Ja­pan’s ‘check­book diplo­macy’ could bounce: ob­servers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO YANRONG in Bei­jing and CAI HONG in Tokyo

Though Ja­pan has signed aid pacts in or­der to win sup­port from ASEAN coun­tries in its dis­pute with China, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s “check­book diplo­macy” may fail be­cause his provoca­tive po­lit­i­cal ac­tions put the re­gion into a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, ob­servers said.

On Sun­day, Abe con­cluded a three­day Ja­pan- ASEAN sum­mit in Tokyo dur­ing which Ja­pan, in what ex­perts called “an un­usual ges­ture”, of­fered to pro­vide 2 tril­lion yen ($19.2 bil­lion) in aid for the 10-mem­ber bloc.

Ja­pan also pledged fresh aid worth about $ 610 mil­lion in loans to Myan­mar, mainly to help the South­east Asian coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture projects.

De­spite Ja­pan’s gen­er­ous aid pack­age, many of Tokyo’s sug­ges­tions tar­get­ing China were not in­cluded in the joint state­ment re­leased on Satur­day, due to op­po­si­tion by ASEAN, Kyodo News Agency said.

China has be­come ASEAN’s largest trad­ing part­ner and the big­gest ex­port mar­ket since 2011. The free trade zone be­tween ASEAN and China is a good ex­am­ple for re­gional co­op­er­a­tion. There is no way that Ja­pan can eas­ily buy ASEAN.”


“The word ‘threat’, in al­lud­ing to China’s ac­tions in the South China Sea, was not writ­ten into the state­ment, be­cause se­nior of­fi­cials from Myan­mar, Laos and Cambodia dis­agreed with the ex­pres­sion sug­gested by Ja­pan at a pre-sum­mit meet­ing on Thurs­day in Tokyo,” the Ja­panese agency re­ported.

The phrase “free­dom of over­flight” in the state­ment was changed from “free­dom of over­flight over the high seas” in the draft be­cause the South­east Asian side in­di­cated that “the words ‘over the high seas’ could be taken as a spe­cific mea­sure fo­cus­ing on China’s air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone”, Kyodo re­ported.

The state­ment, which said that the two sides prom­ise to co­op­er­ate to en­sure “free­dom of over­flight and avi­a­tion safety in ac­cor­dance with uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized prin­ci­ples of in­ter­na­tional law”, is more like a mean­ing­less diplo­matic ex­pres­sion, which will not play a sub­stan­tive in­flu­ence in re­gional co­op­er­a­tion, said Yang Xiyu, an ex­pert on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions stud­ies at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

“It seems like the state­ment some­how sat­is­fied Ja­pan’s re­quire­ment, but it doesn’t have any prac­ti­cal mean­ing. ASEAN didn’t play the game of tak­ing sides as Ja­pan wished.”

Abe said at a news con­fer­ence on Satur­day that China’s re­cent an­nounce­ment of the air-de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone over the East China Sea is “un­justly vi­o­lat­ing free­dom of avi­a­tion over the high seas” and de­manded Bei­jing re­scind it.

Dur­ing a meet­ing with In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono, Abe ex­plained Ja­pan’s stance on China’s air de­fense zone, which cov­ers the dis­puted Diaoyu Is­lands, but Yud­hoy­ono did not give a def­i­nite an­swer as Abe had hoped.

“When the bor­der ne­go­ti­a­tions are still on­go­ing, hav­ing an open line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is cru­cial to avoid mis­cal­cu­la­tion that may oc­cur in and around the dis­puted area,” Yud­hoy­ono was quoted by Xin­hua News Agency as say­ing, with­out nam­ing a spe­cific lo­ca­tion.

Yud­hoy­ono said, “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.”

For­eign Min­istry spokesman Hong Lei ex­pressed China’s anger over Abe’s “ma­li­cious slan­der” of China in the in­ter­na­tional arena.

“As a de­fen­sive mea­sure to safe­guard na­tional air se­cu­rity, the es­tab­lish­ment of the East China Sea ADIZ is in line with in­ter­na­tional law and prac­tice,” Hong said on Satur­day, stress­ing that it does not af­fect avi­a­tion free­dom.

Wang Ping, a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of Ja­panese Stud­ies, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said Abe’s South­east Asian strat­egy of iso­lat­ing China is stupid.

“China has be­come ASEAN’s largest trad­ing part­ner and the big­gest ex­port mar­ket since 2011. The free trade zone be­tween ASEAN and China is a good ex­am­ple for re­gional co­op­er­a­tion. There is no way that Ja­pan can eas­ily buy ASEAN,” she said.

“Abe forc­ing ASEAN to take sides in the dis­putes be­tween Ja­pan and China is ap­par­ently ir­re­spon­si­ble,” she said.

Liu Jiangy­ong, an ex­pert on Ja­panese stud­ies at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, said Ja­pan should be clear that the world ex­pects Ja­pan to han­dle its re­la­tions with China well, rather than build­ing al­liances against China.

“Ja­pan orig­i­nally hoped ASEAN coun­tries would make a joint state­ment over is­sues like ‘free­dom of over­flight’, then use China’s ADIZ as one case to crit­i­cize China. ASEAN coun­tries were crys­tal clear about Ja­pan’s in­ten­sions,” Liu said.

Abe seems to like to push all vis­it­ing lead­ers in Ja­pan to un­der­write his ideas against China, he said.

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