Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#571(Special)】Trump’s State of Union Address and Japan – Importance of Leadership
Yoichi Shimada

【#571(Special)】Trump’s State of Union Address and Japan – Importance of Leadership

Yoichi Shimada / 2019.02.08 (Fri)

February 7, 2019

     When seeing U.S. President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address from Japan, I felt anew that American leadership is important.
     On foreign policy, Trump first emphasized his determination to end China’s state-sponsored unfair trade practices including the stealing of American intellectual property. Japan has also been affected by such Chinese practices. Nevertheless, the Japanese government has done nothing to end these practices. If without U.S. leadership in excluding Huawei branded as “a spy agency of the Chinese Communist Party,” Japan might have refrained from taking any action against the Chinese telecommunications gear builder while currying favor with China.
Persuasive call for rejecting easy compromise
     President Trump’s “America First” motto does not necessarily run counter to interests of U.S. allies. Under the motto, he sometimes tries to serve the interests of allies quickly without having consultations with them (that frequently consume much time and lead to information leaks). Such approach can be typically seen in his China policy. Japan should support Trump’s China policy under a grand strategy seeking a regime change in China. If so, the call for rejecting easy compromise would be persuasive.
     “If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” Trump said in the address. A more appeasing U.S. administration might have used an offer to relax economic sanctions as a bargaining chip for striking a compromise with North Korea. In contrast, the Trump administration has sustained its key policy of refusing to relax economic sanctions until North Korea’s denuclearization.
     While the policy has not successfully brought about any progress in the North’s denuclearization, Pyongyang has gained nothing. However, the economic sanctions have had loopholes. In addition to China and Russia that have had no intent to strictly comply with the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions for economic sanctions on North Korea, South Korea’s Moon Jae In administration has secretly provided petroleum products to North Korea and even paid cash through delegations sent to North Korea, serving as a walking loophole.

Japan should focus on urging U.S. to retain sanctions
     If the U. S. relaxes sanctions even slightly, mainly these countries may effectively and concertedly lift sanctions. Appeasing countries may assert that the U.N. Security Council may lift the sanctions while adopting a resolution for invoking the sanctions again if North Korea is found to have violated past UNSC resolutions. However, such a resolution may fail to be implemented. China and Russia may seek to launch an investigation committee to verify any violation or urge that small suspicions not be used to shut down a path to peace, opposing the reintroduction of the sanctions. Japan and the U. S. should take leadership in retaining the policy of refusing to relax the sanctions until the denuclearization.
     On the other hand, Japan has no reason to oppose such potential U.S. offers as the declaration of an end to the Korean War and the reduction or withdrawal of U.S. forces in South Korea. As far as the sanctions are retained, the declaration of an end to the Korean War may have no significance. The withdrawal of U.S. forces including ground units vulnerable to North Korean attacks could rather increase the flexibility of U.S. military operations including preeminent attacks to enhance deterrence against North Korean attacks.
     While South Korea unilaterally proceeds with disarmament and weakens its intelligence authorities, threats of terrorist and other potential attacks on bases of U.S. forces in South Korea are increasing. Japan should focus on urging the U. S. to retain the economic sanctions while leaving the U. S. to decide whether to withdraw forces from South Korea.

Yoichi Shimada is a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University