Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoshiko Sakurai

【#243】Obama Should Act as Strong Superpower Leader

Yoshiko Sakurai / 2014.04.24 (Thu)

April 21, 2014

     I would like U.S. President Barack Obama to behave responsibly as dominant superpower leader during his state visit to Japan this week.
     His imminent Asian tour represents his revanchist diplomacy to fill the blank vacated by his absence at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia last October. All his destination countries for the coming tour have territorial problems with China. For that reason alone, President Obama in Japan as the first destination should demonstrate the values pursued by the United States as leader of the free world and send China a clear message that the United States and Asia, and the world should emphasize the principles of international law, democracy and freedom and should not tolerate anyone to run counter to these principles.
We must strictly check whether President Obama could demonstrate an unequivocal, strong attitude against China that challenges these principles and escalates threats against Japan and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or whether he could give in to appeasement of China.

Security Treaty and TPP are pillars of Japan-U.S. relations
     While the Japanese government sees the coming Japan-U.S. summit as very important and has decided to invite President Obama as state guest to Tokyo, the president's stay in Japan is planned as very short. President Obama will arrive in Japan on the night of April 23 and leave for South Korea on April 25. He will thus be very busy. Though being state guest, Obama will not be accompanied by the First Lady. He will not lodge at the state guest house either. Can such a visit impress China with a U.S. attitude of giving priority to relations with Japan?
     The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement are the pillars of Japan-U.S. relations. On the Senkaku Islands problem representing a present national security crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his speech in Washington in February last year emphasized that Japan would defend its territories on its own. Based on this policy, the Abe administration is now paving the way for Japan to exercise collective self-defense rights, though not completely.
     In a U.S.-China summit in The Hague last month, President Obama for his part vowed to proactively promote a “new model of relations” between the U.S. and China. Since the “new model of major country relations” advocated by China calls for respecting China's core interests including its positions on Tibet, Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands, Obama's promotion of the new model may not be consistent with the U.S. emphasis on the Japan-U.S. alliance as indicated by the U.S. state and defense secretaries' reiterated promise to apply Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to the Senkakus. President Obama personally has never touched on the Senkaku Islands problem. He now should make his own remarks to clarify the U.S. position.

Obama responsible for blocking Chinese ambitions
     As for the TPP talks, both the United States and Japan have difficult domestic situations. In order to spread values of the free world, rather than heterogeneous values of China, and support Japan and the other destinations of his coming tour, President Obama should take advantage of an opportunity to reach agreement on the TPP. The U.S. president is required to accept responsibilities of a superpower, minimize the international community's confusion triggered by his weak diplomacy and block the heterogeneous country's ambitions. Obama should determine to strike a deal at the TPP negotiations.
     As a matter of course, Prime Minister Abe is also required to determine the same.
Yoshiko Sakurai is President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.