Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Let's discuss strategic options for Japan
HANABUSA Masamichi  / Former Ambassador to Italy

May 24, 2016
Once-in-a-generation changes seem to be taking place around the world. In America professional politicians have lost luster and populist isolationism is increasing its appeal for the voters. In Japan's neighborhood China is preparing for a slower growth with concomitant adjustments. In Taiwan an independence-leaning President has just been installed. In North Korea the Party Congress was called for the first time in near 40 years to prepare for the forthcoming economic reforms. In the Philippines a radical President was elected from Mindanao for the first time. In the Middle East Saudi Arabia flexes its muscles as a regional hegemon. In Europe the centrifugal powers are slowly losing steam and new euro-pessimisms are on the rise.

The Japanese are usually waiting to see how changes take place in the outside world and, after the dust settles, slowly try to adjust to new realities. This reactive stance is not an unwise policy for an island nation like Japan, if we are keenly alive to the nature of the various changes that have happened and quickly respond to them. The inherent danger for us is we often act too slowly and too little. We should also be wary of our tendency to look at the changes only from the narrow angle of the specific issues Japan is faced with. For instance, the main Japanese concern is whether Japan would be forced to pay more to let American forces continue their presence in Japan if Mr. Trump was chosen as the next US President. As regards China, we tend to assess the changes in China in the light of their implications for issues directly affecting us, for example, the Senkaku Islands. Likewise, the Russian changes are seen in light of the pending territorial issues and the North Korean changes are seen in light of the "abduction" issue. Looking only at the trees would miss gross changes happening in the wood. When the wood is undergoing phenomenal changes, it is not wise to care only about individual trees.

These important changes in the policy of various nations often happen as the result of an agonizing reappraisal of the strategic options on their part. First, there will have to be considerations of various strategic options left for the nation. If Japan does not identify its core interests clearly and make them known to the world, Japan's partners will take Japan for granted on the basis of the status quo. Whether we want it or not, Japanese policy directions affect the policies of our neighbors. In other words, active Japanese policy-making would affect the strategic calculations of Japan's partners, friendly or hostile. So far Japanese dependence on the US and its accommodating policy-making style spared us from the agonizing reappraisal of strategic policy options. At the same time, Japan has often been taken for granted.

When important changes are likely to take place in the world, the Japanese, too, must deliberate more actively various options open for Japan both at home and abroad. Prime Minister Abe is a rare activist politician in Japan. He seems to try out various options for both domestic economic policies and for foreign policies. It is lamentable that the opposition parties, media and academia remain simply critical and overly conservative. Let a hundred flowers of constructive discussions bloom in Japan.

(Masamichi Hanabusa is the Emeritus Chairman of the ESUJ.)
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐伊大使

2016年 5月 24日



重要な変化が世界で起こりつつあるように見える現在、日本人も国内および対外政策の両面において、どのような選択肢があるのかを、もっと積極的に議論すべきである。安倍総理は日本でも珍しい積極派の政治家である。彼は様々の内外政策上の選択肢を試そうとしているように見受けられる。悲しむべきことは野党、メディアと学者達が、単に批判するだけで、あまりにも保守的であることである。日本でも建設的議論の百花を咲かせよう 。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Let's discuss strategic options for Japan