He is showing that he can remove, with his own hands, the negative legacy of the Soviet-U.S. Cold War left behind in Central and South America. President Obama, whose diplomacy is considered to have many weak points, took a huge chance with this decision.
He is beginning negotiations for the normalization of diplomatic relations with neighboring Cuba, which has had severed relations with the United States for nearly half a century. After the Socialist revolution in 1959, the U.S. regarded Cuba as hostile, and so adopted a policy of isolation. It is a historic transformation that shifts this course by 180 degrees.
Due to opposition from the Republican Party, it is unknown what the future holds. According to a U.S. government announcement, however, they will continue negotiations for normalization, and are aiming to open an embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana within a few months. Besides removing Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, the U.S. will also relax restrictions on travel and remittance.
When that happens, it will impact the political dynamics of not only Central and South America, but also the world. I would like to observe how this will reverberate through Asia and Japan.
The first thing I can think of is economic change. Cuba, with its population exceeding 1 million people, is only a stone’s throw away from the United States and its huge market. If the U.S. eases sanctions, it will be easier for Japanese businesses — which had been hesitant up until now — to operate there.
What should be noted is the impact this decision will have on Central and South America’s topography. Deeply anti-U.S. countries, like Venezuela and Bolivia, are not few in number in this region. Cuba is an example.
In July of this year, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping have visited Cuba one after another, singing the praises of their alliance. They are likely aiming to restrain the United States. It would also be a plus to Japan if the United States can put the brakes on Russia and China, and prevent the destabilization of Central and South America by becoming closer with Cuba.
What concerns me is how the Obama administration’s decision will reflect in North Korea, a dictatorship like Cuba that bears hostility toward the United States. North Korea genuinely wishes to normalize relations with the United States, but continues to refuse America’s demand for denuclearization.
If North Korea perceives the Obama administration as being tractable, there is a risk that North Korean-U.S. relations could get even more bogged down. The U.S. government should confront North Korea once again with the fact that there is absolutely no room for compromise regarding the nuclear issue.
Successive U.S. presidents, when the ends of their terms have come into view, have taken particularly large steps with diplomacy to earn their places in history. Too much ambition leaves an opening for attack, of which an opponent could easily take advantage. I would like the president to negotiate with both feet on the ground, only if the decision has a high chance of being engraved into world history.