Abe's political fate and the trilateral summit

2018-05-10 09:56CGTN Editor: Gu Liping ECNS App Download

As a senior statesman in the region, the trilateral summit provides Japanese Prime Minister Abe the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the region. A successful summit may garner him valuable political capital to fight back against a domestic insurgency within the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) to remove him as president of the LDP and ultimately prime minister of Japan. A poor showing at the summit may only reinforce the intra-party narrative and nationwide sentiment that it's time for new leadership.

The summit itself will focus on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), trade and creating the climate for broader cooperation on a broad range of non-traditional security issues such as the environment, post-disaster cooperation and resource management. These are apolitical issues for each leader and as a result will not stand the intense scrutiny that other forms of cooperation or understandings may entail, such as working together on historical issues and territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

It's expected that Republic of Korea (ROK) President Moon Jae-in will brief Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on his talks with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un. The inter-Korean summit had few takeaways and the DPRK's official statements made it clear that they have not deviated from its long-held position and that it remains committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The caveat here is only if the Korean Peninsula and the region at large (including Japan) is expunged of the US nuclear umbrella and associated military infrastructure that can pose a threat to Pyongyang. Moon may also shed some light on what preparations have been made for the upcoming tête-a-tête between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Abe can do little to shape the upcoming summit between Kim and Trump save stress Japan's enduring concerns that emphasize that denuclearization should also include missile systems of all ranges, biological and chemical weapons as well as submarine launch platforms. Abe will also press Moon on the politically popular yet likely unresolvable abducted Japanese that still may be alive in the DPRK. The message has been conveyed to Trump directly; now it's time that Abe does the same with Moon.

This may not be so easy as Moon doesn't seem to be predisposed to Abe as evidence by the walk-back from the December 2015 "Comfort Women" Agreement and continued demands for a sincere apology over the issue. While politically difficult, Abe should be contrite and underline that while he may disagree with the pushback against the agreement. At the same time, he should stress that the grassroots demonstrations against the agreement demonstrate that the ROK and Japan have shared values including liberal democratic institutions, freedom of the press, and the freedom to push back against the government when citizens feel government decisions do not represent the voices of their citizens. In the spirit of shared values, Abe should stress that the Japanese government will do more to demonstrate their sincerity on the "Comfort Women" issue but also their stalwart support for inter-Korean reconciliation.

Any recognition of Japanese interests by the Moon administration will be a good omen for Japan but will need follow-up by the Trump administration at the DRPK-US Summit and in the endless summits to come.

On trade, the trifecta of Northeast Asian countries has much in common as export-oriented economies. No doubt they will try to stress their solidarity that open trade is good for each country and for the greatest detractor of free trade at the moment -- the Trump administration. This is where the solidarity ends.

Japan has championed free and open trade as evidenced in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) despite the withdrawal of the Trump Administration from the TPP. Japan clearly prefers the CPTPP and eventual re-entry of the US and additional countries into the CPTPP as its ideal trade model going forward.

The ROK, on the other hand, has chosen to renegotiate the US–Korea Free Trade Agreement covering such areas as automobiles, customs processes, and investment. It is on the fence as it currently is looking into the benefits of joining the CPTPP. Much of their decision will depend on the trajectory of inter-Korean negotiations.

Meanwhile, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative and the community with shared future for mankind, stressing win-win relationships, mutual respect, and co-operation. While positive in rhetoric, both the ROK and Japan are reluctant to overtly support these initiatives due to different agendas.

Any progress on trade, denuclearization and the abductee issue will amass political capital for Abe's domestic struggles demonstrating that his experience is an asset for Japan, not a liability, especially in dealing with mercurial leadership from long-time allies or experienced autocrats in the region. Importantly, success will mean a continuation of strategic economic, security and diplomatic policies that have helped return Japan to a leading position within the region and the world. Failure may lead to the revolving leadership and lack of long-term policy implementation that marked much of Japan's post-bubble economy era.

Guest commentary by Stephen R. Nagy

(Stephen R. Nagy is a senior associate professor at the International Christian University based in Tokyo. Concurrently, he is a distinguished fellow with Canada's the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and an appointed China expert with Canada's China Research Partnership. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.)



Related news


Most popular in 24h

MoreTop news


Travel News
Travel Types
Bar & Club
CNS Photo
Learning Chinese
Learn About China
Social Chinese
Business Chinese
Buzz Words
Special Coverage
Back to top Links | About Us | Jobs | Contact Us | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©1999-2018 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.