Will Trump Make Abe’s Japanese Dreams Come True?Posted: February 10, 2017
What are Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Japanese dreams in the first place? American people have talked much about American dream while Chinese President Xi Jinping is requesting Chinese people to have the Chinese dream he cherishes, but we have never heard Abe talking about his Japanese dreams. However judging by what he has been making great efforts to achieve, we know what his Japanese dreams are.
Like Trump’s desire to make America great again, first, Abe wants to make Japan great again.
There have been lots of reports about his abenomics to revive Japan’s stagnant economy, for which he relies greatly on Obama’s TPP. That dream has been broken by Trump’s prompt withdrawal from TPP though Abe has visited Trump and personally tried hard to persuade him no to do so.
Even if Abe is able to reinvigorate Japanese economy, he still doubts whether Japan will be able to deal with a rising China that grows strong both economically and militarily quicker than Japan.
Therefore, whether Abe is able to revive Japan’s economy or not, he has a more important dream: He dreams that the US will defeat China and stop China’s growth.
That is why Abe has been trying hard to pit the US against China. He tried hard to provoke China to fight Japan so that the US will perform its treaty obligations to defend Japan and fight China.
He wants a war with China urgently to involve the US as he believes the US is strong enough now to defeat China. However, if China grows even stronger later, the US will not be able to defeat China.
The US says that its treaty with Japan covers the disputed Diaoyu (known as Senkaku in Japan) Islands and that the US will defend Japan’s administration of the islands.
China, however, sends coast guard ships to patrol the sea area around the Diaoyu including the area within 12 nautical miles that both Japan and China claim as their territorial waters.
Abe was very happy that if he sent Japanese navy to drive away Chinese coast guard ships from the disputed waters, China will respond with its navy so that there will be a naval war between China and Japan and thus involve the US.
That dream was first broken by the then US Vice President Joe Biden. Biden told Abe not to send navy as the US would not fight for a few rocks. Biden then visited Beijing and told his old friend Chinese President Xi Jinping to refrain from firing the first shot to begin a war.
Since Japanese government purchased the disputed islands, in order to claim China’s sovereignty to the islands, China has sent large fishing fleet to fish in the disputed waters and patrolled the disputed waters and airspace with its coast guard ships and warplanes. However, due to Joe Biden’s intervention, Japan has not been able to drive Chinese boats, ships and warplanes away to impose its exclusive administration of the disputed islands. It dare not do so as that will give rise to a war with China that the US does not want to be involved.
Does US new president Donald Trump want any change in the situation?
In its report “Mattis: US will defend Japanese islands claimed by China” on February 4, CNN quotes American new defense secretary James Mattis as saying in a press conference with his Japanese counterpart, “I made clear that our long-standing policy on the Senkaku Islands stands — the US will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands and as such Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty applies.”
What is the use of continual recognition? The US simply remains the same in refusing to support Japan in driving away Chinese boats, ships and warplanes in the disputed waters and airspace. Perhaps, Mattis meant that the US would be involved if China takes the islands by force, but who will be so stupid as to incur huge costs in taking those barren rocks. What China contends for is the rich fishing and energy resources around those rocks. China is now fishing and exploring the energy resources there without being blocked by Japanese navy, even less by US navy.
The saddest thing for Abe is not Japan’s lost of its exclusive administration of the disputed islands, but the failure to pit the US against China so as to make the US defeat China and stop China’s rise. Abe is always afraid that a strong China may avenge the war crimes Japan has committed when it invaded China in the 1930s and 1940s.
That is Abe’s Japanese nightmare. He has the Japanese dream to have the US help him prevent such a nightmare from becoming reality.
Now Mattis’ promise of protection implies that Japan has to pay more for the protection to set a good example for other US allies. It gives Abe the signals that Japan has to make concessions in trade and currency to maintain good relations with the US for US protection.
US President Trump’s recent letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping for constructive ties with China seems the beginning of another nightmare for Abe. The US is now using its protection as a bargaining chip to have better access to Japanese market and competition edges in Chinese market.
How can Abe revive Japanese economy under such unfavorable circumstances?
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CNN’s report, full text of which can be viewed at http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/03/asia/us-defense-secretary-mattis-japan-visit/