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The United Daily News, Taiwan

Form Over Function:
The US-Japan Summit

By Editorial

Translated By Nathan Hsu

23 February 2013

Edited by Daye Lee

Taiwan - The United Daily News - Original Article (Chinese)

Shinzo Abe is the fifth Japanese prime minister to meet with President Obama in the past four years. Despite the frequent turnover in Japan's top post of late, this time may be different. After only two months in office, Abe has already breathed life back into the Japanese economy, prompting a surge in his approval rating to 71 percent. The U.S. knows that he is the one it will be dealing with for the next four years, and etiquette demands a meeting.

Abe announced a visit to the U.S. shortly after his election but was forced to postpone it for two months because he was unable to make the commitments that the U.S. wanted. First, worried about domestic farmers, Abe is not willing to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Second, the Okinawan local government remains opposed to the relocation of the U.S.’ Futenma Base, leaving the central government's hands tied.

Abe, who is making haste to consolidate relations between his country and the U.S., still hopes that the U.S. will be open and firm in its support for Japan. Naturally, this is due to concerns regarding the dispute with China over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu islands. However, Obama has no intention of getting involved in this matter. U.S. National Security Council briefings indicate that President Obama has closely followed the development of the conflict in the East China Sea and is glad to see Tokyo and Beijing initiating diplomatic contact and high-level meetings. Furthermore, within these discussions, Obama has not reiterated or given support for any statement regarding Japanese administrative rights. Instead, it has been Abe who has stated that he will calmly handle the issue while closely coordinating with the U.S.

Abe is the representative of the Japanese right. Although he is treading carefully so soon after taking office, other countries in Asia and the Pacific have become alarmed by his active efforts to change the constitution and increase Japan's defense spending. Perhaps there are some in the U.S. who are secretly pleased with this, believing that they can set loose the hound of Japan to aid in their return to Asia. However, the problems raised by Abe's nationalism will grow to surpass that of the Diaoyu conflict.

As to the topic of "comfort women," the Japanese government's apology via Yohei Kono's statement was already the bare minimum acceptable to countries formerly occupied by Japan. Abe's revisionist desires aimed toward shrugging off Japan's responsibility will certainly rouse the ire of many. The issue has already begun to garner more attention within U.S. public opinion, many believing that the women should be openly labeled "sex slaves" as well as urging Obama to raise the issue directly with Abe.

Japan's current territorial disputes are not limited to the shores of the Taiwan Strait. The dispute between South Korea and Japan over the Liancourt Rocks, known as Dokdo and Takeshima in the South Korea and Japan respectively, has persisted for some time. After the Abe administration took over, it stubbornly sent officials to participate in Japan's Takeshima Day ceremony. This has elicited no small amount of anger from South Korea, who has already called out to the Japanese envoy in protest. This puts the U.S. in an extremely difficult position, wedged between two allies.

We are pleased to see that Obama has not shown favoritism toward Japan, and hope that the U.S. will focus on the big picture and keep the Japanese right wing from pursuing a course of increasing extremism. Ultimately, we cannot allow for the possibility of an accidental conflict breaking out between China and Japan; we must ensure that peace prevails in East Asia.



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