Prime Minister Aso needs to consider the weight of his words
Prime Minister Taro Aso delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He is the first Japanese prime minister to address that body in three years.
There is a reason that Prime Minister Aso chose the U.N. Headquarters as the venue for his first official act as prime minster. The leaders of U.N. member countries deliver speeches there annually around this time of year, but during the past two years, Japan's two previous prime ministers, Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, stayed away because the timing conflicted with the launch of their own administrations.
If Japan's prime minister had missed this opportunity to address the U.N. for three years in a row, even though Japan attaches great importance to that organization, it would have had repercussions for Japan's international stature. This thought probably occurred to Prime Minister Aso, so although it is unusual for a prime minister to address the U.N. before delivering his own policy speech to the Diet, his decision to give priority to the U.N. by working this trip into his schedule was a good one.
The prime minister gave his speech an Aso color by stating that Japan is committed to growing its own economy in order to contribute to the stability of the global economy.
He explained that Japan has carried out refueling operations in the Indian Ocean in cooperation with the campaign against terrorism and as part of the effort to assist in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and said that Japan will "continue to proactively participate in unison with the international community in the fight against terrorism."
His speech could be interpreted as signaling his resolve to continue the refueling operations. Given that the House of Representatives is expected to be dissolved soon, and that the outcome of the general election is uncertain, there is a possibility that the refueling operations may not be sustained. But even if that were to be the case, the prime minister has made an international pledge to "proactively participate" in the war against terrorism. Japan will have to pursue a policy that takes sufficient account of the importance of this pledge.
One thing should be said with regard to the weight that the prime minister's words carry. After his speech, Prime Minister Aso stated, in reference to the Constitution's prohibition against the exercise of the right of collective defense, that it "basically should be changed." He might have thought that he was simply voicing his personal views in response to a question from the press, but this is probably not a topic that should be handled so casually.
A committee of wisemen inaugurated by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had issued a report on this topic that called for a change in the interpretation of the Constitution, but former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda shelved the report. And even Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has stated politicians "need to settle into their seats to talk over the issue." An issue that affects the foundation of Japan's national security policy needs to be debated in a calm environment.
In regard to Japan's diplomacy with its neighbors, Aso said that Japan would make an effort to strengthen its relations with its important partners China and South Korea. We hope that he treats Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which have gotten on track again, with great care and revives the summit diplomacy that involves alternating visits by the leaders of these countries.
Beijing in particular is alarmed by the "arc of freedom and prosperity" policy that Aso set forth while foreign minister, which it sees as a policy intended to contain China. Aso did not touch on this policy in his speech, but he asserted his belief in pursuing a "values diplomacy" that places a priority on building solidarity with countries that share the same basic values. He will need to provide a careful explanation of this point in order to avoid leaving the international community with a mistaken impression.
毎日新聞 2008年9月27日 0時28分