US-Japan joint statement hurts Japan & US in Asia Mar 16, 2005 5:15:50 GMT -5
Post by Moses on Mar 16, 2005 5:15:50 GMT -5
March 16, 2005
Is the Empire Striking Back?
By YONG XUE
Boston — HALFWAY though the 10th paragraph of an otherwise bland statement issued last month by the United States and Japan is a historic sentence. Among the "common strategic objectives" of the two nations, it reads, is "the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait."
Such language may seem mild compared with the usual diplomatic back-and-forth between China and the United States about Taiwan, like this week's contentious exchange over the Chinese Parliament's new law authorizing the use of force to stop Taiwan from becoming independent. But in the 40-plus years that Japan and America have been making announcements regarding their security concerns in East Asia, Japan has deliberately remained silent about Taiwan. With their statement last month, for the first time the two nations have taken a clear stand together.
This is a mistake. The United States is right to be concerned with the growing military might of China, and America should honor its commitment to peace and democracy in the region. The United States is also right to encourage Japan to take a more assertive role in world affairs, as it has in Iraq. But there are parts of the world where Japan's history is too much of a burden, where it may not be in America's national interest to align itself with Japan too closely. East Asia is such an area.
Japan invaded China some 70 years ago, killing millions of Chinese. Despite expressions of regret, Japan has never formally apologized for these atrocities - certainly not to the satisfaction of most Chinese. Only when World War II was over, and millions of lives had been lost, did China win back Taiwan from Japan, which had annexed it in the late 19th century. Understandably, Taiwan is a very sensitive issue to China's national pride. On this issue, Japan commands no moral high ground.
There is no reason for the United States to carry this historical burden for Japan. To the contrary: Americans fought with the Chinese against Japan in World War II, and the goodwill they earned among the Chinese people persists to this day. By pursuing policies toward Taiwan in concert with Japan, the United States becomes less a defender of peace and democracy and more an apologist for imperialism. At least this is how many Chinese people will perceive it. [rightly so]
Even worse, America gains nothing by yielding the moral high ground. Historically, the United States has always held open the possibility of a military response to a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Japan, meanwhile - trapped by a sense of guilt over the war and restricted by strong public sentiment against the military - has long been unwilling to take a public stand on the Taiwan issue.
At the same time, Japanese-American relations have always taken priority in Japan's foreign policy. Since at least the late 1950's, the posture of the Japanese government has been clear enough: if forced to make a choice in a military confrontation over the Taiwan Strait, Japan would quietly provide aid to the United States. Last month's joint statement was not only unwise but also unnecessary.
On the issue of Taiwan, the United States would be wise to deal with China alone. After all, anti-American sentiment in China is shallow. Many Chinese people continue to admire America for both its values and its political system. More practically, they also realize that China needs the United States to maintain a stable international order so its economy can continue to grow. They have benefited greatly from trade with America.
They are also sophisticated enough to understand America's distrust of China's emerging power; they expect only sensible and fair leadership. The Bush administration should deal with China in a businesslike manner, without needless provocation that leaves the moderate forces within Chinese government and society little room for maneuvering. In this respect, unilateralism may be preferable to multilateralism - especially if America's partner is Japan.
For more than a half century, Japan has hidden behind two umbrellas provided by the United States. The first is a security umbrella: a lightly armed and largely nuclear-free Japan has relied on the United States for its national defense. The second is a moral one: because of its lingering guilt from the war, Japanese foreign policy can find its moral compass only by following the American lead.
These two umbrellas have well served the interests of the United States and Japan, as well as East Asia, since the end of World War II. Now the security umbrella may seem partly obsolete. But it is not a good time to fold the moral umbrella. For the United States and its allies, it can still provide shelter and comfort.
Yong Xue is an assistant professor of Asian history at Suffolk University.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
He doesn't mention that Koizumi offended Asia by visiting the memorial to the Japanese military dead of WWII-- and the Japanese, instead of undergoing study and self-examination as the Germans did, instead censor their textbooks and other publications to whitewash their history, and have shown no remorse.