Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Japan's Golden Silence?

The two items of Japanese foreign policies that greatly interest the global community were not mentioned at all by Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi in a major policy delivery.

These were Japan’s troops commitment to Iraq and her relationship with China.

Looking at the first, the Iraqi involvement, Koizumi obviously has to show some form of political support for its principal ally the USA, unpopular as the troops commitment in Iraq is at home. Japan is in the same pair of shoes as Australia is – each considers the USA as its defence benefactor and major political ally, and cannot afford to ignore nor offend the Americans, even in an illegal war. Both Australia and Japan are involved in the unpopular occupation of Iraq.

There is however one major difference. Australia can and has committed combat troops while Japan, still restricted by its constitution, could only despatch non-combatant troops, mainly military engineers. In fact, the Japanese troops are protected by a contingent of 450 Aussie soldiers, and both in the bigger picture, are in turn operating under the aegis of the British occupation army in souhern Iraq.

Japan is aware that all three Anglo-Saxon members of the Coalition of the Willing are already planning to exit Iraq, which may placed the Japanese engineers in the unenviable position of being less protected. I suspect Koizumi has not commented on Japan’s continuing commitment in the Middle East nation because he wants to keep Japan’s option fairly open but without offending the Americans or upsetting domestic opinions.

Nearer at home, Koizumi is aware that Japan’s relationship with an increasing powerful China is pretty appalling. Koizumi who will be retiring from politics next year is caught between two acrimonious groups, one being his LDP extreme rightwing faction who doesn’t want to be apologetic about Japan’s wartime atrocities and the other the enraged Asian countries, chief among whom is China, who had suffered enormously from Japanese military savagery and barbarism and will not countenance an unrepentent Japan.

Repeated incidents of Japan’s attempt at historical revisionism to white-wash its long list of war crimes have ensured Chinese and Korean suspicions and continuing hatred of Japan. To add to the turbulence, last year Japan officially identified China as its chief threat. The recent exposure of Japanese war plans to deal with an invading China haven’t added to amicable confidence building between the two nations.

Could it be that Koizumi in remaining mum about its China relationship is applying the same formula – keep all options regarding China open but without offending both external and dometic feelings?

As they say, “Silence is Golden.”

Japan Fears Chinese Invasion

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