Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush have reaffirmed not only their five-year “very friendly relationship” but also the strong ties between the two nations in a meeting at the White House, their 13th summit — which may be their last.
Mr. Koizumi leaves office in September and Mr. Bush, in January 2009. They discussed issues of immediate concern such as the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran, the apparent preparation by North Korea to launch a long-range missile, and the resolution of problems related to the past abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.
Likely to have a long-range effect on bilateral relations is the idea for a “new U.S.-Japan Alliance of Global Cooperation for the 21st Century,” spelled out in the two leaders’ joint statement. It mentions “advancement of core universal values” embraced by liberal democracy as well as the importance of standing together against mutual threats. If and when Japan cooperates with the United States in support of this alliance, it should be mindful of ensuring that its actions are peaceful, fair and acceptable to peoples of different cultural and political backgrounds.
Mr. Bush said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il “has an obligation” to inform other nations of his test plans concerning a Taepodong-2 long-range missile that has been set up on a launchpad. The two leaders discussed what to do if the missile is launched but withheld details. Mr. Koizumi said, “We would apply various pressures” in the event of a launch.
They called on North Korea to fulfill its denuclearization pledge made in the September 2005 joint statement issued from the six-party talks. They also agreed to continue to cooperate in dealing with humanitarian and human rights problems in Asia.
Mr. Bush did not specifically refer to Mr. Koizumi’s repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine, Japan’s memorial to its war dead. (The visits have soured relations between Japan and China.) Regrettably, though, Mr. Koizumi again displayed stubbornness with regard to the visits: “While Japan-China relations are expanding in every field, including the economy and culture, China refuses to hold summit talks because of Yasukuni. This is unacceptable. I am ready to talk with them anytime.”
The two leaders did say that “robust U.S.-Japan cooperation embraces the dynamism of China, and helps to maintain peace and tranquility in Northeast Asia.”
They went on to reaffirm cooperation in countering the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Mr. Koizumi supported U.S. efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear development through dialogue. Although he did not express outright support for the recent accord in which the U.S. agreed to provide civilian nuclear-energy technology and fuel to India, he refrained from protesting the deal. He said Japan will take into consideration India’s strategic importance, its energy demands and the agreement’s real effect on the nonproliferation regime.
In the bilateral economic field, Mr. Bush thanked Mr. Koizumi for reopening the Japanese market for U.S. beef exports, saying, “The Japanese people are going to like the taste.”
Especially conspicuous during the Koizumi administration has been changes in the field of security, something for which Mr. Bush is most thankful. The U.S. president praised Japan’s humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Japan’s support for coalition forces operating in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Koizumi cleared the way for deploying the Self-Defense Forces to the Indian Ocean and Iraq by getting two special laws enacted despite questions about their constitutionality. The Constitution has been interpreted as prohibiting the use of military forces abroad.
The two leaders hailed a recent agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces stationed in Japan as part of the U.S. military’s transformation worldwide. But closer security cooperation between Japan and the U.S. should not be viewed as an automatic green light for deployment of the SDF overseas, much less the SDF’s use of weapons abroad.
Mr. Bush called Japan a “courageous ally.” Both leaders described the U.S.-Japan partnership as “one of the most accomplished bilateral relationships in history.” Their joint statement said the two countries “stand together not only against mutual threats but also for the advancement of core universal values such as freedom, human dignity and human rights, democracy, the market economy and the rule of law.”
In the Iraq war, military action and the advancement of these values merged. It has become clear that imposition of such values on other countries and peoples with the backing of military power leads only to conflict with them and deepens their resentment. Japan should behave wisely on this front by fully heeding the spirit of its war-renouncing Constitution.
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