JAPANESE MUST RECOGNIZE SHIFT TOWARDS WORLD RULED BY POWER
On July 8, Donald Trump showed up late for talks with fellow G7 leaders in Quebec and left them behind early the following day, skipping the final afternoon session.
As is widely known, the talks in Quebec turned into a “6+1” summit, as Trump developed sharp differences with his colleagues over issues such as America’s steel and aluminum import restrictions and retaliatory tariffs.
Freeing himself from the strained atmosphere of the G7 deliberations, Trump flew straight off to Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong-un June 12.
Referring to Kim at a post-summit news conference in Singapore, Trump said: “I do trust him, yeah.” He further tweeted the following day: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
But Trump’s optimism, which instantly led to a postponement of joint US-South Korea military exercises, would quickly prove to be unfounded. On June 29, NBC News quoted an unnamed US official as asserting: “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.” Satellite imagery has since shown that North Korea is upgrading its nuclear and ballistic facilities, including one in Yongbyon.
Against such a backdrop, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang for consultations with North Korean officials July 6-7. Before leaving Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport for Tokyo on Friday, he described his talks with the North Koreans as “very productive.”
After Pompeo departed, however, an unnamed spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry provided quite a different and much harsher assessment of the talks, saying: “The US is sorely mistaken if it thinks North Korea will be compelled to accept its gangster-like demands.”
In Tokyo for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts—Taro Kono and Kang Kyung-wha—Pompeo blamed the media for the stark difference in how he assessed the talks compared with how the North Korean Foreign Ministry viewed them, saying:
”If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster. People are going to make certain comments after meetings. If I paid attention to the press, I’d go nuts and I refuse to do that.”
Differentiating Allies from Foes
From Pompeo’s latest talks with the North Koreans, it is evident that the North will not agree to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID). The dismantling of nuclear weapons should have been discussed during his stay, if the North had had the will to implement CVID. But Pompeo still claims that the US has not been deceived by the North.
The Wall Street Journal criticized Trump’s North Korean policy in its July 2 editorial titled North Korea Keeps Enriching Uranium: Troubling new evidence that Kim Jong-un isn’t honoring his promises, noting: “The activity at Yongbyon shows that Kim has pocketed the carrot of a presidential summit without taking steps to denuclearize.”
Trump is scheduled to attend a NATO summit in Brussels July 11-12. Last month, he sent angry letters to the leaders of America’s NATO allies, demanding that they increase mutual-defense burden their share of the alliance’s defense spending.
NATO was inaugurated in 1949 by the US, Canada, and 10 European nations as a collective defense mechanism aimed at coping with the threat from the Soviet Union. Article V of its treaty states: “The parties agree that an attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”
Trump criticizes NATO allies for not spending enough on their own security. In March 2014, when Russia launched a military incursion into eastern Ukraine and wrested away the Crimean Peninsula, NATO members agreed to allocate 2% of their GDP to defense, of which more than 20% was to be spent to improve armaments and equipment.
Only four member nations have honored the agreement: the US (3.57%), Greece (2.36%), Britain (2.12%), and Estonia (2.08%), while the other member nations have fallen short, including Germany (1.24%), France (1.79%), and Canada (1.29%).
This lack of cooperation prompted Trump to write to NATO leaders, harshly questioning why they failed to meet the minimum standard. Trump’s anger is understandable, as America is burdened with the greatest military expenditure in the world. But one simply cannot understand why he is meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki following the NATO summit.
Just before the G7 summit in Quebec, Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of Seven industrial nations. A high-ranking French government official brushed aside his request on the grounds that Russia hardly deserves to be readmitted while still holding on to the Crimean region. Angela Merkel and Teresa May, prime ministers of German and Britain respectively, expressed equally strong objections.
As noted earlier, NATO’s 2% agreement on budget allocation was spurred by Russia’s egregious seizure of the Crimean Peninsula while invading Ukraine. Criticizing America’s NATO allies for not honoring the agreement on the one hand, however, Trump says he will hold a summit with Putin on the other, declaring: “So I have NATO, I have the UK, which is somewhat in turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. I get along with him well.”
So Trump goes off to meet with Kim Jong-un after causing a rift with America’s closest western allies in Quebec. And now he is ready for a summit with Putin after quite likely rebuking NATO members strongly again in Brussels. All this simply implies that Trump is incapable of differentiating between America’s friends and foes.
What Japan Must Do to Back the US
The world today is witnessing a fierce clash of values. Trump may be preoccupied with the mid-term elections, but the international community is faced with a critical situation in which American values, which have advanced the cause of freedom over the past century, may before long be replaced by Chinese values that advocate arbitrary rule.
Pax Americana, which has long sustained world order, is sadly crumbling under Trump, showing growing signs of coming under the sway of a new era of Pax Sinica. There is a shift from a rules-based world to one that revolves around power. North Korea and Russia are among the nations that subscribe to Chinese values, ruthlessly suppressing freedom and democracy.
An interpretation of the US-North Korean relationship becomes easier when the China factor is taken into consideration. Last month, on his third trip to China this year, Kim Jong-un told Xi Jing-pin that their two countries “support each other like family members” and was quoted as saying that their two nations “cooperate closely like being under the same general staff office.” Trump on his part has said that he will “consider North Korea” when deliberating trade matters involving China.
When Washington has a tough time dealing with North Korea, it is a blessing for Beijing. The more Pyongyang asks Washington for the impossible, the more help Washington will require from Beijing. I suspect that China and North Korea could have conspired with each other in enticing the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman to call Pompeo’s demands for CVID “gangster-like.”
Almost coincidentally, the US and China have launched what could become a wholesale trade war, imposing retaliatory tariffs on each other’s goods.
There actually are a number of things Japan can do as a responsible democracy and America’s vital Pacific ally. What the US intends to achieve is an elimination of illegal and unfair Chinese trade practices. Trump should have known that America could have achieved this goal by remaining within the framework of the TPP (Transpacific Partnership) free trade deal, but he withdrew America from the TPP soon after coming to power in January 2017.
With Trump’s abdication of America’s role in the world, there is all the more reason for Abe to step up and do what he can to fill the void.
The European Union recently announced that it has formally decided to sign an expansive free trade pact (EPA) with Japan on July 11. The new TPP that Japan was instrumental in putting together after the US pullout was signed in Santiago, Chile, last March by the original 11 Pacific nations, minus the US. Japan must now make every effort to implement these frameworks at an early stage, coordinating closely with nations that share democratic values. This must definitely precede an implementation of the projected RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) free trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific region—a setup China is out to dominate.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 811 in the July 12, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)