Japan is ready to assert its leadership in Asia as countries in the region expressed concern over China’s build up of its military power, and a potential pull back of the United States, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s not just Japan. Many countries have expressed concerns over the increase in China’s military spending which is not transparent,” said Prime Minister Abe.
According to the Japanese Prime Minister, he learned that the leaders of other nations expect Japan to lead not only in the economy but also in the security aspect of the region during his meeting with them in the ASEAN-JAPAN summit early this month.
“I’ve realized that Japan is expected to exert leadership not just on the economic front, but also in the field of security in the Asia-Pacific. There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law. But if China opts to take that path, then it won’t be able to emerge peacefully,” said Prime Minister Abe.
The Japanese Prime Minister added that China should follow the rule of law instead of a military action because many nations are expecting Japan to assert its leadership strongly in that aspect. “And they hope than as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community,” added Prime Minister Abe.
During the 16th JAPAN-ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam early this month, Prime Minister Abe expressed Japan’s commitment to contribute actively towards regional/global peace and stability. During the summit, he promoted the creation of a National Security Council, drafting of National Security Strategy, reviewing the National Defense Program Guidelines as well as examining its rights to exercise collective self-defense and participation towards collective security measures of the United Nations.
With regard to the issue on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Abe pointed out the importance of maintaining the unity of ASEAN countries to resolve the matter peacefully in accordance with international law.
He also emphasize that Japan’s bilateral relationship with China is important and his country is ready to advance a broad cooperation and its door is always open for dialogue.
During the interview with the Wall Street Journal, Prime Minister Abe reiterated that China is Japan’s top trading partner, which is very important for the country. He described it as a “strategic relationship of mutual benefit,” and emphasized that he is open for discussion with the leaders of China. He urged Beijing to do the same. He said, “One should not shut the door to dialogue just because of one issue. Japan’s has its door open, always.” China is claiming that Senkakus, the islets in East China Sea administered by Japan is a Chinese territory, which it called Diaoyus. Beijing is demanding Tokyo to acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute.
Economic Reforms Policy
During the interview, Prime Minister Abe defended his economic reforms policy, and provided some details regarding new programs. According to him, he willing to evaluate the second stage of the proposed sales tax increase in 2015 if the economy slows down after the implementation of the first tax increase next spring.
He acknowledged that Japan’s economy declined so much over the past 15 years, and he noted that Japanese people became inward looking, and students are avoiding opportunities to study overseas. He added that the people are becoming increasingly critical regarding the aid provided by the government to other countries.
Prime Minister Abe’s primary objective is to boost Japan’s economy. He emphasized, “By regaining a strong economy, Japan will regain confidence as well, and we’d like to contribute more to making the world a better place.”