September 22, 2004

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The Grand Bargain

Japan is currently making a concerted push for a permanent seat on the UN's Security Council. There are plenty of obstacles, not least China's strained relationship with Japan. China has recently reshuffled its senior diplomats in Japan and is slowly warming to its erstwhile occupier and enemy number one. But there is a long way to go before there can be a genuine rapprochement between these two great Asian powers. For example senior Japanese politicians, for domestic political reasons, each year visit shrines to the war dead that include war criminals. That naturally provokes outrage from China and other Asian countries. Also much of Asia is still waiting for a true show of contrition from Japan for its actions in and before WW2, again something that Japan has been reluctant to do for domestic political reasons.

However the outlines of some kind of grand bargain is emerging where several of these issues can be used together to move forward. China at this point would not allow Japan to become a permament member of the Security Council. Japan finds it impossible to apologise for WW2 and avoid veneration of its war dead. The possible deal could be this: Japan formally apologises and undertakes to avoid provocations in return for China accepting and even pushing for Japan's seat at the UN. This should help Japan's domestic political pressures as there is an obvious benefit in being considered a modern world power with a seat at the big table in return for the apology. And it could help China by having a second Asian nation (with perhaps India as well) as a major power in the UN. It may furthermore lead to even better relations between China and Japan, Asia's most crucial relationship.

It might be a long shot, but the potential is there.

posted by Simon on 09.22.04 at 11:02 AM in the


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