The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 23, 2011)
Japan should fulfill global responsibility
What foreign policy should Japan conduct in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake?
We think the government should engage actively with the international community without becoming inward-looking. This will strengthen the nation's vitality and advance reconstruction.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan held talks with visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday. They agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in areas of energy and disaster relief activities. Japan must use such occasions to clearly express its determination toward reconstruction and revitalization.
The foreign ministers of Japan and of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in Indonesia on April 9. Indonesia proposed to fellow ASEAN members the idea of holding the special meeting with Japan, saying it was the ASEAN nations' turn to demonstrate solidarity with Japan because it has supported them for many years.
Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, more than 170 countries and international organizations have offered to help Japan, and many have already provided assistance. All of this is because Japan has developed cooperative ties with them and supported them in the past.
Keep a global perspective
Reconstruction of areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami will require a huge amount of money and manpower. But Japan must not become so preoccupied with domestic concerns that it ignores its role in the international community and fails to look at things from a global viewpoint.
First, the government should minimize reduction of official development assistance.
The government initially considered cutting appropriations for ODA, which were set at 572.7 billion yen in total in the initial budget for fiscal 2011, by 20 percent to free up funds for the first supplementary budget aimed at recovery and reconstruction after the earthquake and tsunami.
The idea of cutting money in an area of least resistance seemed like a simple idea. But many voices were raised against it, forcing the government to downsize the reduction to 10 percent.
The nation's ODA budget has been decreasing for 12 straight years and is now at only half of its peak. Japan's world ranking in terms of ODA budget also declined from first place to fifth. During that period, Japan's international influence has declined as emerging economies rise.
The nation has to continue international contributions matching its position as the third largest economic power in the world to maintain its international influence.
Meanwhile, the government should not postpone a decision on whether to participate in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade treaty with the other Asian and Pacific countries. Though the Kan administration said it would make a decision on TPP in June, all the negotiating work in Japan and abroad has been suspended in the wake of the disaster.
Nine countries, including the United States and Australia, are aiming to conclude TPP negotiations in November. We hope Japan will proceed steadily with domestic agricultural reforms and negotiations with concerned countries so that it would not be left behind.
Let SDF help elsewhere
It is also significant for the nation to maintain engagement with U.N. peacekeeping operations. Self-Defense Forces' performance in dealing with the disaster has been remarkable.
The government should not limit the activities of the SDF to Japan. It should positively consider sending SDF units to Southern Sudan after independence and to other parts of the world to participate in PKOs.
Cooperation in disaster preparedness and response as well as measures to secure the safety of nuclear power plants will be important agenda items in diplomacy among major countries this year. Attention will focus particularly on Japan's actions in response to its disasters.
Japan should learn various lessons from its own experiences with the earthquake, tsunami and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Then, it should lead discussions among major nations by making concrete proposals on what form international cooperation should take. That would be one way to return the favor for their assistance to Japan.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2011)