Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

A subtle US warning for Abe

By James C. Hsiung (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-11 08:56

Abe, however, didn't get the message despite the White House's initial subtle conveyance of disapproval of his pretensions. This happened when his request for a visit to the US in January 2013, which would have made it his first foreign visit after assuming office, was declined by Washington on the pretext that the US president's schedule for that month was too crowded. A few more missteps on Abe's part earned him a series of rebuffs from Washington.

These missteps were topped by Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals, on Dec 26, 2013, and followed by his more vociferous denunciation of China as a "threat" in an interview to CNN, during which he repeated his desire to revise Japan's Constitution and vowed to increase Japan's already high defense spending. The visit to Yasukuni provoked immediate strong protests from China and the Republic of Korea.

Under Obama's "rebalancing to Asia" policy, also known as a "bet-hedging" strategy, the US needed to balance its two major concerns. First, while the US sought to maintain its wide economic ties with China, it did not wish to see China emerge as a hegemonic power. Second, while the US is ready to allow Japan to play a "balancing" role vis-a-vis China, the last thing it wants to see is a war between the two Asian countries, especially one started by Japan which would put Washington in a quandary.

As a result, Abe has met with one US rebuff after another. The first was the news that Secretary of State John Kerry would give Japan a miss during his Asian trip later this month. The second was the passing by US Congress of the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which contains the wordings of a resolution introduced by Representative Michael Honda requiring that the Japanese government apologize for Japan's wartime military brothels (known as "comfort women"). President Obama signed the bill into law on January 24. And the third was the formal demand by the US in late January that Japan return the 300 kg of plutonium it had acquired from America during the Cold War for research, which could be used for manufacturing nuclear weapons.

These rebuffs show that Washington has put Abe on notice that he can continue misreading history and ignoring subtle messages only at his own peril.

The author is professor of politics at New York University.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News
New type of urbanization is in the details