Star Trek about "boldly going where no one has gone before". Yet Tokyo and Washington are going around in a circle following a familiar path. If Tokyo really wants to boldly go where it hasn't gone before, it should stop following Washington's lead.

Japan under Kishida has transformed its national security strategy, discarding its pacifist Constitution and expanding its outlook "beyond that of being America's closest ally". Yet it still seems it is unwilling to boldly go where it hasn't gone before by turning its back on Washington's schemes and making peace with its past and its neighbors.

By continuing to be content with its allotted role as a tolerated guest in the Anglo-Saxon club, Japan under Kishida may be boldly pursuing a militarist path, but in doing so it is only demonstrating that it is fearful of standing on its own two feet. As long as that is the case, countries in the region must remain vigilant against Japan's ambition to develop into a military power with the assistance of the US.