【Editorial】2024 Diplomatic Bluebook:“Strategic Reciprocity” Questionable with China.

【Original】Apr 18, 2024

The Diplomatic Bluebook for 2024 was reported to the Cabinet by Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa. The expression“mutually beneficial relations based on common strategic interests (herein referred to as ‘strategic reciprocity’)”with China was revived for the first time in five years.

However, it is difficult to say whether the time is ripe to extract concessions from China, which is engaged in hegemonic maritime expansion and has insisted it would not hesitate in taking military action to reunify with Taiwan. Verbal misunderstandings may propel them to do so.

Xi Regime in Pursuit of the “Chinese Dream”

Strategic reciprocity is an idea to strengthen relations between Japan and China, which are at odds over historical perception and ideology, in areas that benefit both sides, such as environmental and North Korean issues.

However, as the Xi Jinping regime enters its third term in pursuit of the “Chinese dream,” China is promoting the “the revival of the great Chinese people” while exalting patriotism. This has become a blatant move to “change the status quo by force” and situations cannot be overlooked in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait.

The release of treated water, which met safety standards at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, not only led to an embargo on Japanese marine products, but also to an outpouring of phone calls from China complaining to retailers in Fukushima Prefecture.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) along with many other countries have expressed their understanding of water safety treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which has combined the best of environmental countermeasure technologies. China’s embargo restrictions are political and put economic and diplomatic pressure on Japan.

Needless to say, Japan would like to pursue mutually beneficial ties with any country that develops economic relations under the law. Although Japan has a history of diplomacy that “comprehensively promotes ‘strategic reciprocity’” with China, their questionable behavior during the Xi regime has prevented this phrase from being used in the Bluebook for five years.

The premise for reviving this expression of strategic reciprocity is for China to abandon its hegemonic maritime advance and cease military actions that threaten Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands, the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and other neighboring areas, as well as violations of territorial waters using Coast Guard vessels. The current situation is deteriorating and tensions are rising, with concerns that the Japanese side will be perceived as “weak.”

Multilateral cooperation is essential to counter China’s “change of status quo by force” at sea. In the South China Sea, the Bluebook stated that “in light of the challenging strategic environment, the three countries of Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines will work to materialize cooperation,” and also noted that cooperation among Japan, the U.S., and South Korea has become “even more crucial for the realization of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)’ based on the rule of law.”

Showing the Determination to Protect Taiwan

In response to the tense situation in Taiwan, China reiterated its assertion that “it will never compromise its core interests” during a video teleconference between the defense ministers of the U.S. and China.

The Bluebook emphasizes Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recognition that “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait are of vital importance to the international community, including Japan.” The paper continues, “Taiwan is an extremely important partner and valued friend of Japan, sharing fundamental values and principles such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law, as well as close economic ties and people-people exchanges.” Japan should convey its determination to China that it will protect and defend a valued friend.

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