Japanese PM's G7 tour seeks gang-up, growing int'l presence-Xinhua

Japanese PM's G7 tour seeks gang-up, growing int'l presence

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-01-16 17:34:31

TOKYO, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has toured five of the Group of Seven (G7) nations at the beginning of the new year, after controversial moves on security policy triggered concerns among its Asian neighbors in December 2022.

Scholars warned that the Japanese government should change its "subordinative" relationship with the United States and an open diplomacy with Asian neighbors is the foundation of Japan's national security.

During his trip to France, Italy, Britain, Canada and the United States on Jan. 9-15, Kishida signed a reciprocal access defence agreement for closer defense and security ties with his British counterpart Rishi Sunak, and issued a joint statement with U.S. President Joe Biden reiterating the Japan-U.S. alliance in the so-called "Indo-Pacific strategy."

Since Kishida's government updated its security strategy last month in contravention of its exclusively defense-oriented policy, its series of actions have increasingly raised alarms among its Asian neighbors, said local scholars, urging the government to change its relations with the United States from "subordination" to "self-reliance."


Friday's U.S.-Japan summit, the main focus of Kishida's week-long tour, marked his first Washington visit as the Japanese premier, who attached utmost importance to the debut trip and made "full preparations" beforehand.

In December last year, Japan approved three updated documents on its security and defense policies, including the new National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Defense Buildup Program, vowing to gain "counterstrike capability," or "enemy base strike capabilities."

Japan's annual defense outlays are also set to surge. The government intends to secure about 313 billion U.S. dollars in defense spending for the five years from fiscal 2023.

Analysts pointed out that the United States in recent years has dominated the Australia-India-Japan-U.S. Quadrilateral in the Asia-Pacific region, peddling the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework while forming cliques and divided camps.

Since taking office in October 2021, Kishida's cabinet is so willing to spearhead the expansion of U.S. hegemony in the Asia-Pacific that it courted the United States by arming itself, while relying on the latter for army expansion and war preparation, paving the way for its dream of becoming a military power again.

During the U.S.-Japan meeting, the most severe and complex security environment in the Indo-Pacific region was repeatedly brought up. While Kishida explained to Biden the changes in Japan's security policy, the U.S. president "commended" Japan's defense upgrade and its "historic" defense budget hike.

According to the joint statement issued on Friday, the two sides agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance not only in terms of security but also in economic ties to secure their edge on emerging technologies including semiconductors.

Prior to the meeting, foreign and defense chiefs from the two sides held 2-plus-2 defense talks, or the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee on Wednesday, vowing to address their "greatest strategic challenge."

The ministers agreed to strengthen military ties, deepen cooperation regarding Japan's decision to possess counterattack capabilities, expand joint use of U.S. and Japanese facilities and extend the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into space.

Atsushi Koketsu, emeritus professor at Yamaguchi University of Japan, said the Japanese government, following the U.S. intention, has turned to a "preemptive attack strategy" by abandoning the "exclusive defense" concept, putting its Asian neighbors on alert.

Kishida's practice of "free riding" on the U.S. hegemony has roused discontent among the Japanese public.


As the current G7 chair, Japan will host the group's summit in May. Kishida's visit to the five G7 countries is also aimed at garnering support on a host of issues including food security, nuclear disarmament, climate change and Russia-Ukraine conflict before the summit in Hiroshima.

Since last October, four ministers have resigned successively from Kishida's cabinet due to scandals, plunging the government's approval ratings to record lows. Meanwhile, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga criticized Kishida recently for remaining as the head of a political faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party while leading the country, an additional blow to Kishida.

As multiple crises unfold, Kishida intends to take advantage of Japan's G7 presidency, as well as its election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and the council's rotating president in January, to engage in vigorous diplomacy and create a sense of presence by forming cliques, in a bid to ensure a successful G7 Hiroshima summit and boost his flagging approval ratings.

During the visit, the Kishida government, abandoner of its exclusively defense-oriented policy and pacifism embodied in the Constitution of Japan, is seeking to strengthen defense and security cooperation with the United States and European countries wherever possible.

In London, for example, Kishida and Sunak signed the Japan-Britain Reciprocal Access Agreement aimed at facilitating bilateral defense and security cooperation, stating simplified procedures for Japan-Britain cooperation in ship berthing and joint exercises in the future, and expecting more active military cooperation between the two countries.

Liu Di, a professor at Japan's Kyorin University, said Japan's economy has been stagnant for the past 30 years and it will inevitably lead to a host of domestic conflicts if the world's third largest economy continues to hike defense spending.

Therefore, Japan may use external forces to strengthen its comprehensive security capabilities, including leveraging other developed countries within the G7 framework, the scholar said.

Ukeru Magosaki, a former Japanese foreign ministry official, told Xinhua that the economic weather in Japan is not optimistic, and most Japanese people do not approve of raising taxes or issuing government bonds to increase defense expenditure.

Koketsu said the urgent task for the Japanese government is to transform its relations with the U.S. from "subordination" to "self-reliance" and carry out an open diplomacy with its Asian neighbors.

This would be the foundation of Japan's guarantee for national security, he noted.