Japan is quietly trying to repair its relationship with China, as it is not longer sure in the cause of a conflict, it will be backed by the United States, writes the Japan Times. Author Howard French analyses how Japan deals with this new uncertainty in international relations.
Howard French, author of the forthcoming “China’s Second Continent: How a million migrants are building a new empire in Africa” (2013), and a former New York Times bureau chief in Tokyo and Shanghai who recently conducted a series of interviews here, believes there is, “a growing anxiety in Japan about its relationship with the United States.
“Japan seems to be thinking seriously for the first time, albeit quietly still, about how far Washington will go to back it in a clash with China. The basic question is whether the U.S. would sacrifice its relations with China on the altar of what seems from afar like a relatively minor territorial dispute. The flip side of this question, of course, is whether, if push comes to shove, the U.S. would sacrifice its alliance relationship with Japan in order to preserve relations with a country that one assumes will sooner or later possess the world’s largest economy.
“There is a lot of strategic uncertainty embedded in all of this, and this has forced Japan to think in unaccustomed ways about assuring much more of its own defense and even contemplate eventually going it alone, if need be.”
Improving relations with China, he argues, requires Japan, “taking bold steps to put the ‘history issue’ to rest, once and for all. This is far more essential to becoming a ‘normal nation’ than constitutional reform.”
He adds, “For a conservative leader like Abe, proper, definitive treatment of the history question, one that accommodates both self-respect and atonement, would be a breakthrough equivalent of (President Richard) Nixon in China (in 1972).”
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