Japan’s political snags seen thwarting Asia role

by Jun Hongo

Japan has a key role to play in East Asia’s peace and prosperity but must first demonstrate a greater sense of political stability, analysts from global think tanks said Thursday at a symposium in Tokyo.

The conference, under the theme of “Building a New World Order and the Role that Japan Should Play,” was organized by the Tokyo-based Institute for International Policy Studies.

John Hamre, president and CEO of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. “would not fight at all” if Japan decided to redefine its Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 because this would allow Japan to better contribute militarily to peacekeeping operations.

Japan has shown 60 years of “responsible and mature diplomacy,” Hamre said, voicing hope that Japan gets further involved in global issues.

But the analyst also said there were concerns with Japan, pointing out that it has gone through no fewer than six defense ministers since 2007 due to domestic political instability, illustrating Tokyo’s lack of political continuity.

Jusuf Wanandi, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said Japan must get its act together before leading Asia as a regional superpower.