The Yomiuri Shimbun
United States must do everything possible to regain global leadership
It is hard to say that the United States is sufficiently exercising its leadership in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear development and the threat of terrorism by extremist groups. We hope the United States will proactively work to solve these issues.
In his final State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “Priority No. 1 is going after terrorist networks” and indicated his intention to go all out to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group.
Yet he fell short of unveiling any concrete measures to defeat ISIL. As things stand now, it will be difficult for him to make any significant achievements in his remaining year in office.
The modus operandi of limiting military operations and emphasizing international cooperation unless the United States and its allies face a direct threat is showing its limitations. Shouldn’t Washington consider sending out additional special forces?
It is also questionable that Obama declared the continuation of the half-measure strategy that “we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman.”
North Korea has conducted nuclear tests as many as three times while Obama has been in office, taking much of the luster from his comments about “a world without nuclear weapons,” which he advocated in a Prague speech shortly after he took office.
In his State of the Union address three years ago, the president pledged to take “firm action” in response to a nuclear test conducted by North Korea. This time, however, he made no reference to Pyongyang’s latest test.
N. Korea strategy at dead end?
This can be interpreted as Washington reaching a dead end in its strategy in dealing with North Korea. Vis a vis the state, it is important to explore ways to hold a dialogue depending on its behavior, while increasing pressure.
We also think Washington should have taken prompter, stronger action against China, as the country is turning the artificial islands it has built into military strongholds in the South China Sea. To prevent China from accelerating its attempts to change the status quo by force, it is also vital for U.S. military vessels to regularly sail near the artificial islands.
It was appropriate that Obama called on Congress to swiftly approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, saying, “With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.” Washington should learn from its failed approach of prioritizing cooperation with China while turning a blind eye to human rights and other issues.
In his speech, Obama emphasized his achievements over the past seven years and the continuation of his policies, rather than concrete solutions for these problems.
The Obama administration deserves credit for weathering the financial crisis under way at the time it was inaugurated and for implementing its rebalancing policy, which focuses on Asia and has promoted the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
It was also reasonable for Obama to cite such achievements as the country’s normalizing diplomatic ties with Cuba, reaching a nuclear accord with Iran and inking the Paris accord on measures against climate change.
He spoke of his policies of promoting reform of the medical insurance system and immigration system, and pursuing gun control. U.S. citizens are divided on these issues, and the split in public opinion is becoming more serious.
Obama must take seriously the situation illustrated in recent public opinion polls, which have found that about 70 percent of people think the country is heading in the wrong direction.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2016)