Russia has never disregarded the North Korean nuclear and missile issue nor its support for North Korea.
Russia will never relinquish its safety belt against the US forces stationed in South Korea and, above all, Kim Jong-Un’s possible military shield towards the USA and its allies in Southeast Asia. If anything, the issue lies in replacing this shield with an equally effective economic or strategic and conventional delimitation.
On August 15, 2018, Kim Jong-Un sent an important telegram for congratulating Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the Japanese domination.
It should be recalled that the united Korean empire ended in 1910, but the Japanese-Korean Treaty of 1876 integrated the peninsula in the Meji Empire, the historical and cultural phase in which Japan acquired the Western technologies and cultures to expand its “co-prosperity area” throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
An area bound to naturally lap upon the US area of influence – at that time as now.
It is worth remembering, however, that Korea’s industrialization began precisely in its phase of independence from Japan, while the subordination to the Japanese Empire led not only to a massive exploitation of the Korean labour force for the Japanese purposes, but also to a radical cultural and psychological dispossession of the people in that peninsula and of their traditions.
There is no geopolitics without a geo-cultural analysis.
As Aristotle said, “Even God cannot change the past”- and the old 20th century balances of power still draw the limits of the possible strategies which can be implemented both in Korea and in the rest of maritime South Asia.
Currently the United States can also aspire to excessively expand its power to the myriad of Pacific islands, thus conquering them all to keep none, just to encircle Japan.
Or it can hold the security coordinates of the Straits of Malacca, in order to keep on controlling those areas of world trade.
However, let us revert to the telegram recently sent by Kim Jong-Un.
In the telegram he wished Russian President Vladimir Putin good luck with his plans for “building a powerful Russia” and recalled that “the peoples of the two countries struggled shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy in the arduous anti-Japanese war”.
This paves the way for renewed friendship between the Russian Federation and North Korea, which will “serve as driving force to continuously develop bilateral relations as required by a new era”.
In other words, Kim Jong-Un wants to renew the traditional ties with Russia to rebalance those with China – which are certainly equally important – without excluding them.
Thanks to the Western superficiality, North Korea has excellent relations with both Russia and China and it does not want to lose them or to create preferential relations with one country or the other.
In particular, the North Korean Leader does not intend to currently neglect the old and timeless Russian ally, which is now redesigning and reshaping the Greater Middle East – the terrestrial defensive outpost of his North Korea and, in any case, a guarantee for his land security to the North and to the West.
An important security for North Korea, at least as much as the maritime one that mainly pertains to its alliance with China.
In the almost immediate reply to the North Korean leader, Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin wrote he was ready to meet with him in the near future in Moscow.
In recent years many promises have been made to organize a Summit between Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin, but they have never come true.
It is mainly the fault of the unpredictable adjustment of equilibria in the Pacific after 2006, the year of North Korea’s military and official nuclearization.
There were many secret meetings, especially in the acute phases of the 2017 missile crisis, and sometimes simultaneously with President Trump’s visits to Moscow.
Most likely, in these very confidential meetings, the discussion was also focused on the possibility of moving significant parts of the Russian Armed Forces on the border with North Korea.
At that time, the significance of these historical operations of the Russian Armed Forces in the Primorsky area was evident: to show to the United States that the Russian Federation did not accept any threat to North Korea and that, in any case, Russia would significantly defend the North Korean territory from a joint US-South Korean action.
It was quite obvious: even today neither the Russian Federation nor the People’s Republic of China are interested in having a country linked only to the USA, but defeated or weak,on its borders.
Moreover, while defending North Korea, Russia can currently play the role of broker and mediator between the two Koreas and control the strategic triangle between the two post-Cold War nations of the Korean peninsula with Japan.
Another centre of primary strategic interest of the Russian Federation.
In fact, in January 2017 Putin stated that Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear-missile program was “a threat to security in North-East Asia”, but he also asked South Korea to reject the anti-missile structure THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) offered to it by the United States.
Weakening of the entire peninsula and maintenance of North Korea’s margin of attack. This is the simple, but lucid Russian strategic formula.
Moreover, since the very beginning, Russia has accepted the UN sanctions against North Korea under evident suspicion and some Russian companies have been hit just because they have not avoided trading “sensitive” goods and services with North Korea.
It is even more obvious that currently Russia does not want a North Korean State, on its land border of only eleven miles, that can accumulate potentials capable of threatening the terrestrial and Asian area to the Middle East with threats tous azimuts.
Or a State that can create – in an extremely important area for Russia – a sequence of regional crises drawing the attention of the major global strategic actors.
The strategy is to make the Korean peninsula a peripheral area and weakening its global irritant thorns.
This is the same policy of China in North Korea. In the future, however, China will also try to integrate North Korea into its Central Asian project to control the Turkmen jihad and into its policy of economic and military expansion to the Pacific region.
Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that China does not want a military contribution from North Korea in its protection of the Belt and Road Initiative to the South.
Furthermore Russia has always had a strong strategic interest in the whole Asian maritime region, in general, and in the Southern one, in particular.
In fact, Putin has always maintained that Russia’s active policy vis-à-vis the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – the 21 economies and the Korean peninsula – is essential for all the Asian projects of the Russian Federation.
Projects that, as can be easily understood, tend to offset and replace the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries.
Currently Russia has these primary interests in the Asian-Pacific region: to develop the Siberian area well and quickly; to integrate the Asian region into its system of trade relations with the old Asian-Southern countries of the former USSR; to increase the Russian presence in the Asian economies, especially in medium and high-tech goods, with a view to avoiding the penetration of others into those markets and finally avoiding the jihadist radicalization of internal conflicts, especially in the framework of the confrontation between the United States and China.
Hence with these moves, which also include the Russian economic policy vis-à-vis North Korea, the Russian Federation stands as a necessary “third power” throughout the Asian-Pacific region.
Here the preferential relationship with North Korea is essential.
Therefore it is not strange that, for the next Summit between Putin and Kim Jong-Un, the possibility was considered of the next Eastern Economic Forum scheduled in Vladivostok in September.
This would have been the occasion for a series of meetings also with the Chinese and Japanese leaders, but it is exactly in September that Kim Jong-Un shall follow all the preparatory work for the 70th anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Indeed, Russia wants to meet Kim Jong-Un alone. Currently it has no interest in a friendly internationalization of the North-Korean issue.
The 70th anniversary is a date that will mark a new condition for North Korea – and this is the meaning that Kim Jong-Un wants to give to the celebrations. It is a condition of reaffirmation of the regime’s solitary power and of new and positive openness to the world.
Furthermore the North Korean leader wants to well prepare the bilateral meeting with Putin that will mean, above all, that North Korea does not depend on China’s interests only. Hence a tactical delay is better.
In fact, as he has already been doing for some time, Kim Jong-Un wants to implement an opportunistic policy, but without really betraying any of the two Asian and Eurasian players.
In particular, North Korea wants a share of national strategic autonomy in the future context of its admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Hence, apart from India which, together with Pakistan, has recently followed the works of what China finds it difficult to define as the “NATO of the East”, SCO will have a vertical strategic axis between the Indian Ocean and South East Asia to the Pacific region. And it will certainly depend on North Korea’s future military policy.
This vertical axis, however, will be the whole Korea – with the autonomous North Korea which, in Putin’s and Xi Jinping’s designs, will be partially integrated into the SCO together with South Korea.
At least Putin alone will grant to North Korea as much geopolitical autonomy as it will be necessary to the Russian Federation in order to: a) avoid any regional hegemony of the United States and its primary allies in the region; b) preserve the security of the its sea borders with North Korea; c) avoid giving a clear field to China.
China has mainly an oceanic interest in Kim Jong-Un’s Korea.
Russia, however, possibly want to create a strategic continuum between its Central Asian terrestrial region, which has its stronghold in the new Syria, and the Vietnamese coasts. Like the Krak of the Knights which, in the Syrian desert was an offensive rather than a defensive castle, as Lawrence of Arabia told us, currently Assad’ Syria is the Western bulwark of every “colour revolution” or jihad that can penetrate the post-Soviet Central Asia or the maritime corridor leading this area to the North-West borders of North Korea.
There is also the possibility – theorized by some analysts, especially from the North American school – that Vladimir Putin wants to oppose the US peripheral expansion everywhere, especially in Southeast Asia, where the US strategic defeat of the twentieth century began, so as to eventually replace the United States as a global player.
And currently the axis mundi is in Asia, not in Europe or in other parts of the West.
We are not sure that Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin really wants to create a US global dissymmetry with respect to the China-Russia’s axis.
If this happens, it shall only be USA’s fault.
The long-term diverging interests between Russia and China are still there – and precisely in a region that closely affects the Asian geopolitical choices vis-à-vis North Korea, namely Russia’s terrestrial Far East and Siberia.
There is the economic contrast – inevitable in the future – between the Eurasian Economic Union, organized by Russia in 2014 between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and, currently, also Kyrgyzstan, and the Chinese network of the Belt and Road Initiative. This is another problem that Kim Jong-Un shall resolve, at least apparently, once ceased the US (and Japanese) pressure on North Korea.
With a credible project, the United States could open part of its markets to North Korean products and create –just in the territory of North Korea – a network of Foreign Direct Investments that would shield the fledgling industry from Chinese or Russian pressures.
However, this is probably a vain hope.
Moreover Chinese investment in the Russian Far East is not as much as that which had been predicted and hoped for by Russia: China has no particular interest in Russia’s Arctic North and it is rather interested in the central axis of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Furthermore, if China continues to invest in the Arctic infrastructure, together with Russia, this will only be in view of a de facto or de jure transfer of the Russian sovereignty over the North Pole areas in which currently both countries work together.
Also this balance between China and Russia is bound to greatly influence North Korea’s external political developments.
Hence, in terms of North Korea’s nuclear power, as early as 2006 – the year of the first true North Korean test -it was China that integrated North Korea into its Asian strategic project and proposed a bilateral dialogue with the United States for the solution of the North Korean issue.
This has de facto excluded the Russian Federation from the Korean games.
Russia reacted almost immediately with its support to the sanctions against North Korea within the UN Security Council, thus creating an equal-footing balance with the United States on the issue.
An opportunity that the United States did not grasp at the right time.
Sanctions, however, have not really been accepted by the Russian economic system: North Korean coal exports to Russia continue; many Asian workers have long been migrating to Russian factories near the border; the new railway networks, which should shortly connect Russia with North Korea and always end up in South Korea, are being called into question.
Currently trade between Russia and North Korea is worth approximately 110 million US dollars a year.
Moreover, despite the letter and the spirit of the UN sanctions, Russia has not repatriated the thousands of North Korean workers it still hosts.
Furthermore, Russia still organizes many North Korean international financial and trade relations, thus supporting the operations for circumventing sanctions.
The railway line between Russia and the North Korean port of Razon is essential, but currently – also in tacit competition with China – it is the Russian Federation that provides North Korea with some Internet networks.
Incidentally, it would be good if the UN sanction mechanism – which, as some UN sources maintain, is scarcely transparent and often irrational – were radically revised: it keeps the US financial hegemony well beyond its rational limits, with dangers also for America; it unbalances financial markets that should be – at least officially – “free” and finally creates the opportunity, for the country on which sanctions are applied, to move directly to the adverse camp.
What would have happened to Italy if the sanctions of the League of Nations following the conquest of Abyssinia had not found in Nazi Germany the only, but certainly very interested adversary?
Nevertheless, in all likelihood, the turning point of the new relationship between Russia and North Korea will be the new pipeline that is supposed to transfer natural gas from the Russian Federation to both Koreas.
We will never understand the Russian strategic logic if we think it will accept the partition of the Korean peninsula as a fait accompli: Russia always thinks of both Koreas. And it would be crazy not to do so.
In the North, Russia operates to make North Korea “loyal” to the Russian strategic project while, in the South, it endeavors to curb the US and Japanese influence as much as possible.
Furthermore, there will soon be concrete signs of the Russian interest in the large group of industries in Kaesong, as well as the possible penetration of the Russian economy into the future North Korean automotive and mechanical industries, and finally the possible creation of an ad hoc Bank for the globalization of the Korean economy to the East and eventually to Europe.
Along the Southern flank of the Russian geo-economic security which is parallel to, but different from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
North Korea’s future geopolitical choice will be between the Chinese Belt and Road lines and those provided by the Russian maritime and terrestrial continuity on its borders.
How China is helping Iran skirt US sanctions
Shortly after the Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said eight countries, most notable China, would be exempted from the draconian sanctions on buying Iranian crude oil.
Shortly after the Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an important announcement. It was a calculated move to avoid a major embarrassment. The hawks in the power corridors of Washington had anticipated the backlash of sanctions on US foreign policy with many global powers rebuffing Trump’s foolhardy move.
Pompeo said eight countries would be exempted from the draconian sanctions on buying Iranian crude oil due to special circumstances. The countries included China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey.
Many of these countries had quite clearly indicated that they would not be cutting oil imports from Iran under the US pressure, most importantly China, Turkey, and India – three of Iran’s largest oil customers.
While India has its own strategic interests in maintaining good relations with Tehran, for instance, the Chabahar port project in Sistan-Baluchistan, Turkey’s relations with Washington have hit a new low following sanctions and trade tariffs imposed by the US.
China, which has emerged as a viable counterweight to US hegemony in the world and a protagonist of new international economic policy, has unambiguously reaffirmed its commitment to keep alive the Iran nuclear deal and stand by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On November 5, when the petroleum-related sanctions came into effect, Chinese foreign ministry said it will continue to “hold a fair, objective and responsible attitude” and “resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights”, while reiterating its opposition to the unilateral US sanctions.
“China feels sorry for the US’ decision and we noticed that the international world as a whole opposes the practice of such unilateral sanctions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press briefing.
She said Iran has been seriously fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA and its efforts have been recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency dozen times. She also affirmed that China will firmly safeguard its lawful rights while continuing to adhere to JCPOA and urged relevant parties to stand on the “right side of history”.
China has maintained that implementing the Iranian nuclear deal is akin to safeguarding the authority of UN Security Council, basic norms of international law, international non-proliferation treaty and peace and stability in the Middle East.
As one of the remaining signatories of the JCPOA, along with European Union countries who are exploring options to circumvent the US sanctions, Beijing wants to keep the deal alive. China, believe experts, is in a better position compared to other Asian countries as it is not subservient to US interests and is already embroiled in a bitter trade war with Washington.
For all parties of the JCPOA, Iranian crude oil is the main commodity of interest, particularly for Beijing. In 2017, one-third of Iran’s oil was supplied to China, which underlines the significance of oil trade between the two countries. China’s commitment to continue importing oil from Iran is very likely to deal a body blow to US ploy of reducing Iranian oil imports to zero and ‘starving’ the Iranian nation.
Hu Xijin, chief editor of the influential Chinese daily Global Times, told Tehran Times that there was no possibility of Washington reducing the Iranian oil exports to zero, “because Washington lacks righteousness to do so, therefore it can’t have the full support of the international community”.
To continue oil trade in different currencies other than dollar, Iran has been in talks with key allies, including China. On September 29, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran would circumvent sanctions by conducting trade in all currencies to avoid using the US dollar. “You can use your own currency. Sell stuff in your own currency, buy stuff in the other country’s currency, and at the end of a specific period, balance it out in a non-dollar currency. It’s quite possible and may even be profitable,”
China, which is the largest oil importer in the world with around nine million barrels imports every day, has been making concerted efforts to reshape the global oil market with increased usage of its currency in oil trading. If Chinese currency manages to replace the US dollar, it will be a masterstroke.
US has been rendered friendless and isolated in its quest to tear up the Iran deal and force countries to cut oil imports from Iran. European Union has already refused to back down on the Iran deal, exploring ways to develop payment channels to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports. The goal, according to a statement issued by EU, “is to protect the freedom of other economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran”.
Beijing has expressed its full support to the EU’s proposal to set up a “special payments system” to facilitate trade with Iran and safeguard the Iranian nuclear deal, which experts believe will significantly reduce reliance on the US dollar in the global oil trade. That will be a game-changer.
First published in our partner MNA
The Implication of China’s Diplomacy in APEC and ASEAN
It is truly unusual that the Chinese President Xi Jinping and its Premier Li Keqiang are visiting the same area during nearly the same time: Xi’s visit to APEC from15th to 21st November and Li’s visit to ASEAN on 15th November. Yet, if we look into China’s foreign policy towards this area over the past years since President Xi took power, it is not difficult to understand both Xi’s and Li’s official visits to the “larger Pacific” and the meaning beyond.
As we know, President Xi has reiterated that the Pacific is large enough for the countries involved to share the prosperity with each other. In order to achieve the inclusive rather than exclusive benefits for all, China’s diplomacy aims to reject any kind of unilateralism, trade protectionism and anti-globalization. Given this, Xi’s at APEC and Li’s at AEASN is defined as a signal of China’s diplomacy to further reform and bold openness.
As a rising great country, China is surely eager to expand its investment and trade with the south Pacific area, and Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the first country visited by Chinese president. What is more, PNG joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) early 2018 and then became the first state of Pacific islands to sign the MoU on “The Belt and Road Initiative” construction. As the theme “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future,” the APEC summit will focus on Regional economic integration, digital economy, connectivity, sustainable and inclusive growth and so forth.
Also during Premier Li’s visit to the ASEAN, he highlighted the necessity of the collaboration and mutual benefit among the countries involved on the 21st China-ASEAN leaders meeting. This is also the 21st ASEAN Plus Three Summit (10+3) and the 13th East Asia Summit (EAS).
Quite understandable, since the 1960s, the center of world economy has shifted from North Atlantic to Asia-Pacific, its dynamic growth in the region create countless jobs and push the development of world economy. This is the reason that Asia-Pacific region has the most trade agreements and the most complicated economic architecture around world. APEC and ASEAN, as two institutions that possess most member states, are the very pillars of the tumbledown regional economic architecture. APEC was launched by Australia and later included 21 member states in the region, amongst are United States, China, Japan, the economic giant three of the world economy. ASEAN is an institution that consist of ten small and middle states. Though they are not strong enough to meet the challenges from the power politics alone, ASEAN is a core force that firmly facilitate the economic integration of the whole region of East Asia and the Pacific. No matter what the way they embrace, they are the de facto basic regionalism of Asia-Pacific. The withdrawing of United States from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and hard-achieved Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) once brought the regional economic architecture a fig leave and strengthened the impact of APEC and ASEAN.
As a result, the two visits of Chinese top leaders to the same region at the same time definitely attract worldwide attention, because they not only represent China’s recent diplomatic focus but also mark the fact that Asia-Pacific region has become one of the vital fields where China’s diplomacy will be actively conducting in terms of the Belt and Road Initiative, and carry on the good-neighbor policy. Since China has argued for creating a peaceful development milieu, to enhance economic transformation and upgrading oversea markets and partners in Asia-Pacific region.
Consider these facets, China, as the second largest economy, aims to promote its well-articulated stance on multilateralism and inclusiveness and globalization. As both President Xi and Premier Li have strongly said that China is ready to work with Pacific island countries to endeavor together and sail for a better future for bilateral relations. For the sake of that goal, China always believes that as long as all the countries involved have firm confidence in each other’s development, cooperation and the future of East Asia, and work closely together and forge ahead, all sides would achieve more and reach a higher level in the next 15 years.
For sure, China belongs to the part of a larger Asia-Pacific family, and the Chinese government defines its goal as the shared prosperity of this region. Therefore, China will continue to work hard and constructively to promote the overall development of impoverished but promising Pacific island countries under the Belt and Road Initiative.
An uncertain step in moving China-Japan relations
Authors: Meshach Ampwera & Luo Xinghuan
On October 26, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and praised that both China and Japan have pledged to strengthen bilateral ties amid continuous efforts made by the two nations. Xi said, “Bilateral relations have returned to the right track and gained positive momentum, which is something the two sides should cherish.” As the two largest economies in Asia, China and Japan are also the vital players in Asian security and the global development.
In addition, since this is the first official visit to China by a Japanese PM in a seven-year “Cold Peace” period, it is widely assumed that Abe’s visit symbolizes the resumption of high-level visits and will be followed by an increasing rapprochement between China and Japan. True, the leaders of the two economic giants witnessed a wide range of agreements, including a 30 billion US dollar worth of currency swap pact, the establishment of a maritime and air liaison mechanism, and enhancing people-to-people exchanges.
Yet, three factors have to be considered seriously in looking into Japanese foreign policy given the current changing geopolitical landscape regionally and globally. First, Japan has still regarded itself as a “defeated” state during the WWII. Since then, Japan’s postwar posture has frequently described as a new pacifism; yet in fact it is considerably more complex. As Henry Kissinger put it: “Japan had acquiesced in the U.S. predominance and followed the strategic landscape and the imperatives of Japan’s survival and long-term success.” This means that the governing elites in Tokyo used to hold the constitution drafted by U.S. occupying authorities with its stringent prohibition on military action, and adapted to their long-term strategic purposes. As a result, Japan was transformed from the pacific aspects of the postwar order (that prohibited military action) into a nation that has focused on other key elements of national strategy, particularly using economic leverage regionally and globally, though not uncontroversial.
Second, in a recently-released paper written by the former US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, he maintained that “Japan is a close ally of the U.S. and a rising military power, too, because of legal and constitutional changes of great significance championed by Prime Minister Abe.” In practice, the Japanese administration has engineered an expansion to enable its military to operate regionally and even globally in response to the rise of China, violent extremist activity in Asia, and the alleged North Korean belligerence.
Actually in 2013, Japanese Government White Paper revealed a desire to become a “normal country” with an active alliance policy. In a searching for a new role in the Asia-pacific region, Japan aims to act as an “anchor” of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) concluded in 2018 after the withdrawal of the United States. Now it involves 11 countries and representing 13.4% of global GDP ($ 13.5tri.). As the largest economy of the CPTPP, Japan has been active in moving it forward. Early this year when the British government stated it is exploring becoming a member of the CPTPP to stimulate exports after Brexit in 2019, Abe stated that the United Kingdom would be welcomed to join the partnership. It is said that even the U.S. reconsiders possibly rejoining the CPTPP if it were a “substantially new deal” for the United States.
Japan’s ardent involvement into the US-led strategy in Asia has also been endorsed to expand steadily as a normal power regionally and globally. For example, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) is the result of the joint declaration issued by the India and Japan in 2016. Although it is premised on four pillars of development and cooperation, it is self-evident that the AAGC reflects a growing special “strategic and global partnership between India and Japan” in which both sides have viewed China’s growing, pragmatic and successful presence in Africa as a menace. There is no question that AAGC is a well-crafted vision and agenda of both India and Japan, linking with their own development priorities. But with increasing pressure from Washington and Brussels, Japan and India are in effect driven by the option for the AAGC to rebalance China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
From the inception of the BRI, they have more than ever before been concerned with being isolated in Africa by Beijing’s initiative. But, as Ampwera Meshach, a researcher at Jilin University put it, “Africa is on the growth trend and offers potential markets and raw materials. For this reason, Africa largely needs pragmatic and scientific, technological and development- oriented initiatives and these are clearly reflected in China’s BRI.” In light of this, the AAGC does neither reflect a novel nor pragmatic approach on how it fits within the African agenda. Instead, AAGC’s foundational pillars seem more inclined to the Western cooperation approaches that have for decades not been translated into development.
Controversially, two days before Abe’s visit to Beijing, Japan had decided to scrap official development assistance (ODA) to China, which is a program where Japan provides aids to developing countries starting back in 1954. Even though some people argue that Japan’s ODA is reasonably cancelled because China’s GDP is even 2.5 times larger than that of Japan, yet, it is necessary for Chinese to be aware of the reality that Japan is a longstanding ally of the United States. As Japan has long been an economic power, its impressive military capabilities would not be confined to a strict policy of territorial defense—no projection of Japanese power or the U.S.-Japan alliance to the region as a whole.
It is during the Abe’s administration which has recognized an environment of growing Chinese assertiveness, violent extremist activity in Asia, and North Korean hostility, and therefore, Japan has eagerly participated in Asian security, including training and exercising with other nations, beyond a purely passive, home-island defense role. This makes it an increasingly important player serving the US strategy in Asia but challenging the rise of China globally.
It is true that Abe tweeted about the trip — while recognizing the challenges in moving bilateral relations forward, he said that he would still work to “push Sino-Japan relations to the next level”. Given the two countries’ economic links, it is only understandable that there is a need for the two sides to come closer. Moreover, Japanese businesses has been an extremely active force behind the government’s shift of attitude on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Yet, all in all, we should never ignore that Japan’s ambitious foreign policy has gone beyond the economic goal.
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