of East Asia and Japan by Former CG Mitoji Yabunaka
• Former Consul General Mitoji Yabunaka visited Chicago and spoke about “Great Transformation of East Asia and Japan” on June 5 at DoubleTree Hotel Arlington Heights. The event was hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago. The English version of the event was also held on the same day in the evening in Chicago and was hosted by the Japan America Society of Chicago.
• After leaving Chicago in 2002, Yabunaka was appointed as the Director-General of the Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau and took part with the role of the chief representative of the Japanese Government at the Six-party Talks on the North Korea nuclear issue. In 2008, he was appointed as the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and briefed four prime ministers about international situations. After his retirement in 2010, he is Eminent Professor at the Ritsumeikan University and Osaka University as well as Advisor to the Foreign Ministry.
• P. M. Abe visits the U.S.
• Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met President Obama on April 28, and the two leaders reaffirmed the Japan-US Alliance. Abe’s visit was timely and successful. There were two fortunate factors for Abe. The first was the U.K.’s participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank initiative by China, while Japan and the U.S. have withheld their participation. The second was increasing vigilance on China's rapid land reclamations around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
• European countries have welcomed the
rise of China, while most Japanese people aren’t enthusiastic about it.
The U.S. would be somewhere in between. Many Americans perceived that
China’s rise wouldn’t be a surprise.
• China’s recent behavior in the South
China Sea has alarmed the U.S. Defense Department. China is allegedly
going to build a military base on the reclamation land in the Spratly
Islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia,
and Brunei. Will the U.S. deploy carriers in the Spratly Islands? The
situation would be different from the Taiwan Strait in 1996. Yabunaka
said that China has begun to obtain “access denial power” that will block
easy access by other forces.
• Japan needs to change its security-related legislation to enable the Self-Defense Forces to act effectively due to the undermined security environment surrounding Japan. However, Japanese lawmakers have discussed the Strait of Hormuz as to whether they could deploy troop of the Self-Defense Forces to remove naval mines set in the sea lanes. The discussion should be focused on the South China Sea. In the case of a military clash between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea, how should Japan react? It would be too fearful for Japanese lawmakers to think about it.
• Japan-China Joint Exploration Agreement
• China had claimed 350 nautical miles
in the East China Sea because it believed that a continental shelf extended
to the Okinawa Trough. However, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
stated that an agreement should be made among countries which shared the
same sea. Japan and China had disputed about it for a long time.
• Yobunaka emphasized that Japan and China should work together on the collaborative projects immediately. He said that China hasn’t forgotten about the agreements and has patiently held to them. He urgently spoke about the need for setting up a communication channel to avoid confrontation between the two countries and for the maritime rule in the East and South China Sea for free navigation. He also said that any dispute should be solved by peaceful resolution, not by force.
• Partner for ASEAN
• Japan is viewed as the most reliable
ASEAN country. 33 % of the countries trust Japan, while 16 % trust the
U.S., and 5 % trust China.
• Yobunaka said, “This is what the world expects of Japan. I have asked the Abe administration to take right actions, and to have right leadership with right messages to the world.”
• An Interview with Mitoji Yabunaka
• Q: Should Japan become militarily active?
• Yabunaka: Japan is a peaceful nation,
but we have to strengthen the defense to have a seamless reaction against
any threat. We have to be prepared for the defense, but not for fights.
• Q: Regarding the change of Japan’s security-related legislation, I see a tendency that Japanese media have focused on negative effects of the law, such as involvement in wars and the lack of explanation by P.M. Abe. What do you think about it?
• Yabunaka: There are ten laws in the security-related legislation, and they are very difficult to fully understand. I think that most lawmakers haven’t read the full text of the legislation. Thus, their deep discussions haven’t begun yet. I think that it takes time, and they will discuss it well.
• Q: Thank you ver
Mitoji Yabunaka, former Vice-Minister for
Foreign Affairs and former Consul General in Chicago
A map of the South China Sea (the photo is borrowed from Mr. Yabunaka's presentation)
A map of the East China Sea. A square in the center is the place where Japan and China agreed in 2008 to develop an oil and gas field. (the photo is borrowed from Mr. Yabunaka's presentation)