Weak Japanese Leadership Prompts Calls for Stronger Ties with U.S.
Despite hosting the APEC summit this month, Japan’s leadership in the region is looking shaky. In this post, we summarize what the Japanese press is saying about Japan’s diplomatic difficulties and the future of Japan-US relations:
Commenting on President Obama’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Yokohama, The Daily Yomirui says it was “unfortunate that Japan and the US missed a golden opportunity” to issue a joint declaration on the bilateral alliance’s 50th anniversary, and blames this on the poor diplomacy of the current Japanese administration, led by the Democratic Party of Japan.
Earlier in the month, the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Kunashir Island had also focused attention on Japan’s relations with the United States:
- The Mainichi Daily News expressed worry that “the international environment around the Japanese archipelago is growing increasingly severe,” and that the Kan government should respond by “solidifying a comprehensive diplomatic strategy built on rebuilding Japan’s ties to the United States.”
- The Japan Times says “the government must pay attention to the possibility that China and Russia are synchronizing their pressure against Japan.” The paper reports that security expert Takashi Kawakami thinks that the strained ties with the US over the Futenma base relocation “offered China and Russia an opportunity to challenge the security alliance.”
On economic issues, editorials across several newspapers support further trade liberalization to revitalize Japan’s economy, while noting that reform of the agricultural sector will be difficult. Specifically, there is support for joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Part of the motivation is to “regain ground lost to South Korea in free trade agreements.”
It is widely agreed that the DPJ government is weak. Editorials note that Japan’s recent troubles underscore the poor diplomacy and weak leadership of PM Kan and his predecessor Hatoyama. A poll by the Asahi Shimbun shows that PM Kan’s approval ratings are at 27%.