January 29, 2021 at 13:20 JST
The change of administrations in the United States should be leveraged to slam the brakes on the global proliferation of unilateralism and authoritarianism.
Japan should work with the United States to rebuild international cooperation.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga discussed a number of issues with U.S. President Joe Biden on Jan. 28 during their first telephone conversation since the president’s inauguration.
The two leaders agreed to enhance the bilateral security alliance and work together to establish a free and open Indo-Pacific region, a multilateral diplomatic initiative designed, in part, to counter China.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forged close personal ties with former U.S. President Donald Trump, which were described as a “honeymoon” relationship.
In response to U.S. prodding, however, Abe decided to purchase a large quantity of U.S.-made weapons, creating serious distortions in the nation’s defense budget.
Abe also failed to persuade Trump out of his actions to renege on multilateral frameworks and disrupt the international order.
Suga should learn from the previous administration’s bitter experiences of being at the mercy of a fickle U.S. leader and work with Biden to build a bilateral relationship that can contribute to securing stability in the region and the world.
Since he was sworn in on Jan. 20, Biden has taken a flurry of actions to reverse the Trump administration’s policies, bringing the United States back into the Paris climate agreement to curb global warming as well as into the World Health Organization.
During their phone conversation, Suga and Biden reaffirmed cooperation on climate change and the novel coronavirus pandemic. We hope that the two leaders will ensure effective efforts to help the international community overcome the common challenges it faces.
How to deal with China will be a tough nut to crack for Japan.
The rivalry between Washington and Beijing for global supremacy, which is structural by nature, is expected to remain fierce under the Biden administration.
But Washington is expected to take a more pragmatic approach, using both a hard-line stance and a cooperative attitude depending on the areas and issues involved.
For Japan, it is vital to secure a solid U.S. commitment to its security in the face of China’s military buildup and assertive naval expansion. But Tokyo has no desire to see a sharper confrontation between the two major powers that would destabilize the region.
The Japanese government has welcomed Biden’s remarks during the phone call reaffirming that the U.S. commitment to Japan’s security under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applies to the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
But Japan and the United States should also make efforts to ease regional tensions and build trust among countries involved while maintaining and bolstering deterrence.
For Japan, China is a close neighbor with which it has deep historical ties. Tokyo needs to adopt a multifaceted diplomatic approach designed to help build a healthier relationship between Washington and Beijing.
Japan also has an important diplomatic role to play in solidifying the U.S. engagement in Asia.
The Suga administration should take steps to repair the damage from the Trump administration’s foreign policy that undermined the U.S. presence in Asia. These include calling on Biden to attend the East Asia Summit, which Trump skipped four years in a row, and making tenacious efforts to bring the United States back to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
The leaders of Japan and the United States have a joint responsibility to promote multilateral cooperation and rebuild order in the fractured world.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 29
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