by Xinhua writer Zhu Chao
TOKYO, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the host of a summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which runs from Friday to Sunday, Japan treated its "guests" with a generous package of assistance and loans, hoping to win their support on so- called "maritime and air security" issues.
Tokyo's move is apparently designed to make mischief between ASEAN countries and China, which runs counter to the broader cooperation in East Asia and is doomed to failure.
At the celebratory summit which marked the 40th anniversary of Japan's ties with ASEAN on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 69 billion yen (669 million U.S. dollars) in loans to the Philippines to rehabilitate typhoon-hit areas and boost the country's maritime security, and 62 billion yen (601 million dollars) to Indonesia for infrastructure building in areas such as railways and sewers.
Besides these, Japan plans a total of 20 billion dollars' assistance and loans to ASEAN countries.
While delivering such a big gift pack, Japan is looking for something in return -- support on its territorial dispute with China.
But the guests' reaction may disappoint Abe.
Despite Tokyo's desire to jointly denounce Beijing's recent announcement of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, ASEAN leaders simply did not want to meddle with the dispute between Japan and China.
A summit declaration issued on Saturday failed to include a sentence proposed by Japan to criticize China's air defense zone as a security threat.
During a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Abe explained Japan's stance on China's air defense zone, which covers the disputed Diaoyu Islands, but Yudhoyono did not give a definite answer as Abe had hoped.
"When the border negotiations are still ongoing, having an open line of communication is crucial to avoid miscalculation that may occur in and around the disputed area," Yudhoyono said, without naming a specific location.
Japan should not forget that much of the Southeast Asia suffered Japanese aggression during World War II like China. Until recently many remained openly wary over the rising risk of a resurgence of Japanese militarism.
As Yudhoyono said, "in our view, it is important that Japan's larger security role is pursued gradually, in a transparent manner and in ways that would strengthen international security, regional order and enhance confidence building."
Looking back into history, Japan's most successful policy toward ASEAN was the "Fukuda Doctrine" in the 1970s. The success of it should firstly be owed to the commitment made by then Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo to ASEAN leaders: Japan, a country committed to peace, would never become a military power and would build up a relationship of mutual confidence and trust with Southeast Asian countries in wide-ranging fields.
Unfortunately, what the Abe administration has done is in the opposite direction and an increasingly right-leaning Japan has aroused concerns among its neighbors.
It is logical for ASEAN not to side with Japan, not only because of the unforgettable war history, but more because of Japan's intention to forget the lesson of history.
Japan should face the fact that China has become ASEAN's biggest trade partner and the largest export market since 2011, which means China is becoming more and more relevant in the region. There's no reason for ASEAN countries to risk ties with Beijing out of gratitude to Tokyo.
A peaceful and prosperous region is in the interests of all relevant parties. As a responsible partner of ASEAN, Japan needs to play a constructive role in regional cooperation, rather than playing one off against another.
Japan-ASEAN Summit publishes joint statement
TOKYO, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) nations on Saturday issued a joint statement here, in which the two sides pledged to strengthen cooperation in the fields of economy, disaster relief and security.
During the Commemorative Summit to mark the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Japan relations, the two sides discussed regional and global issues. Full story