Prime Minister Naoto Kan recently visited the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly and President Obama's summit meeting. While the Japanese-American alliance continues to weaken under the strain of the U.S. armed forces’ refusal to relocate the Futenma Air Station, the Chinese premier has also become more adamant about the Chinese fishing trawler incident near the Senkaku Islands, demanding an immediate unconditional acquittal for the boat's captain.
This is an unprecedented threat to the safety of the Japanese territories. Concerns have been rising in Southeast Asia over the effectiveness of the alliance's military installations in preserving the order of the Asia-Pacific region.
Right now what is of critical importance is the Japanese-American summit meeting and the foreign ministers’ conference. To counter China's outrageous actions, the prime minister and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara should let the world know of their strong intentions to protect Senkaku by rebuilding the foundation of the alliance with the U.S. via a steady implementation of a reorganization of their armed forces.
Since the governmental shift to the Democratic Party last fall, Japanese-American relations have repeatedly strayed from the Futenma issue. After the launch of Kan's restructured cabinet, the outlook for a resolution on the issue doesn't look good. Meanwhile, the Chinese navy, having seen through the weakness in the alliance, has begun bold mobilizations in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea, including the near-collision of a ship-borne helicopter with a Maritime Self-Defense Force escort vessel in April.
I must say that this is just an extension of the issue surrounding the fishing trawler crash, as China tests the alliance's intentions and ability to protect Japan's safety, territories and territorial waters. They are doing this because their neighboring countries are always keeping a close eye on the situation. The prime minister and foreign minister must first be keenly aware of this reality.
The Senkaku Islands are Japan's rightful territory, so why can't the Japanese government at least make a claim that as long as China does not apologize for their illegal operations and invasion of our territorial waters, or respond to the demand for compensation for the crash damages, negotiations will not move forward? If China and Japan are to promote a mutually beneficial strategic relationship, China will have to bear in mind the basic principle that they must respect the territories and territorial waters of their neighbors.
Last month, the U.S. State Department declared that the Senkaku Islands were under the Japanese government's control and would be defended per the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. During the foreign ministers’ conference at the summit meeting, they reaffirmed their commitment for joint defense, which is the basis of the alliance, when instead they should be appealing to the international community. On the one hand, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg took the standpoint that Japan and China should engage in dialogue with one another, but on the other hand, it is also necessary for the Japanese-American alliance to learn to become more tightly knit together.
The day after the summit meeting, the conference between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will begin. To quell the fears of ASEAN, Japan and America need to pour all of their energy into restoring the image of a strong alliance. I want them to regain that confidence.