We heartily applaud the clear political message sent from a high diplomatic level that Japan and the United States will not tolerate any self-righteous step taken by China.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden on Tuesday held talks in Tokyo. They agreed both countries would not recognize China’s newly established air defence identification zone, which they called an "attempt by China to change status quo unilaterally by force," and would cooperate closely on the issue.
They also confirmed they "will not condone any action that could threaten [the] safety of civilian aircraft."
Biden is expected to present the opinions of Japan and the United States when he holds talks today with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Allowing China’s latest move to go unchallenged could set a bad precedent, as China is using strong-arm methods to back up its own assertions. This would send a message that China might misconstrue.
To halt Chinese diplomatic moves that deviate from existing international rules and threaten the regional peace and stability of Asia, it is vital that Japan and the United States reinforce their alliance and calibrate their diplomatic policies.
The Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, which is to be launched today, should assume a pivotal role in this task.
It is also important to seek support on this issue not only with South Korea, whose air defence zone overlaps with the one China is claiming, but also with countries in Southeast Asia and Europe. A broad consensus must be built, based on the conviction that ensuring China abides by international rules is a common challenge for the global community.
During their talks, Abe and Biden confirmed they would "push forward with a strong resolve" the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.
The Futenma issue has been like a splinter stuck in the Japan-U.S. alliance since 1996. If Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approves land reclamation necessary for the relocation off the Henoko district, the issue will take a great step forward. The issue is at a crucial juncture.
Making the relocation to Henoko a reality will eliminate the possibility of the Futenma base remaining where it is for years and years, and also accelerate the planned transfer of U.S. marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.
Biden also emphasized that Washington would cooperate with Japan so the Futenma base can be moved soon.
To create conditions in which Nakaima would find it easier to approve the reclamation, both Tokyo and Washington must do more to quickly alleviate Okinawa Prefecture’s burden of hosting U.S. military bases. Steps for this could include agreeing to allow prior on-site inspections of U.S. bases planned to be returned to the prefecture, and partially lifting restrictions in waters U.S. forces use for training exercises.
Abe and Biden agreed both countries would continue cooperating on a process to conclude Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord negotiations by the end of the year.
However, Japan is poised to refuse the total scrapping of tariffs on items in five key categories of rice, wheat and other farm products, leaving the talks between Japan and the United States with nowhere to go.
It is important for Japan to aim at concluding the TPP talks by reminding itself from a broader perspective that, while maintaining tariffs that are vital for Japan, reaching an agreement as a whole would serve the common interests of the 12 participating countries.