Three months before finishing his term, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the United States. Koizumi not only likes to create a dramatic effect in domestic politics, but also on the world stage. Like a singer saying goodbye to his audience, Koizumi planned his farewell to office. During his visit to the States, Koizumi's meeting with US President George Bush and Japanese-US diplomatic relations became a focus of the international media.
During Koizumi's term in office the alliance between Japan and the US has strengthened and options for broader cooperation have been explored. The governments issued a joint statement entitled 'Japan and the US Alliance in the New Century'. It outlines the countries' shared values, common interests and the responsibilities and challenges arising from changes in the Asian security environment. A report from the Japanese media said that in the future the Japanese -American alliance will focus more on military cooperation.
The US is also expecting Japan to continue supporting the US in its global strategy. The Japanese prefer to rely on US protection and support to become a political power as soon as possible rather than develop its own diplomatic strategy. Of course, President Bush hopes that Koizumi's successor will also follow US lead.
Both countries have stressed cooperation with and utilization of China. The joint statement said that Japan and the US should cooperate with China to maintain peace and security in the north-eastern region of Asia. It seems that Bush is leading the way and Koizumi is following. Bush considers China the key to US economic success in Asia. His idea has been well recognized in the US.
The American people have expressed increasing concern about Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine where World War II Class 'A' war criminals were held. The US government has indicated or warned Japan many times that Sino-Japanese relations could greatly affect US interests in Asia. But Koizumi didn't care. In fact, China could assist Japan in coming out of recession and establishing an East Asian Development Community.
However, for reasons both personal and political Koizumi continues to be unfriendly towards his neighbors. Obviously, to cooperate and utilize China's vitality which is set by the US side is a subtle way of dissuading and comfortably containing Japan. Sensitive Japanese media have felt this.
The issue of Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has been internationalized, and this is not Japan's only 'diplomatic debt' in Asia. This was reflected during Koizumi's visit to Ottawa, when a Canadian anti-war group submitted an open letter to him pointing out that his visit to the Shrine had harmed Japan's peaceful and friendly relations with its eastern Asian neighbors. When Koizumi arrived in the US, there was a report in the Times Weekly which suggested that Koizumi's attitude towards his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine not only weakened his credibility, but also weakened the US' impact on Asia.
Bush has once again talked about Sino-Japanese relations during the summit. Last year, Koizumi defended himself by saying that only China and South Korea criticized him. In fact, the issue has drawn criticism from people all around the world even the American media have criticized his actions.
Koizumi's successor will inherit not only the benefits of his diplomacy with the US but also his 'diplomatic debts' with other Asian countries. And debtors have to pay back what they owe eventually.
(People's Daily Online July 6, 2006)