Possible topics that Japan will bring up during the summit in Cologne
Ascension of China into the WTO (as discussed at the Quad in Tokyo)
Japan wants the criteria for admission to the WTO to be modified. The number one concern of the Japanese is a stable world economy, and they believe that stability is brought about by inclusion, not exclusion. The Japanese are of the opinion that the decisive criterion whether a country ought to become a member of a large economic organisation is not its economic capability, but how much the country's entry would enhance world economic stability overall. To this end Japan has been one of the main sponsors of China's admission to the WTO. Russia and South Korea may also benefit from this sentiment as Japan has been pushing for both of these countries' inclusion in the OECD.
At Cologne: Obuchi is very likely to bring this up again. He would especially like a commitment from the other leaders to speed China's entry into the WTO.
Third World Debt Relief/ODA
With both U2 and the Rolling Stones pushing for debt relief to the poorest nations, this is bound to be a catchy topic at the summit. As a major trading nation and the second-largest economy in the world, Japan relies on a stable world economy for its continued economic success, even though that seems to be in the distant future right now. Japanese analysts believe that the exclusion of the developing countries, especially those in Africa, is a major destabilising factor in the world economy, and should be addressed before it becomes an irreversible problem. This belief in inclusion as a way to stability is reflected in the way that Japan has been using its ODA: more than 40% of it goes to creating or strengthening the economic infrastructure in developing countries. Japan has also called on the NICs and the countries of Latin America to assist in ODA to the poorest of the poor and in creating a capacity in the world system for integrating the excluded poor nations.
At Cologne: Japan believes that it is its duty to restrain the USA from its adversarial attitude towards poor countries, and it may want to try to get the other G8 members to form a coalition to 'restrain' the USA, and forgive the debts. This is an important issue for the Japanese, and they will be eager for some kind of firm decision on the issue.
Japanese view creating future security policy as their biggest challenge. Japan is neither a nuclear power, nor an arms exporter; one of its ODA criteria for a recipient country is lack of nuclear development and/or proliferation. The long term goal of the Japanese government has always been, and continues to be, total world nuclear disarmament.
At Cologne: With the recent current spat between India and Pakistan this may be a topical issue. (During a recent visit to Russia, the Japanese Foreign Minister bought up the idea of a joint effort between the two countries to safely dismantle the Russian nuclear submarine fleet in the Far East. This idea was met with cautious interest from the Russian side. Japan feels that as the only nation to ever suffer from a nuclear attack it has the moral right to push the idea. However, Obuchi knows that he does not hold much credibility on the issue as long as Japan continues to be protected by the USA's nuclear umbrella.
Japan has also called for UN reforms regarding the fairness and inclusivity of its structure. Japan is of the opinion that the lines dividing the winners and losers of W.W.II are both prevalent and out-dated, and should be modified to reflect today's realities. One of these realities, of course, is that Japan is no longer the enemy, and its past should not be a factor when assessing Japan's leadership in the world community. In a recent article, the Japanese Foreign Minister stressed the irreversibility of the globalisation process, and the consequent increase in Japanese involvement in world affairs in order to protect its own interests. He wrote that the era of 'might is right' is waning, and that the balance of military power is being slowly replaced by multifaceted (soft) power. The Japanese would like to channel this power through the UN, but are naturally distrustful of its present structure.
At Cologne: This is an issue that has been dragging on and on. Obuchi is likely to bring it up, if one of the other leaders does not beat him to it. As the only non-NATO power at the summit, besides Russia, Japan will push hard for a more representative, and therefore effective, UN. Japan is likely to bring this point up as part of the discussions on UN reforms.
The Issue of the Northern Territories/Peace Treaty
Japan is very eager to finally sign a peace treaty with Russia, and regain the four northern islands that it lost to Russia after W.W.II. Talks have been under way since the Hashimoto-Yeltsin summit in Krasnoyarsk in November 1997, and the signs are very promising.
At Cologne: If Obuchi wants to pressure Yeltsin into a settlement before 2000 (which seems be a kind of ideal deadline for the Japanese government) then he may bring this issue up with all the leaders present. However, Obuchi and Yeltsin are scheduled to have a bilateral meeting at the Summit, and it is unlikely that Obuchi would jeopardise the excellent prospects of an agreement with a foolish public gesture.
Footnotes on Japan
- in early 1998 it was revealed that non-performing loans by Japanese banks could be more than Y76 710 million, three times greater than previously suspected
- the 1996 trade surplus with the USA equalled US$83 560 million, a record amount
- Japan is a member of APEC, ADB, OECD, and the WTO
- almost half of Japanese ODA goes to Asian countries, reflecting the desire on Japan's behalf to offer a helping hand to its former W.W.II adversaries
- a large percentage of Japanese ODA (40.7%) is given to projects seeking to improve the economic infrastructure of the recipient country
- Japan has been co-operating closely with Russia on a solution to the Kosovo crisis
Prepared by Gosia Bawolska, May 1999.
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