Fukuda Diplomacy and the Wooing Coming from Washington and Beijing


In mid-September I visited Moscow as a participant in the Russia–Japan Conference of Academics and Journalists. Russia’s diplomatic brains had proudly trumpeted the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as “a Eurasian international order without the West1.” Although Russia had also envisioned “an Asian Helsinki system,” the simplest method for realizing that is probably Russia’s existing participation (starting in 2005) in the “East Asia Summit”. Today’s East Asia Summit excludes the United States. If Russia is added, then a framework for international cooperation encompassing Asia and the Western Pacific will have been achieved, and of their own accord Japan, Russia, China and India will become the major powers that lead the group.

Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, according to an NHK television report on 18 September, stated “an emphasis on the United Nations, the Japan—US alliance, and a member of Asia” as diplomatic principles, and “the construction of an East Asian Economic Community, including China, the ROK and Russia” in Asia policy. Also the use of the phrase “including Russia” was a first among Japanese politicians, or rather among politicians the world over.

On 1 October Prime Minister Fukuda, in his policy speech, after using the phrase “promote active diplomacy toward Asia”, adopted four diplomatic counterparts: China, the ROK, ASEAN and Russia, in that order. In the speech, the likes of India and Australia weren’t mentioned, yet Russia was placed in “Asia.”

The Fukuda government, in bringing to an end the Japanese neocon era, may state positively that they have abandoned the “values diplomacy” line of Abe and Aso. The leader of the main opposition party, Ichiro Ozawa, also takes a “member-of-Asia” position. 150 years or so after “Datsu-A Nyu-O [Leave Asia and Join Europe]”, Japan seems at long last to have embarked upon a historic sea change toward “Datsu-Bei Nyu-A [Leave America and Join Asia]”.

The United States has begun to panic. Immediately after Fukuda became the president of the LDP, President Bush announced “we will raise the abduction issue at the six-party talks”, and in a speech at the United Nations brought up that “Japan is worthy of permanent membership of the UN Security Council”, which only Japan had taken up.

China will probably launch a “major drive on Japan–China friendship”. China has already said it would like to play host to Prime Minister Fukuda in Beijing in November. Fukuda also has to go on a visit to the United States in November, and he will certainly be busy. Hu Jintao has also declared his intention to come to Japan in cherry-blossom season. Hu Jintao, aiming to conclude a new “Japan–China Joint Declaration”, will probably press for a full resolution of the issues of Japan’s interpretation of history and recognition of Taiwan. The cherry on the cake would be to request the attendance of the Emperor at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Will the sensitive Japanese be able to withstand the “ardent love” coming from Washington and Beijing?

  1. In the text of a 2 August 2007 wire report by China’s Xinhua, “Mei you xifang shijie [A World without the West]”, (US magazine “The National Interest”, July / August 2007 issue): “Outside of the world system with the West at its core, the formation of a separate world system is being aimed at, with China, Russia and India at its center.”

[Translated by ERINA]