This week, US Deputy State Secretary William Burns is on a trip to South Korea, China, and Japan. It is widely believed that the purpose of his visit to Asia is to "mediate" Japan's relations with China and South Korea.
It is no coincidence that starting from the beginning of the 21st century, almost every trip to East Asia by US officials, from Presidents to Assistant Secretaries of State, has involved visits to China, Japan and South Korea. Although interpretations of this phenomenon vary, there is no doubt that the US has attached great importance to its relationship with the three nations. China is a rising power in Asia Pacific, while Japan and South Korea are important allies of the US in the region. US foreign policy towards Asia Pacific, be it called "Pivot to Asia" or "Strategic Rebalancing", cannot circumvent the task of dealing with the three nations. This leaves no room for doubt that the US is an important player - an 'insider' - when it comes to East Asia regional affairs.
At present, the continued discord between Japan and its neighboring countries has presented the US with a dilemma for which the US itself shares responsibility.
Historically speaking, the US is responsible for the rise of troublemakers like Shinzo Abe.
After the Second World War, the US treated Japanese militarism and German Nazism in markedly different ways. Instead of sorting the problem out thoroughly, as it did with Nazi Germany, the US, in the context of the Cold War, failed to comply strictly with its obligations as imposed by the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration. The US did not take the opportunity of its occupation of Japan to deal with the country's war crimes, and failed to eradicate the stain of militarism and its social foundations in the country. For years the U.S. has turned a blind eye towards the growth of Japan's right-wing forces; in the last decade it has gone further, encouraging Japan to go beyond its exclusive defense-oriented policy, enlarging its military and increasing its defense budget.
As the only ally of Japan, and its most important external influence, the US is also responsible for the path Japan takes in the future.
The US sees its alliance with Japan as the cornerstone of its Asia Pacific strategy. For a long period, the US stressed its responsibility to protect Japan. Since the turn of the new century, however, through its need to 'fight terrorism' and its determination to check the rise of China, and constrained by its defense budget, the US has invited Japan to assume greater responsibility for its own security. The US has therefore been complicit in Japan's turn to the right, thereby upsetting its own strategic balance. If this situation is allowed to continue, the US is going to lose rather than gain from its Asia Pacific strategy.
In order to counter accusations of the "China Threat", and to address the US concern that a rising China would "kick it out of Asia", China has stated its position clearly: that it welcomes the prospect of the US playing a constructive role in the Asia Pacific region. Currently, a constructive role for the US requires a halt to its blinkered partisanship, an end to its conniving with Japanese manipulation, and the maintenance of its constraints on any tendencies towards extremism. Expressing "disappointment" is unlikely to act as much of a deterrent to a "ghost worshiper" like Abe.
Whether the US will be able to acknowledge and shoulder its responsibilities for issues concerning Japan remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: if it cannot manage to do that, its "constructive role" in Asia Pacific is bound to be compromised, no matter how many times people like Burns travel to the area.
The article is edited and translated from《美对日仅“失望”就够了吗？》. Source: People's Daily Overseas Edition. Author: Hua Yiwen.