Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan Upsets China Prior to Meeting President Obama

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan Upsets China Prior to Meeting President Obama

Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to have increased tensions with China once more prior to meeting President Obama in America. Indeed, his comments appear not only insensitive but also at odds with trying to decrease tensions between both China and Japan over the territorial dispute. Not only this, with recent tensions erupting on the Korean Peninsula because of the underground nuclear test by North Korea; then now should be a time of greater diplomacy in order to contain the various disputes which blight Northeast Asia.

Not only this, by commenting so negatively towards China then Abe is also putting President Obama in a difficult situation because the American administration desires to contain the territorial crisis between China and Japan. This may be a further reminder of Abe’s last time in power whereby he created many “mountains out of small molehills” which in time undermined his leadership.

Xinhua media group in China comments that “In an interview with the Washington Post conducted before paying a visit to the U.S., Abe said China has a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory, as the ruling Communist Party of China uses the disputes to maintain strong domestic support.”

Hong Lei, Foreign Ministry spokesperson for China, states that “The Chinese side was astonished at the report.”

He further highlighted that it is unusual for the leader of any nation to assault and lambast its neighbor in such a strong tone. Indeed, it must be stressed that the comment by Abe is implying multiple factors with regards to China.

Firstly, Abe is trying to lay claim that China is solely responsible for the current crisis because the political hierarchy in China uses territorial issues in order to strengthen the center at home. Secondly, Abe is implying that other nations throughout the region are also disillusioned by China’s territorial demands in other parts of Asia. Thirdly, Abe is linking the territorial issue within the political arena. After all, he is claiming that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) manipulates the people of China by using nationalism in order to preserve political power. Other connotations can be read into the statement by Abe but clearly his comments about China will do little to ease regional tensions with Beijing.

Japan, like any nation, is of course rightly concerned about regional territorial issues but greater diplomacy is needed from the top. The timing of the comment and stating this prior to meeting Obama also makes it even more potent. After all, if Abe is saying this openly then what is he saying behind the scenes to the leader of America?

China and Japan have both made mistakes over the territorial issue and clearly various problems throughout Northeast Asia remain problematic. For example, Japan and the Russian Federation have problems to solve; South Korea and Japan; China faces many territorial issues based on the sheer size of this nation and its geographic size; meanwhile Taiwan and North Korea also dispute the territorial claims of China, Japan, and South Korea, regarding the respective territorial issues which apply to both Taiwan and North Korea. Therefore, it is clear that no side is in the right because each issue is very complex and the only way to break the chains is through diplomatic channels.

It is hoped that Abe will not get carried away with his current popularity because he needs to focus on real issues related to the economy. Likewise, China must not antagonize Japan by sending vessels to the current area which is being contested. Instead, political leaders in Beijing and Tokyo need to “restart the political button” in order to try to solve the crisis. Even if China and Japan can’t reach a major agreement to solve the impasse, then at least both nations can put in special clauses to decrease the crisis, whereby a special exclusion zone is adhered to – or where joint patrols take place.


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