Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yasushi Tomiyama

【#422】Concerns and Hopes Mixed at Japan-U.S.-India Talks

Yasushi Tomiyama / 2017.02.23 (Thu)

February 20, 2017

     I and three other delegates of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals visited New Delhi on February 16 and 17 for bilateral dialogue with the Indian think tank Vivekananda International Foundation and Japan-India-U.S. trilateral dialogue involving scholars from the Hudson Institute. Naturally, the major preoccupation of the participants was the new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump.
     At the talks over two days, Japanese and Indian participants shared concerns about President Trump. I argued that although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Trump reaffirmed the significance of the Japan-U.S. alliance at their recent meeeting, it was still unclear whether President Trump was prepared to lead the liberal democratic world. A former Indian diplomat called for being prepared for the worst scenario where the U.S.-led world order would come to an end, adding that it would be important to prevent Russia from approaching China.
     A former U.S. senior official said President Trump’s appointment of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who emphasize traditional alliances and Trump’s invitation of Prime Minister Abe to the United States were strong signs that President Trump was heading to a right direction, indicating hopes on the future course of the Trump administration.

JINF delegates participating in talks
     Presentations at the talks covered a wide range of topics. JINF Secretary General Seiji Kurosawa called on Japan, the United States and India to be united to secure the rule of law to counter China that is challenging the international maritime order by shrugging off an arbitral tribunal ruling denying China’s historical rights in the South China Sea.
     JINF Planning Committee member Hiroshi Yuasa explained that Prime Minister Abe was conducting a strategic diplomacy to counter China’s expansionism in cooperation with maritime countries in the Indo-Pacific region (Australia and Southeast Asian countries) and Eurasian Continent countries (India and Russia) while maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance as the base. He also proposed to build on the Japan-U.S. alliance to create an Asian maritime security framework including India, Australia and others.
     JINF Planning Committee member Yoichi Shimada pointed out that while Japan’s 2015 security-related legislation allows Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense to a limited extent, Japan still cannot provide logistic support to U.S. and other forces on the combat ground nor can Japan dispatch Self-Defense Forces to rescue its citizens abducted by North Korea without Pyongyang’s consent as such operation is reckoned as overseas deployment of troops prohibited by the constitution. He emphasized Japan would have to amend the constitution.

JINF to host next talks in Tokyo
     Participants in the talks shared a view that a Japan-India plan to improve port facilities in Iran as part of joint development initiative in the Indo-Pacific region could be of strategic significance as an alternative to China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
     As the participants agreed to continue dialogue under the current trilateral framework, the JINF delegation expressed a readiness to host the next talks in Tokyo in 2018. Although the latest talks focused on President Trump just after his inauguration, many participants noted the next talks should discuss more about China, which is the biggest natural matter of concern to scholars from the three countries.

Yasushi Tomiyama is Senior Fellow and Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.