G8サミット 日本の存在感低下に歯止めを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 28, 2010)
Japan must halt decline of diplomatic clout
G8サミット 日本の存在感低下に歯止めを(6月27日付・読売社説)

The summit meetings of the Group of Eight major powers and the Group of 20 major industrialized and emerging countries are taking place in Canada.

While it is noted that Japan's clout in the international community has been on the decline for several years, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's diplomatic competence is already being put to the test in his first trip abroad as prime minister.

Addressing the global economy, which is being rocked by Greece's debt crisis, leaders of the G-8 major powers affirmed during their meeting the importance of tackling fiscal reconstruction while securing growth.

Kan explained and sought understanding for Japan's policy of increasing expenditures in the nursing and medical fields while pursuing economic growth and fiscal soundness.

After returning to Japan, Kan certainly will be pressed to give concrete form to measures, including the consumption tax rate hike, to reconstruct the country's economy and state finances.

The G-8 leaders also agreed Friday to pledge 5 billion dollars over the next five years to aid maternal and child health care in developing countries. Kan announced Japan would offer 500 million dollars in this sector.

Japan possesses various types of know-how in providing medical assistance. The government should conduct finely tuned strategic aid diplomacy.


Stability vital to natl interests

In the political arena, the March sinking of a South Korean naval patrol ship was another focus of attention at the G-8.

Maintaining peace and stability in areas surrounding Japan is directly linked to its national interests. To secure its say at the G-8 summit meetings and shepherd its assertions to reality, it is indispensable that Japan fulfill its role as a major power in the political and economic arenas.

However, Japan's position in G-8 diplomacy has been extremely tenuous in recent years. Different prime ministers attended past G-8 summit meetings, with Shinzo Abe participating in 2007, Yasuo Fukuda in 2008 and Taro Aso last year.

Every time the prime minister changes, the new premier has to rebuild relationships from scratch with his counterparts from each country. While summit diplomacy is becoming increasingly important, there is no way we can expect, under such circumstances, the prime minister to exercise leadership in diplomatic negotiations, such as with Russia over the northern territories dispute.


Kan must avoid Hatoyama rut

Kan's diplomatic competence is unknown, although as finance minister, he attended the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven major industrialized nations in February.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama drove Japan-U.S. relations astray with his go-it-alone judgment and immature approach.

Kan said he would try to promote diplomacy based on pragmatism, but he needs to humbly give ear to the advice of his specialists to avoid following the same rut as his predecessor.

A problem besetting Japan's diplomacy is its declining budget for official development assistance, which has been an important card for years.

The ODA this fiscal year dropped to nearly half the level of its peak in fiscal 1997. From its position at the top of world rankings for total assistance in 2000, Japan has remained in fifth place since 2007. Japan must stop its position from declining by boosting the assistance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2010)
(2010年6月27日01時24分 読売新聞)

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