野田外交の責務 日本の存在高める戦略を持て

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 11, 2012)
Noda must pursue diplomacy that will enhance nation's presence
野田外交の責務 日本の存在高める戦略を持て(1月10日付・読売社説)

It has been pointed out for years that Japan's diplomatic standing is deteriorating, a condition likened to "ground subsidence."

With the prime minister being changed annually for six years in a row, international awareness of this country's existence has further declined.

Last year, we received heartwarming help from all over the world after the country suffered the disastrous Great East Japan Earthquake.

This international bond made us recognize afresh the importance of diplomacy.

This year, Japan must drop its inward-looking stance and advance an active diplomacy to improve the nation's presence in the world.

To this end, the top priority should be the deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance, which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has described as the "cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy."


Both the Japanese and U.S. governments are now planning an official visit by Noda to the United States this year.

Originally, the governments planned a U.S. visit in 2010 by the then prime minister and an announcement of a joint document aimed at deepening the bilateral alliance to mark the 50th anniversary of the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
However, the plan has been continuously postponed due to political upheaval in Japan and other reasons.

The plan should be realized this year.


Speed up Futenma relocation

To realize the plan, it is important for the government to advance the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.

In late December, the government submitted to the Okinawa prefectural government an environmental impact assessment for an alternative facility to be constructed in the Henoko district of Nago in the same prefecture.

The most difficult hurdle for realizing the relocation plan is to obtain permission to reclaim land in offshore waters from Okinawa Gov.
Hirokazu Nakaima, who stressed "relocation of the air station functions outside the prefecture" as one of his election campaign pledges.

Noda must seek a comprehensive agreement with the Okinawa prefectural government on the Futenma issue, the relocation of marine corps personnel stationed in the prefecture to Guam and the prefecture's economic development programs, among other issues.

It will also be important for him to repeatedly have strategic dialogues with the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, which has made clear its diplomatic position of focusing on Asia.
These joint discussions are necessary to cope with China, which has been expanding its military and economic presence.

To guide China toward the observation of international rules for settling economic problems and maritime territorial issues, Japan and the United States should closely cooperate in the use of frameworks for multilateral discussions, including the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum, as well as Japan-U.S.-South Korea, Japan-U.S.-India and Japan-U.S.-Australia trilateral frameworks.


The situation on the Korean Peninsula has become increasingly opaque due to the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

To prepare for unforeseen contingencies, it is indispensable for our nation not only to cooperate with the United States, but also to closely share information and coordinate policies with both China and South Korea.


Expand trilateral ties

We also need to expand trilateral defense cooperation with the United States and South Korea by formulating operational plans to deal with contingencies and participating in joint exercises and other activities.

In December, South Korea brought up the issue of the so-called comfort women, but Japan should not budge on its stance that all compensation issues have been settled.

At the same time, our nation should develop future-oriented relations with Seoul.

As for North Korea, the leadership change there should be exploited to break the stalemate on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to that country.

Late last month, the government decided to reinforce the abduction issue countermeasures headquarters.

In close cooperation with the United States, China, South Korea and Russia, the government must devise a strategy to try to resolve the North Korean nuclear and abduction issues at the same time.

In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will almost certainly return to the Kremlin after winning a presidential election in March.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev takes the stand of not recognizing the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration that pledged to return two islands off Hokkaido to Japan after conclusion of a peace treaty.

He visited Kunashiri Island in November 2010 despite Japan's opposition, thereby cooling bilateral relations. Russia's expected presidential change must be used to improve the relations.

Russia will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's summit meeting in Vladivostok in September.

The country seeks our nation's cooperation in energy development.

Japan needs strategic diplomacy that will respond flexibly depending on Moscow's behavior.

Many international conferences will be held in Japan this year.

They include the 6th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting set for May in Okinawa Prefecture, a ministerial conference on large-scale disasters in summer, a general meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in October and a ministerial conference on nuclear safety in December.

Based on the lessons learned from the March 11 disaster and subsequent reconstruction efforts, Japan must focus on the new roles it can play in disaster countermeasures, the world economy and nuclear power generation.  大震災からの日本の復興と、震災の教訓を踏まえた防災、世界経済、原子力の各分野における日本の新たな役割をアピールすべきだ。

This would serve to repay the assistance offered by foreign countries in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.


ODA skid must be halted

For Japan to secure a voice on the world stage, the continual cuts in budgetary outlays for official development assistance must be halted.

ODA spending has fallen year on year for 13 consecutive years and now stands at about half its peak level.  ODAは13年連続で減少し、今はピーク時の約半分にすぎない。

Japan's ranking has dropped to fifth on the world's list of ODA donors.

Through the effective use of ODA, the government must build strategic relationships with countries in Southeastern, Southwestern and Central Asia as a check against China's rising presence in these areas.

We also hope that ODA to resource-rich African countries will be expanded.

It is also important for Japan to take part more in international cooperation activities such as U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The government will soon send an advance team of the Ground Self-Defense Force that will take part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Republic of South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan last year.

About 240 GSDF personnel in charge of construction of facilities will be sent by late March.

They plan to engage in construction and maintenance of roads and bridges in the suburbs of the capital city of Juba.

It is very significant for Japan to contribute to the nation-building of the newly independent African nation.

Local security is stable at present.

But the possibility remains that the situation will change.

To ensure the safety of GSDF personnel, it is necessary to expand the rules of engagement for the use of arms to international standards, allowing GSDF personnel to use arms for the purpose of carrying out their missions.

The issue has been left pending for a long time, but now is the time to resolve it politically.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2012)
(2012年1月10日01時15分 読売新聞)

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