A revitalized Japan and its future role
    Category: Column By : Jusuf Wanandi Read : 858 Date : Monday, November 04, 2013 - 08:13:35

    After 15 years of an underperforming economy and limited effectiveness of successive short-lived governments (except for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet), Japan has been given new hope thanks to a more stable and decisive leadership under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has introduced economic reforms. While its most difficult but important part of its structural reform, the so-called third arrow, has yet to show results, the first and the second arrows, namely financial and monetary reforms (overcoming deflation and implementing the devaluation of the yen) have already shown some positive results.

    With Abe at the helm, we hope Japan has rediscovered its self-confidence and its capabilities to again become another economic locomotive for East Asia besides China. Abe should understand that countries in East Asia have given support to Japan because for 70 years it has been a pacifist, liberal and democratic country. Japan has also been helpful to the countries in East Asia, the Asia Pacific and indeed to the world. That is why the region expects Abe to appreciate the factors that led to the regional support for Japan, now and in the future.

    It will be difficult for the region to trust him if Japan chooses to toy with new revisionist policies unacceptable to most of East Asia. It should be recognized that the issue of the wartime history is not fully resolved despite Prime Minister Murayama showing remorse for Japan's wartime aggression and atrocities, and that of Foreign Minister Kohei Kono admitting mistakes of having comfort women. Both statements are considered by Southeast Asians as adequate efforts to say sorry for the mistakes done. Abe should never dismiss them as unimportant, because otherwise he will only reap negative reactions. And Japan can expect strong criticism that also comes from the Southeast Asians.

    Southeast Asia has been close to Japan and is grateful for its economic support and development assistance. This state of relations should be maintained, a Japan that Southeast Asia can expect to care for regional peace and development. For that purpose ASEAN should be willing to broaden and deepen its relations with Japan not only in the economic field but also in the political and security fields, and in people-to-people relations. ASEAN is ready to cooperate with Japan on strategic issues through dialogue, anti-piracy efforts, fighting terrorism, peacekeeping and disaster management.

    Since 2012 there have been joint efforts between ASEAN and Japanese thinktanks to embark on an ASEAN-Japan strategic partnership. The first part on bilateral cooperation between ASEAN and Japan beyond 2015 will be delivered to the leaders of the eleven countries, and will be the main input for the Special ASEAN-Japan Summit in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the ASEAN-Japan partnership this month.

    The second part is how ASEAN and Japan should cooperate in East Asian regional institutions and in global governance, an effort that will be finalized in 2014. It will also go through exchanges in public forums for input and feedback, and then delivered to the leaders of each government. The idea is to have an ASEAN-Japan partnership that is no longer confined to government-to-government cooperation only but also one that involves broader stakeholders such as NGOs, the media, academia and thinktanks.