Inclusiveness of Security Cooperation
At this Forum two years ago, I addressed the topic of “Asia-Pacific Major Power Relations and Regional Security.” In that talk, I cited the emerging shift in the world’s political and economic focus, away from the United States and other Atlantic region powers, to the Asia-Pacific. I noted how, against this backdrop, the stability of Asia is a factor destined to strongly contribute to global stability. In support of that position, I stressed the significance of developing what I refer to as the vision of an “East Asian Community.” Today, two years later, major changes have appeared in the political and economic scene. Taking this into consideration, in my talk here today, I wish to discuss the redoubled need to promote this Community concept, while touching upon what I believe to be feasible measures for moving in that direction.
First, however, I would like to comment on certain aspects of the current global situation.
As we all know, the vicious terrorist attacks inspired by the extremist element the Islamic State, are no longer limited to Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. Unspeakably tragic actions have also been carried out in Paris, Brussels and other major European cities.
Then last month, in an Orlando, Florida nightclub in the United States, a crazed gunman, apparently declaring allegiance to IS, killed 49 people in an unprecedented shooting spree.
The terrorist attack earlier this month at a cafe in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka claimed 20 lives. Specifically targeted in that assault were foreigners, with seven Japanese citizens also dying in the carnage.
Naturally, we can never condone terrorist acts of any kind. However, it also warrants mention that the coordinated attacks in Paris occurred after French President Francois Hollande declared his intent to begin air strikes against IS targets.
In Brussels, certain young people suffering racial and social discrimination have joined the Islamic State. There are reports that the attack in Dhaka was also perpetrated by IS, as revenge for aerial bombardment of its positions.
With terrorism, there are always underlying factors. While such acts may be evil, we cannot simply conclude that aerial bombing, which packs far greater lethal force than terrorism, represents the powers of good. It is critical, that is, to realize the hopelessness of stamping out terrorism with military force.
In the United States, a truly unparalleled presidential election campaign is being waged. On the Republican side, Donald Trump, a man who is not a politician, or even originally a member of the Republican Party, has become the nominee. On the Democratic side, we have Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist independent, who is not a member of the Democratic Party. Although Mr. Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the nomination race, he certainly put up a strong fight.
I see these results as a reflection of the sentiment of the American people, who are fed up with the existing political scene. Under the neo-liberalism that characterizes U.S. politics today, developments include a major concentration of wealth in a mere one percent of the population, with many of the remaining 99 percent falling into poverty. The growing dissatisfaction with this imbalance had prompted hopes for an escape from the old political order. Last month’s mass shooting in Orlando is likely to have an impact on the presidential election in the fall. The world will be closely watching to see if American society at last decides to tighten controls on guns, restrict immigration by followers of the Islamic faith, or take other proposed actions.
In Japan, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains in power. Among his policies, Prime Minister Abe has gained passage of a law authorizing use of the right of collective self-defense. This legislation was pushed through while ignoring the sentiment of the Japanese people – the majority of whom view this as a violation of the nation’s Constitution. In taking that action, Mr. Abe stressed his so-called “China Threat Theory.” His administration claims that Japan needs to strengthen its alliance with the United States, as well as its self-defense capacity. He says this is necessary to confront North Korea, which continues nuclear weapon development and ballistic missile test launches, as well as China, which is bolstering its military might.
In December of 2014, Prime Minister Abe held a long-awaited summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. At that time, a four-point letter of agreement was signed. However, certain interpretations of that pact differ. For example, the Japanese government still refuses to acknowledge that territorial issues exist with regard to the Senkaku Islands. As a result, the political relations between Japan and China remain in a chilled state.
On Japan’s economic front, with the exception of a certain number of large, export-focused companies, the majority of small- and medium-sized firms, as well as most regions throughout the nation, are struggling under great hardship. Under the “Abenomics” recovery plan championed by Prime Minister Abe, the monetary expansion policy did succeed in temporarily buoying the economy. However, the true objectives of Abenomics have not been achieved. Therefore, I feel there is little choice but to declare this approach a failure.
Realizing this, government’s plans to raise Japan’s national consumption tax rate next year were postponed for the second time. Mr. Abe, however, cannot afford to admit to his government’s economic mismanagement. To justify the tax hike delay, at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit this May, he even claimed that the global economy had worsened to a level like that just before the financial crisis that began in 2008. As we saw, other world leaders at the gathering were highly bemused by this view. As things stand today, Japan has yet to recover from its “two lost decades.”
Under the leadership of President Xi, China continues to make steady progress. While the type of double-digit economic growth seen in recent years has slowed, China’s 13th Five-Year Plan targets average annual GDP growth of 6.5 percent. This involves the use of innovation and other means. To achieve this goal, President Xi has announced the “One Belt, One Road Plan.” That includes pledges to channel resources into broad-based infrastructure building, from Asia to Europe. In my view, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank will serve as a powerful vehicle for realizing this vision.
On the other hand, fears that China is bolstering its military capabilities in the South China Sea are expanding among the Japanese and U.S. governments. The territorial rights of the Spratly Islands, however, comprise an issue to be resolved through peaceful dialogue, between the parties involved. Last year, President Xi announced plans to reduce China’s military force by 300,000 troops. This, I believe, is a decision that deserves keen attention.
Many world leaders are intent on generating imaginary enemies, striving to capture public support for greater military strength to protect the nation from such foes. This method has proved effective in the U.S., under the impact of the military-industrial complex. It is also being used in Japan, where confidence has declined due to the sluggish economy. It may be expressed, “Poverty dulls the wit.” Lately, the Japanese business community seems to be rejoicing over the lifting of the ban on arms exports.
I do not deny the need for minimum self-defense capacity to protect the nation. However, if military strength is raised on claims of providing “deterrent force,” we can also expect other countries to increase their own militaries. That, in turn, will heat up the arms race. This may be good news for the munitions industry. In essence, however, it will serve to escalate the threat of confrontation, and effectively lower the highly touted deterrence capability.
In Japan, last month brought major news coverage of entries by Chinese warships into the “contiguous zone” bordering the Senkaku Islands. Because this zone is outside of the actual territorial waters, vessels are free to navigate there. The Japanese media, however, is typically obsessed with reporting that the presence of such ships is evidence of strengthened military operations by China. Therefore, particularly heavy coverage is given to such actions. From the perspective of China, which asserts its territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands, there are no problems with routing ships through this zone. On the Japan side, however, the government can be expected to utilize such reports as grounds for advocating greater national military strength. Clearly, greater self-restraint is demanded on both sides, including the handling of news reports.
What is demanded of today’s global leaders, are not actions taken to heighten their own status. It is far more important to find ways to effectively and significantly reduce military buildups around the world, including nuclear weapons. It is vital for such leaders to see that true peace will never be achieved by force.
It is high time to commence efforts toward lasting peace not through military force, but on the power of dialogue and cooperation. When disputes occur, we must be able to hold constructive discussions. Upon the outbreak of the conflict in the Ukraine, for example, the industrialized nations expelled Russia from the G8, which became the G7 as a result. To effectively deal with that issue, Russia must be included in the dialogue. China, the nation with the world’s largest population and second greatest economy, should also be added to this group, making it the “G9.” If this is not done, the group will come to be dismissed as little more than a forum for the self-satisfaction of the advanced nations.
“Active pacifism” has nothing to do with the brand of military contributions advocated by Prime Minister Abe. Active pacifism means not being content just because no wars are being fought, going on to find the root causes of poverty, discrimination and other factors that trigger conflict. The responses to IS should also be based on the theory of active pacifism.
I continue to support the importance of developing East Asia as a fertile base for growth in the 21st century. Toward that end, I have championed the vision of the “East Asian Community” – a concept structured to serve as a critical stage for promoting the cause of active pacifism, based on the spirit of “fraternity.”
The model for such a community has been the European Union. The EU had its beginnings as the European Coal and Steel Community, following World War II. Over the years, it encountered many hurdles, and twists and turns in the road. As such, I view the eventual formation of the European Union as a truly landmark achievement in global history. Recently, however, the EU has come to face severe trials.
This concerns the financial crisis originating in Greece, along with the troubles in gaining acceptance for Syrian refugees. Then, as a result of the national referendum held on June 23, the British have voted to leave the EU.
I feel that we all appreciate, when living within the ideal of a regional community, the difficulties involved in surmounting the egoistic tendencies of one’s own nation. There are also stiff challenges with introducing a common currency for use between nations characterized by economic disparities. Yet another key theme, meanwhile, is to what degree to permit free movements of people within the realm of the regional community itself.
Despite these struggles, however, it is also true that the EU effectively functions as a “war-denouncing community.” In that, and other contexts, the actual need for a community has certainly not been lost. For that matter, the headaches of the EU can serve as a precious learning experience in the quest to realize the East Asian Community.
To realize this East Asian Community, it is crucial for the nations of East Asia to create an arena for fruitful dialogue, capable of promoting cooperation in core fields such as education, culture, economics, the environment, energy, disaster countermeasures and security. At the end of last year, the 10 ASEAN nations formed a union focused on economic activity. If the three nations of Japan, China and South Korea were added to this group, it would truly create the nucleus of a full-fledged community. In China, President Xi has already spoken out on the need for a so-called East Asian Community.
In my opinion, the communities of the 21st century must set their sights on the denouncing of war, rather than on sheer economic activity. Accordingly, it is important that such communities be fully open and flexible. They must avoid raising tall barriers to the outside, such as the customs unions of the past. Allowing that to happen could very well set the stage for new conflicts. Since it is also vital to raise awareness of a mutual community, a flexible approach for the nations gathering to address the issues of each sector is acceptable. This is an effective means of achieving the pacifist objective of a war-denouncing community.
For Japan, China and South Korea to serve as the focus in realizing the East Asian Community, forums will be required to promote fruitful dialogue, whenever necessary. With this goal in mind, I hereby propose the creation of the “East Asian Peace Council” on Jeju Island, and the “East Asian Community Council” in Okinawa.
In my estimate, the most pressing theme in East Asia today is clearly the issue of North Korea. In the past, many lives on Jeju Island were lost in the struggle to unify the Korean Peninsula. My idea is to establish a forum on Jeju to debate and analyze the North-South problem, along with other security matters impacting East Asia. Efforts would naturally be made to bring North Korean into the fold.
Okinawa, once known as the “Kingdom of Ryukyu,” flourished as a hub of cultural and economic exchange with the nations of East Asia from times of old. Toward the end of World War II, however, the island became the site of fierce fighting, with large numbers of islanders dying in that conflict. After the war, Okinawa has continued to be characterized by the heavy presence of U.S. military bases. My vision is to establish a deliberative body there, to promote cooperation in all relevant fields. The ultimate goal would be to return the island to a military-base-free environment, regardless of how long it takes. In this way, Okinawa would be liberated from its long history as a focus of military activity, to an island cornerstone of peace.
From the start, it will most likely prove difficult to gain the participation of North Korea in the proposed East Asian Peace Council. However, I do feel there is ample potential for the East Asian Community Council to bring Pyongyang onboard in fields such as culture, sports, the environment and energy. As bonds of trust are built on that foundation, an environment would be steadily cultivated for North Korea to join in the Peace Conference as well. Jeju and Okinawa would thus work together as islands devoted to the quest for peace, with the two councils playing a significant role in making the East Asian Community a reality.
I am confident that the East Asian Community can play a pioneering role as an open and flexible cooperative body. This in turn, would help guide East Asia down the road to emerging as an antiwar zone. Going forward, I envision the scenario of a steady stream of such open and flexible communities stretching around the planet. The ultimate and ideal result, naturally, would be a world free of war and other conflict.
In closing, let us all come together, in taking the first step down the road to transforming this dream into reality.