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

Replacing "Values-Based Diplomacy" - Fukuda Administration's Diplomatic Realism
KITAMURA Fumio / Journalist

July 14, 2008
Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo's political style is down-to-earth and low-key. Quite a contrast from his predecessors Koizumi Jun'ichiro and Abe Shinzo, who both sought the media spotlight and repeatedly made high-profile comments and actions. For this reason, Fukuda’s political message doesn't leave much of an impression.

Perhaps due to his political style, or to the succession of major news such as the cyclone disaster in Myanmar and earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, the Prime Minister's speech at an international exchange conference in Tokyo on May 22 went unreported by most foreign media. It is unfortunate that not much attention was paid overseas, since it was an important speech that signaled a change of course in Japanese diplomacy.

In this speech, Prime Minister Fukuda announced his comprehensive policy for Asia. He stated his understanding that due to progress in transportation and communications, the Pacific Ocean has now been reduced to the size of the Mediterranean Sea and will become even smaller in future. He went on to describe the ideal state of Japan and Asian nations as a relationship similar to that of colleagues who share the good things and tackle problems in a join effort.

Read through the entire speech, and one realizes there is deep meaning in what was not mentioned. In contrast to the Koizumi and Abe administrations, which emphasized maintaining the Japan-U.S. Alliance based on "common values" as the most important axis of Japanese diplomacy, Fukuda refrained from mentioning "values-based diplomacy" or giving prominence to the Japan-U.S. Alliance, instead placing it in a relative position as one of the components of his comprehensive strategy for Asia.

As seen from his choice of the title - "For the Day the Pacific Ocean Becomes an Inland Sea," the speech was presented from the perspective of huge changes taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. Today, Southeast Asian countries are on the path of dramatic economic growth, and China and India are emerging as big powers. This has been accompanied by an urgent need to collaborate beyond national borders on new issues such as global warming, disaster prevention and epidemic prevention. Confronted with such changes in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is being required to redefine its concrete measures for collaboration in this region.

In the speech, Prime Minister Fukuda made five promises related to Japan's role in the region: complete support for efforts made by ASEAN countries towards the realization of a regional community; reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. Alliance that guarantees stability in the Asia-Pacific region; continuation of fuel supply for other national fleets in the Indian Ocean aimed at preventing terrorist activity and pursuit of diplomacy geared to cooperation in disaster prevention; efforts for exchange between the younger generations; and cooperative response to the issue of global warming. With respect to the Japan-U.S. Alliance, the "common values" slogan much used by the Abe administration had disappeared, and greater emphasis was placed on the political functions inherent in the Alliance.

The U.S. administration of President Bush ignored international criticism to forcibly launch an attack against Iraq, and in the Middle East peace process has persisted on providing exclusive support to Israel, thereby abandoning the role of a fair intermediary. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have felt fear and concern over such unilateral actions. The Abe administration itself had not defined "common values" in detail. It was roughly understood to mean a common belief in democratic principles such as the protection of basic human rights, fair and free elections and freedom of speech. And while a democratic system presupposes the existence of independent individuals, such a sense of independence has yet to be established in many countries. Poor people in these countries depend upon their bond with the local community or religious factions. That is why a hastily implemented one-man, one-vote election occasionally gives rise to the phenomenon of a landslide victory by groups advocating armed conflict.

If we are to squarely face this reality, stabilizing the daily lives of these people should be our priority, rather than brandishing "common values." In his speech, Prime Minister Fukuda distanced himself from this slogan because he is aware of its negative connotations. It is yet unclear how the promise of advancing alongside Asian countries as stated in the Fukuda speech will be put to practice through concrete actions. Even so, I think we should appreciate the Fukuda speech in a positive light as a declaration of Japan's will towards strengthening realistic collaboration with the Asia-Pacific region.

The writer is a former Professor of Shukutoku University and former Senior Editor and London Bureau Chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

北村文夫 / ジャーナリスト

2008年 7月 14日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Replacing "Values-Based Diplomacy" - Fukuda Administration's Diplomatic Realism