ASEAN lead­ers re­spond to Abe’s China strat­egy

Abe forc­ing sum­mit lead­ers to take sides, ex­pert says

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing CAI HONG in Tokyo


South­east Asian lead­ers have al­ready re­sponded with pru­dence on the first day of the Ja­pan-ASEAN sum­mit in Tokyo af­ter Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe spent the whole year lob­by­ing them to en­cir­cle China, ob­servers said.

Abe re­peat­edly un­der­scored Ja­pan’s firm op­po­si­tion to China’s de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish the East China Sea Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone in state vis­its with lead­ers of In­done­sia, Brunei and the Philip­pines, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

How­ever, most of the lead­ers in­volved seemed un­will­ing to make a clear po­si­tion on whether to align with Tokyo or not in re­gard to coun­ter­ing China on the so-called “nav­i­ga­tion and airspace free­dom is­sue”.

“Some ASEAN mem­bers have deep his­tor­i­cal re­la­tions with China, and there are dif­fer­ing at­ti­tudes be­tween them and those who are in­volved in the ter­ri­to­rial is­sues re­gard­ing the South China Sea,” Ja­pan’s Asahi Tele­vi­sion com­mented on Fri­day.

Ja­pan and ASEAN lead­ers are cel­e­brat­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of re­la­tions. Abe has al­ready vis­ited all 10 ASEAN coun­tries since tak­ing of­fice last De­cem­ber, putting China on the agenda of each of his vis­its.

Wu Ji­nan, a se­nior re­search fel­low on Ja­panese stud­ies at Shang­hai In­sti­tutes for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said the hawk­ish Ja­panese prime min­is­ter has “de­voted un­prece­dented ded­i­ca­tion and fre­quency” in his “Year of South­east Asian Diplo­macy” for pro­mot­ing an en­cir­clement against China.

“Abe has spared no ef­fort in un­der­scor­ing — even ex­ag­ger­at­ing — the shared value and ide­o­log­i­cal be­lief be­tween Ja­pan and the South­east Asian coun­ter­part,” Wu said.

Fol­low­ing the sum­mit talks on Satur­day, Ja­pan and ASEAN will is­sue a joint state­ment and a doc­u­ment that will map out the “vi­sion” of fu­ture Ja­panASEAN ties, ac­cord­ing to the Kyodo News Agency.

But whether the joint state­ment will re­flect Ja­pan’s de­sired ref­er­ence to China’s air de­fense zone is “un­cer­tain” as there are dif­fer­ences among ASEAN mem­bers with re­spect to their ap­proach to China, Kyodo said.

Lu Yaodong, di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Ja­panese Diplo­macy at the In­sti­tute of Ja­pan Stud­ies un­der the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said Abe is ac­tu­ally “forc­ing the South­east Asian na­tions to take sides” be­tween China and Ja­pan — the sec­ond and third largest economies in the world.

“As a re­sult, the ASEAN mem­bers may act on pragmatism to play both sides and put their eggs in two bas­kets,” Lu said.

Zhou Yong­sheng, a pro­fes­sor of Ja­panese stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said that Abe — a hard-core sup­porter of elim­i­nat­ing leg­isla­tive re­stric­tions on Ja­pan’s in­creas­ingly as­sertive mil­i­tary plans — is ac­tu­ally the trou­ble­maker who has com­pli­cated the re­gional sit­u­a­tion.

“By en­gag­ing its tra­di­tional ally, Wash­ing­ton, Tokyo has al­ready brought about a huge im­pact on the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion by stir­ring up the waters around China’s Diaoyu Is­lands,” Zhou said.

The Ja­panese prime min­is­ter is once again sell­ing his so­called de­fense pol­icy pro­posal of “proac­tive paci­fism” to the ASEAN lead­ers.

The ASEAN na­tions — some of which were in­vaded or col­o­nized by Ja­pan in World War II — have en­dorsed Abe’s proac­tive paci­fism with cau­tion.

“In our view, it is im­por­tant that Ja­pan’s larger se­cu­rity role is pur­sued grad­u­ally, in a trans­par­ent man­ner and in ways that would strengthen in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity, re­gional or­der and en­hance con­fi­dence-build­ing,” said In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono on Fri­day on the side­lines of the sum­mit.


In­done­sia’s Pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono (right) walks past Ja­pan’s Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe af­ter de­liv­er­ing a speech in Tokyo on Fri­day. Yud­hoy­ono is in Ja­pan to at­tend sum­mit meet­ings be­tween Ja­panese and ASEAN lead­ers.

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