Japan urged to both engage with, hedge on China


Staff Writer

Japan will have to carry out a delicate balancing act to develop healthy relations with China, and this will involve both collaborating with the emerging superpower and maintaining strong bilateral ties the United States, a group of professors and former diplomats said Friday.

“The solution is what some call engagement and hedging” Hiroshi Hirabayashi, vice president of the Japan Forum on International Relations, said in Tokyo.

Kenichi Ito, a former diplomat and president of the independent foreign policy think tank, said the run-in between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard cutters off the disputed Senkaku Islands in 2010 may have been a sign that Beijing has “finally abandoned its cooperative line of diplomacy (with Tokyo).”

To ensure East Asia’s continued stability, security and economic growth, Japan must therefore adapt to a new relationship with China, Ito said. The forum will publish a statement in major newspapers next Friday.

According to a list of policy recommendations the group drew up and submitted to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Friday, Japan must hedge against China’s ever-growing economic and military might by reviewing and beefing up Self-Defense Forces strategies, equipment and systems for defending Japan’s territory.

“Japan should never tolerate a recurrence (of the 2010 Senkakus incident),” the forum said in its statement, adding that enhancing Japan’s capabilities to defend its far-flung islands is imperative.

But at the same time, the bilateral alliance with the U.S. remains key to Japan’s security and constant efforts must be made to maintain strong ties with Washington, the forum said.

Tokyo should also focus on cooperating with Beijing on issues such as drug-trafficking and climate change to impress on China that it must act responsibly in its new-found role as a major player on the world stage.