Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with President Obama for talks on China’s ongoing construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea. They talked about strengthening military cooperation and the possibility of Japanese deployments in the region. And Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida promised Japan will “play a responsible role in the international war on terrorism.”
What worries me is Japan’s expanding Self Defense Forces. By next March, the new security laws that passed in April will take effect, opening up new frontiers for our military. Before that, however, much serious nationwide deliberation is required.
This U.S.-Japan meeting is the first since the laws’ enactment. Abe expressed his intention to “play a positive role in promoting international peace and stability,” while Obama was hopeful for increased cooperation between the two countries to resolve more international issues. So, were the security laws all along about closer cooperation between the U.S. and Japanese militaries, as we have long suspected?
Debates in the Diet have raised the specter of our own military being gratuitously embroiled in America’s military excursions. This ominous sense still hangs over our country.
On the possible deployment of Japanese troops to the South China Sea, Abe said he would consider all potential national security implications. With our country’s lack of proper equipment, surveillance in the area is said to be difficult. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says there is no concrete plan at the moment.
However, the other day, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani paid an official visit to Vietnam, who has agreed to let Japanese navy fleets use their ports. So, it is safe to assume high-level officials are probing ways in which the Self Defense Forces can exercise influence in the region. It is to be hoped that the region’s stability will dictate the government’s policy.
Obama announced he would send American warships to within two nautical miles of China’s man-made islands. Abe expressed his support for such actions, and at the G20 summit in Turkey, he reiterated his concern about the situation, calling for support from the international community.
But at the APEC summit in the Philippines, which faces the South China Sea, the issue was conspicuously absent, which shows the complicated nature of the whole issue.
Meanwhile, on the heels of the deadly attacks in Paris, the U.S., France and Russia are united in their fight against the Islamic State. Would this influence not lead to our military being drawn into this fight, as Abe pledges Japan will “play a responsible role”? In the meeting with Obama, Abe also agreed to closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Nakatani ruled out support with airstrikes during a deliberation session on the new laws. Since an enormous distance separates Japan and the Middle East, and Japan has had a much different relationship with the Middle East than Europe or America, the role we play should also be different. That’s where we can shine as a responsible member of the world.
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