Japan should use the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework to revitalize its economy, former Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi said in a recent interview.
“Japan can use the TPP to take advantage of economic dynamism in the Asia-Pacific region and revitalize its own economy. This kind of thinking is necessary,” said Yachi, adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on diplomatic affairs.
“The TPP is important also in a sense that continued U.S. involvement in Asia through the treaty will serve Japan’s national interest,” Yachi added.
Yachi advised Abe to notify Washington during an upcoming visit that domestic issues will take priority over a decision on whether to participate in the TPP negotiations.
Abe should then frankly tell Washington “how far Japan can go at present toward the goal of free trade,” he added.
Japan’s relationship with the U.S. was strained under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government and has yet to fully recover, according to Yachi.
He emphasized that Abe’s greatest task on the foreign policy front is to strengthen the two nations’ alliance.
“If the alliance is strong, Japan can punch above its weight,” he added.
Regarding the row with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Yachi said Tokyo’s position is 100 percent right and that Japan would win if the case were brought to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
“If China continues to deny Japan’s claim to the islands, I think it would be a good idea to settle the dispute through discussions at the impartial place,” he said.
Yachi also said that talks to resolve another territorial row, this one with Moscow over four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, may accelerate once it becomes certain that Abe is in for the long haul.
“How to resolve the dispute hinges on how the two neighbors want to strengthen their relations and realize strategic interests,” Yachi said.