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In his Jan. 18 article, Gregory Clark argues that there are more important issues in Japan-China relations than Yasukuni Shrine. This is true, but the article does not address the more important issues of trade, regional integration, and building trust for security cooperation.

Instead, Clark pokes fun at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s emphasis on shared democratic values with India and Australia. The article assumes that since China has temporarily put away the Yasukuni card, Beijing will not confront Tokyo on other issues — a poor assumption, especially when it comes to Taiwan. Finally, Clark says that Japanese leaders use North Korea “to justify a significant upgrading in Japan’s military spending” when Japan’s defense budget is actually shrinking by a third of a percent.

It seems that Clark is less concerned with Japan-China relations than he is with Japanese nationalism. Rather than hastily labeling Japan’s diplomatic and military normalization as dangerous, we should be asking how a greater international role for Tokyo can go hand in hand with better relations in Northeast Asia. The keys are historical reconciliation and greater military and political transparency. These need to be priorities not only for Tokyo, but also for Beijing.

leif-eric easley

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