One major issue in the campaign for the Dec. 16 Lower House election is the diplomatic dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Some politicians and others on the Japanese side are taking a hawkish stance, but such an approach will only harden attitudes on the Chinese side, making it more difficult to resolve the issue. In such difficult diplomatic circumstances, it is all the more important to act in a coolheaded manner and to demonstrate ingenuity.
Conspicuous in the current election campaign is the hawkish approach of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is calling for revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to create the National Defense Force and for exercising the right to collective self-defense. Some of the so-called third pole forces, including the Japan Restoration Party, take a similar stance.
The approach of these parties would only serve to heighten bilateral tensions, perhaps even to the point of spurring an arms race, which would weaken Japan’s security and deepen suspicion in the international community over Tokyo’s intentions in East Asia.
When it comes to issues involving diplomacy and national security, the country that reacts emotionally and loses its head eventually suffers for it and the country that behaves with flexibility on the basis of realistic calculations gains the advantage.
In its election pledge, the LDP says that it will protect the nation’s sovereignty, territories and territorial waters “with firm resolution,” and will improve and expand the personnel, equipment and budget of the Japan Coast Guard. It also says that it will strengthen effective control over the Senkaku Islands and protect the islands and the territorial waters around them “with firm resolution.”
Such wording can arouse nationalistic emotions in people, leading them to react irrationally to dispute over the Senkaku Islands and other territories.
The LDP also calls for stationing public servants on the Senkakus and establishing facilities there for fishing boats. Such measures would be taken by China as a provocation and would only further chill relations between Japan and China. One must ask whether the LDP has developed contingency plans to calm the situation if tensions over the Senkaku Islands heighten following the implementation of its recommended policies, or whether it would simply “wing it” in such a situation.
The Democratic Party of Japan is taking a more coolheaded approach to the territorial dispute than the LDP. It advocates strengthening defense power under the principle of “defense-only defense,” calls for managing and controlling the Senkaku Islands in a tranquil and stable manner, and turning the East China Sea into a sea of “peace, friendship and cooperation.”
Before casting their ballots, voters should study each party’s foreign policy and national security proposals, as well as their stances on domestic issues such as taxation, social welfare and nuclear power generation. Given the gravity of the issues facing the nation, voters must choose their next leaders with utmost care.