Copyright The Asahi Shimbun
In February 1972, at the height of the Cold War, U.S. President Richard Nixon surprised the world by visiting China.
In “The Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow,” edited by William Burr, the following exchange is recorded between Nixon and Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
Mao: I like rightists. People say you are rightists, that the Republican Party is to the right … . I am comparatively happy when these people on the right come into power.
Nixon: I think the important thing to note is that in America, at least this time, those on the right can do what those on the left talk about.
The gap between Nixon, an out-and-out right-winger known for his firm anti-communist stand, and the Chinese Communist Party seemed so wide that no one thought it could be bridged.
In fact, that is all the more why Nixon was able to take the bold step of visiting a country like China that suppressed its domestic opposition.
The conversation shows both leaders were well aware of the dynamics of hawkish diplomacy.
What made me remember the exchange is a story I heard about the Cabinet reshuffle on Oct. 31. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who made Shinzo Abe chief Cabinet secretary and Taro Aso foreign minister, is said to have told Aso: “Sometimes, hawks do better at foreign policy.”
Koizumi was referring not to Nixon’s China visit, but rather the conclusion of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty by the Cabinet of Takeo Fukuda.
Perhaps Koizumi wanted to say that Fukuda, a hawk, was able to accomplish what the dovish Prime Minister Takeo Miki had failed to do, despite all his eagerness. So-called hawk
“I have always been known as a so-called hawk,” Fukuda told me when I interviewed him in August 1988, which marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the treaty. “As far as China is concerned, the pro-Chinese are doves and the pro-Taiwanese are hawks. But I had a feeling that history was about to change.”
Listening to a tape of the interview after all these years, I heard Fukuda’s familiar voice repeatedly stress how times were changing.
Fukuda took over the faction formerly led by former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, who stuck to an anti-communist policy and maintained close ties with Taiwan. As I mentioned in October, it was Fukuda who, as foreign minister of the Cabinet of Eisaku Sato, supported Taiwan’s membership in the United Nations to the very end.
Who would have thought back then that he would later come to take the lead in concluding the Japan-China peace treaty?
From the time he became prime minister, Fukuda felt it was up to him to make a decision, and that he was the only one who could bring the treaty to fruition. Taking advantage of his past ties with Taiwan, he succeeded in winning over the support of pro-Taiwanese lawmakers within the Liberal Democratic Party. The intra-party tactics he used shared something in common with Nixon’s surprise Chinese visit.
Yet by no means did the Fukuda administration take a hawkish stance in dealing with foreign affairs. In fact, Foreign Minister Sunao Sonoda, who took the lead in negotiating with China, was very pro-Chinese. In this regard, the Fukuda administration is different from Koizumi’s.
As prime minister, Fukuda advocated “omnidirectional diplomacy,” under the slogan of “making friends with all countries,” in an attempt to rid his administration of its hawkish image. When he toured Southeast Asia in 1977, Fukuda announced the “Fukuda doctrine,” comprising the three basic principles of “peace,” “heart-to-heart relationships” and “equality.” His diplomacy helped ease the region’s smoldering anti-Japanese sentiment.
As for the Japan-China peace treaty, he invited Deng Xiaoping, who at that time was deputy premier of China, to the ceremony to exchange the instruments of ratification. He also arranged for a historic meeting between Deng and Emperor Showa to further encourage the friendly atmosphere.
This is the man Koizumi calls an effective disciple of hawkish diplomacy. Yet Koizumi himself appears unconcerned even as Japan’s relations with China and South Korea remain as cool as ever, and repeatedly sings the praises of good Japan-U.S. relations.
Fukuda must be rolling over in his grave. Contrast with Koizumi
If Koizumi has a carefully designed plan, I want him to show it. One of the strengths of hawkish politicians is their ability, when needed, to make tough decisions and take firm stances in defiance of public opposition. There must be something Koizumi can do.
For example, why not complete the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea, a process that remains half-finished? On second thought, maybe he should first think more seriously about how to break the deadlock in relations with China and South Korea.
It is too late to stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine, but if Koizumi is prepared to build a new national facility to honor the war dead to replace Yasukuni, what better time than now, with his own Cabinet?
Incidentally, Yasuo Fukuda, a former chief Cabinet secretary of the Koizumi Cabinet and Takeo Fukuda’s oldest son, has joined the nonpartisan group of lawmakers recently established to gauge the merits of such a new national war memorial.
In an address to the Diet in May, Fukuda reproved the administration for allowing Japan-China relations to become “abnormal.”
This was his way of remonstrating Koizumi-brand diplomacy, and its obsession with Yasukuni visits.
Abe, on the other hand, has always strongly supported the prime minister’s Yasukuni visits, and opposes a new facility.
Abe is Kishi’s grandson and the second son of Shintaro Abe, who was appointed chief Cabinet secretary of the Fukuda Cabinet. In the Koizumi Cabinet, Abe also served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary under Fukuda fils. Their relationship is thus a complicated one.
If the Takeo Fukuda Cabinet was both “hawkish” and “omnidirectional” at the same time, Abe seems to have inherited the mantle of the first and Fukuda the latter.
In the reshuffle, though, Koizumi gave the seemingly hawkish Abe a key Cabinet post.
What does this appointment mean? If it really does indicate a strategy of Koizumi’s to switch policy directions, the move is indeed intriguing.
The Japan-China peace treaty took effect Oct. 23, 1978, with Deng Xiao-ping present in Tokyo. The occasion turned over a new leaf in Japan-China relations, and things improved rapidly from that point on.
But few people know that it was just six days before, on Oct. 17, that Yasukuni Shrine secretly enshrined Class-A war criminals together with the war dead, an act that would give root to decades of controversy.
I don’t know when Fukuda heard about Yasukuni’s decision, but it certainly is quite a coincidence.
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The author heads The Asahi Shimbun’s editorial board.(IHT/Asahi: December 16,2005)