Viorel Isticioaia-Budura, the European Union’s ambassador to Japan, expressed hope that the government of Shinzo Abe will keep playing an active role in the international arena, but cautioned that new policies should be adopted “with full transparency and in good communication with neighbors.”
The key to diplomacy, he said in a recent interview, is the quality required for the Japanese art of bonsai — patience.
Referring to Japan’s past activities in Cambodia and Somalia, the former Romanian diplomat said the EU has already seen ways in which Japan has been increasing its contribution at the regional and international levels.
These actions, he said, “proved to be positive and constructive, allowing for enhancement of our cooperation.”
However, concerning the current debate about seeking a more active role for the Self-Defense Forces and amending the pacifist Constitution, he said, “We expect this decision to be taken in respect to national security and policies in full compliance with the provisions of the U.N. Charter.”
Isticioaia-Budura, who assumed his duties in December, added that “new developments in the policies to be adopted should be done with full transparency and in good communication and dialogue with neighbors here in the region, with other regional and international partners of Japan.”
There was criticism within Japan of Abe’s defiant declaration following the deaths of two Japanese hostages at the hands of Islamic State extremists that the killers will “pay the price.”
Isticioaia-Budura cited EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said, “These people who killed the Japanese hostages have to be held to account, made responsible for the crimes they committed.”
The ambassador said he understands Abe’s position.
“I would expect any government in the world that feels responsibility for the fate of its citizens to have this kind of reaction,” he said.
On tension between Japan and China and South Korea, Isticioaia-Budura said Europe may have some pointers on how to improve relations based on its experience after World War II in dealing with the Holocaust.
“That kind of historical reconciliation which happened between former foes represents a valuable experience which may (apply to) East Asia in general,” he said.
Isticioaia-Budura said he developed his interest in bonsai, the art of creating a miniature landscape using live trees, when he was first dispatched to Tokyo as a young diplomat from Romania.
“The miniature landscape is more than just painting or a poem because it has life in it. You deal with living creatures. Trees are there, (you) plant (them) like in flower arrangements, but once again, you deal with life which you are trying to shape.”
Calling himself a “part-time philosopher,” he said he sees similarities between bonsai and diplomacy, as both always require time and patience.
Asked if he thinks a new Cold War has begun, given unfolding events in Ukraine that have pitted Russia against the West, Isticioaia-Budura said there have been a number of opportunities for the European Union and Russia to resolve their differences, but “unfortunately they were all missed along the way.”
Nevertheless, he remains confident that through dialogue the EU and Russia will find a way to restore mutually beneficial cooperation, in recognition of the important role Russia has to play in Europe.
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