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日本 麻生太郎 中國威脅論 小泉純一郎 中日關系 Taro Aso 對中共叩頭 日本外交 Japan 

No More Kowtow for Japan

2006-05-12 21:01:23
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If China is hoping that Japan, after Junichiro Koizumi stepping down as prime minister in September, will once again become a more subservient neighbor, it better thinks twice. After listening to Taro Aso, Japan's foreign minister and a likely candidate to succeed Mr. Koizumi, in Washington last week, it's plain clear to me that Japan is not likely to return to its old mode of knee-jerk kowtowing to the Middle Kingdom.

In his speech delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Aso's main focus was a rising China. Mr. Aso listed three "priority objectives" for East Asia and China, unmistakably, lies at the heart of each of these challenges.

First, to promote freedom, democracy, market economy, the rule of law and respect for human dignity. China's transformation into a truly democratic nation will become an "unavoidable" path in the future, Mr. Aso predicted.

Second, to fight against narrow-minded nationalism. Without naming China directly, Mr. Aso said that rising nationalism, as a negative factor, could overshadow the region's enormous potential and lead to instability.

Third, to increase transparency and trust, and thus predictability in the fields of economic, political, and military affairs. Mr. Aso called the double-digit growth in China's defense spending for the past 18 years a "concern for Japan, the United States and others." In order to reduce the risks of regional arms race or potentially catastrophic miscalculation, China must increase its military transparency.

"Throughout the history of mankind, sudden rise of a new power has created both promises and tensions. China's recent development, because of its unprecedented speed, seems to have also created both. A shining face of new prosperity and affluence in today's China is not without risks and potential problems," Mr. Aso pointed out. A stable and prosperous East Asia depends on the predictability of a regional environment, which in turn can only be enhanced if uncertainties related to China's development are resolved.

China might be tempted to dismiss such "unfriendly" views belonging to one hawkish politician. Mr. Aso, after all, has never been shy from expressing his strong opinions. For example, not only does Mr. Aso back Mr. Koizumi's regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, but he also suggests Emperor Akihito should do the same. Recently, Mr. Aso infuriated China by saying that Taiwan is a "law-governed country, as its democracy is fairly mature and liberalism has taken root in its economy" and suggesting that the island democracy's high educational standards were a legacy of Japan's 1895-1945 colonial rule.

China considers the Yasukuni Shrine, a privately-run entity where 14 class-A war criminals from World War II are among the 2.4 million souls honored, as the central obstacle to smoothing Sino-Japanese relations. The Chinese Communist Party secretary general, Hu Jintao, last month laid down the condition for resuming high-level talks with Japan: Mr. Koizumi must cease visits to the shrine. China can't expect, though, that Mr. Koizumi's successor would necessarily disavow the visits.

Mr. Aso's competitor for the top job, Shinzo Abe, is equally hard-line. Responding to Mr. Hu's "olive branch," Mr. Abe said, "It's wrong for us to decide to stop our prime minister's visits to a shrine which is located in our country just because a foreign country demands it."

"If you stop visiting Yasukuni because China demands it, then the next demand could be about the territorial disputes over the gas fields in the East China Sea," Mr. Abe added.

Perhaps China should pay attention not so much to what Mr. Aso said but what he actually did while he visited Washington. Mr. Aso, as well as his colleague Fukushiro Nukaga, Japan's defense minister, attended the "2 plus 2" meeting with their American counterparts - Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, initiated by President Bush and Mr. Koizumi in 2004, is to strengthen and modernize the two countries' alliance for the 21st century.

The committee called for "greater transparency on the modernization of military capabilities in the region" - I don't have to repeat which specific country is being discussed here.

China undoubtedly would be alarmed by one particular thing. After the meeting, the four ministers "affirmed their commitment to close cooperation" in realizing the common strategic objectives the Security Consultative Committee identified in February 2005." In a major shift of Japanese strategic planning, the Security Consultative Committee a year ago identified "the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait" as a "common strategic objective."

If this is not enough to convince China of Japan's change of heart, look no further than two more voices of concern. A few weeks ago, Gen. Hajime Massaki, the chairman of Japan's Joint Staff Committee, announced that Japan had scrambled fighter jets 107 times this year to intercept suspected Chinese spy planes. "Chinese activities in the areas around Japanese territory have reached unprecedented levels," he said. And in its annual strategic review, the National Institute for Defense Studies, which is attached to Japan's Defense Agency, has declared for the first time that the military balance between China and Taiwan "is shifting in China's favor."

"My hope is that China recognizes that there is no longer a place for an empire," Mr. Aso said recently. Japan, cooperating with America, is working to make sure that China understands this.

--原載︰《The New York Sun》 May 9, 2006

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