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Japan should avoid emulating the US

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/23 22:18:40

Photo: IC

Citing informed sources, Jiji Press of Japan reported on September 18 that the Japanese government will set up at its National Security Secretariat an economic division to formulate strategic economic policies. The move is aimed at strengthening links between economic policies and national security. The new division is anticipated to be set up in the near future. Once established, it will concentrate more economic and diplomatic power in the hands of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It will also blur the boundaries between Japan's foreign and economic policies, and the economic policies may serve diplomacy as well as ideology.

The most pertinent reason for the Abe administration to set up the economic division is due to trade disputes with South Korea. As early as March, there were voices from the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) suggesting that Japan should follow the example of the US to set up a Japanese National Economic Council (NEC) to safeguard national security from the economic and trade perspective. The LDP may have been inspired by the Donald Trump administration, since during the US-launched trade war against China, Washington has often suppressed Chinese enterprises in the name of national security. 

As for the issues related to Huawei's 5G technology, the Japanese government used to follow the US lead, but this move was criticized at home for lack of reason. Meanwhile, in early July, Japan restricted the export of three kinds of semiconductor raw materials to South Korea, citing national security concerns. The move did deal a big blow to South Korea, but there was insufficient evidence to show how Japan's "national security" was threatened at home and abroad.

In such a case, it is very necessary for the Japanese government to set up a special division on economy and national security. For now, however, the planned economic division is only a branch of Japan's National Security Secretariat, with a much lower status than originally intended. In the context of the Abe administration occupying the majority of seats in the National Diet, it is likely that legislation will be passed during an extraordinary Diet session in October. 

As the world's third-largest economy, Japan can maintain security through the establishment of the economic division, but this may also provide a "reasonable" basis for some future actions to be taken by the Japanese government which lack public support or evidence. Since the end of the WWII, Japan has established an alliance with the US, and it has followed or referred to the US in many institutional settings and regulations. However, Japan has hardly used the economic stick as frequently as the US to suppress or sanction other countries and regions. 

In fact, the current economic sanctions against South Korea are relatively rare in post-war Japanese economic history. Even during trade war between Japan and the US in the 1980s, Tokyo hardly ever imposed economic sanctions or took retaliatory measures against Washington. But today, inspired by the US attempt to suppress China during the US-China trade war, Japan is preparing to build its own mini version of the NEC. This indicates that similar economic sanctions against South Korea will take place. The possibility cannot be ruled out that Japan will also brandish the stick of "trade protectionism" in the future. 

After all, so-called national security is sometimes a very vague concept. In the absence of any substantial evidence, the US sanctioned Huawei using "national security" as an excuse. Therefore, "national security" is a fig leaf for some countries.

Japan's relations with South Korea and 极速赛车手机官网North Korea have been cold, and limited progress has been made in its ties with Mongolia and Russia. The only bright spot is the continuous improvement in bilateral relations with China. Therefore, after the establishment of Japan's mini version of the NEC, it may not immediately become a tool to cooperate with the US to suppress Chinese enterprises. 

However, it should be noted that as China's 5G technology has led the world, it gives Japan a sense of crisis for the rapid development of information and communication technology in China. If China-Japan relations worsen again due to Japan's misplaced pronouncements and moves in the future, Japan's mini version of the NEC will inevitably become a new and important means to confront China, which deserves our vigilance.

The author is a media professional and a Japan watcher. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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