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Japan needs to gradually build on its peaceful postwar history and play a leading role by developing a basic posture toward and actively tackling global problems, Shusei Tanaka, former head of the Economic Planning Agency, said at a symposium on Oct. 22.The symposium, “Road to a Civilian Power,” focused on Japan’s future as a nonmilitary or “civilian” nation. Topics of debate included official development assistance, U.N. peacekeeping activities, the new defense guidelines and Japan’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. The event was sponsored by the Tokyo Shimbun.Whether Japan can become a civilian power in Asia depends on the attitude of neighboring Asian nations, said Columbia University Professor Gerald Curtis, adding praise for recently announced new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines and emphasizing their importance to security in Asia. “Encouraging trust in foreign nations will be increasingly important for Japan, facilitating cultural, economic and diplomatic activities and their acceptance abroad,” said Hans Jacobsen, a professor emeritus at Bonn University.Although Japan is actively seeking a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and while it is planning to cut its ODA by 10 percent, there are other ways it can contribute internationally, Tanaka said. The country could more actively tackle pressing issues such as the environment, population, food shortages and refugees.Other panelists included Yasushi Akashi, U.N. undersecretary general for human affairs, Tokyo University Professor Susumu Takahashi and University of London Professor Ronald Dore.

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