May 5, 2005

THE RISING SUN SETS IN THE WEST:

Five tough questions for Japan (Zhiqun Zhu, 5/06/05, Asia Times)

2) Is Japan an Asian nation or America's deputy sheriff?
Japan and the United States are close allies. This alliance has become even stronger since 2001 when US President George W Bush and Koizumi became leaders of their two nations. Japan's foreign policy suggests that it seems more interested in following the US leadership and does not seem too interested in establishing good relations with its neighbors.

To a large extent, Japan resembles Great Britain: an island nation off the coast of a continent, viewed as closer to the far distant US across the Atlantic than to its neighbors. US interests in the region are often channeled through and buttressed by Japan. In dealing with China, for example, Japan's policies mirror those of the US.

The US and Japan have declared the Taiwan Strait "a common strategic objective". Japan and the US blocked China's bid to join the Inter-American Development Bank this year in the bank's Okinawa conference in April. Japan is also the only major country that has joined the US to openly oppose the European Union's proposed lifting of weapons embargoes against China.

Japan has even gone a step further. Japan's annual "Diplomatic Blue Book" published on April 15 portrayed China as "a serious problem that threatened Japan's national security, sovereignty and other rights". Even the US has not used such strong language to label China. On the North Korea nuclear issue, Japan, like the US, is understood to also favor a more aggressive and rigid approach than South Korea and China.

In the views of Japan's neighbors, Japan's foreign policy has become more assertive, defiant and recalcitrant. A usually humble Japan is acting as America's deputy sheriff in East Asia, without considering how its policies may affect its relations with its neighbors. The opportunity lost is that Japan may well serve as a "balancer" for regional stability and prosperity. Because of its special relationship with the US and its close trade ties with and geographical proximity to China, Japan can help mediate between China and the US when tensions arise between the two powers. Japan is perhaps more qualified than Australia and South Korea to be a "balancer" in the region. Japan can be a uniter instead of a divider. Unfortunately, Japan is not doing this at all.


With Douglas MacArthur as its Founding Father, modern Japan has been Western for sixty years now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 5, 2005 8:35 AM
Comments

Japan can help mediate between China and the US when tensions arise between the two powers

And somehow I was under the impression that Japan that was having hypertension of its own with its Chinese neighbor....

A true, selfless ally, deflecting some of that China-US tension onto itself. "Balancer," indeed.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 5, 2005 8:54 AM

The Japanese will always be hated, feared and envied in East Asia for obvious reasons. What this article fails to discuss is that American and Japanese interests in the region are essentially congruent. They both want stable trade relations with the emerging tigers and they both want an end to DPRK nuclear saber-rattling and neither will abandon Taiwan. None of that is about to change.

The nonsense about Japan failing to be properly contrite for WWII is getting a little old about now. Reagan shouldn't have gone to Bitburg, because the SS thugs buried there murdered American POWs at Malmedy. But that doesn't mean that Helmut Kohl shouldn't. The same is true for the Yasukuni Shrine.

Posted by: bart at May 5, 2005 9:04 AM

It's always fascinated me about East Asia that so much racial hatred can exist between people who all look alike.

Posted by: Ben Lange at May 5, 2005 10:56 AM

You mean like among Britain, France, Germany and Ireland?

Posted by: bart at May 5, 2005 11:20 AM

---Japan's foreign policy has become more assertive, defiant and recalcitrant. A usually humble Japan is acting as America's deputy sheriff in East Asia, without considering how its policies may affect its relations with its neighbors. ---

We want you to be humble to we slanty-eyed, not the round eye.

Posted by: Sandy P. at May 5, 2005 11:29 AM

Ben, trust me, Asians see a lot of physical differences between themselves that whites usually don't. I know of only one white friend who is equally adept, and he can immediately tell the difference not only between Japanese and Chinese, but north Chinese from south Chinese.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at May 5, 2005 11:36 AM

I thought Australia was the USA's deputy sheriff in Asia. Must be a good job, if there's that much competition for it.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at May 5, 2005 12:05 PM

Arabs and Jews

Posted by: oj at May 5, 2005 12:41 PM

You think Arabs and Jews look the same?

Posted by: h-man at May 5, 2005 2:35 PM

Though Africans do look like the Swiss

Posted by: h-man at May 5, 2005 2:44 PM

Chris, it is one of the weird fringe benefits of having a Cantonese roommate in college.

According to something I read fairly recently, Jews are most closely related, in a DNA context, to Caucasians like Armenians, Georgians and Kurds. They just happen to have a Semitic language. But centuries and centuries of intermarriage with indigenous populations make most American Jews far more Slavic, German and especially Magyar than Central Asian.

Posted by: bart at May 6, 2005 11:46 AM

And indistinguishable genetically from Palestinians.

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 11:55 AM

Quite distinguishable from them or any other Arab people.

Posted by: bart at May 6, 2005 12:57 PM

Not genetically

Posted by: oj at May 6, 2005 1:02 PM

Recent things I've read indicate that there are significant differences even among Sephardic and Mizrahi populations from the Arab world.

Posted by: bart at May 6, 2005 6:56 PM
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