National

Former Australian prime minister hits U.S. over missile shield

by Gary Tegler

AWAJI ISLAND, Hyogo Pref. — A former Australian prime minister has slammed the decision of U.S. President George W. Bush to deploy an as-yet undeveloped missile defense system in Asia, saying it poses a “significant” threat to stability in the region.

Malcolm Fraser

During an interview with The Japan Times, Malcolm Fraser on Sunday criticized Washington for approaching Japan, Taiwan and other governments on the issue but excluding China from its plans. “When the U.S. decided to make these devices available to other countries but excluded China, it turned a page in the book,” he said. “It indicated what it was really aimed against.”

“Even though it may not work, if a country believes it is aimed at them, it has to act as though it may work. Other countries will start to adjust their policies as well, including Russia.”

Fraser, prime minister of Australia from 1975 to 1983, is on Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture to attend the 19th plenary session of the InterAction Council, a three-day summit of former world leaders. During his keynote speech at the gathering, he also leveled criticism at Bush’s decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol last month. The protocol is a global initiative aimed at curbing carbon dioxide and other gases that are blamed for causing global warming.

“It was done totally without consultation and, depending on what one reads, even without consultation with his own environment minister,” he said.

“Even though Australia has also said it will abandon the accord, we are going to meet the obligations we would have had if we had ratified it.” Regarding relations between Japan and Australia, Fraser said areas such as investment, student exchanges and business tieups remain vital.

“There were many in both countries who set about after the war building good and solid relationships and we have been, by and large, very successful in that,” he said. “But the very success of it might have made us complacent.

“Our governments now must take action to reinvigorate those ties in academia, the business community and the many groups that interrelate.”

Asked about the current debate about whether Japan should amend its Constitution to allow it to pursue a policy of collective defense, Fraser indicated he would not be alarmed at such a move.

“Any country is permitted to defend itself. I see nothing wrong with that. No country can deny another the right to take motions toward its own defense. Such a move would be fine in relation to the country that Japan has become.”

Fraser was less amenable, however, to Japan’s ongoing crusade for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

“This is a difficult issue. I understand Japan’s position, but Germany and India are in similar positions. The Third World would expect to have a permanent representative, so where does it end?”

What is important, he said, is to ensure that the authority and integrity of the Security Council are maintained.

“I don’t think being a permanent member or not would alter Japan’s desire to make sure that the Security Council is as effective an instrument as we can make it,” he said.