Records trace Miyazawa’s realistic side in foreign affairs

Former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, who was seen as a dove on the political spectrum, had advocated a stronger Japan-U.S. security alliance and warned about China’s rise as a military power from early on.

Newly found records of his daily political activities over 40 years until the year before his death in 2007 included entries about two key speeches that Miyazawa made before international audiences.

Known for his diplomatic expertise, Miyazawa delivered a commemorative speech in San Francisco on Sept. 6, 2001, at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the San Francisco peace treaty.

After the end of World War II, a young Miyazawa was involved in Japan’s peace treaty negotiations with Allied powers as a Finance Ministry bureaucrat and secretary to the finance minister.

He attended the treaty signing ceremony in 1951 as a member of the Japanese delegation at the age of 31.

At the 2001 ceremony, he spoke in English in a matter-of-fact manner, but the speech contained a few surprises.

Miyazawa proposed that Japan be allowed to exercise its right to collective self-defense, as an extension of its right to individual self-defense, for U.S. military activities concerning the national security of Japan.

Thirteen years later, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved changing the long-established government interpretation of a constitutional provision to enable Japan to partially exercise its right to collective self-defense.

But Miyazawa imposed strict conditions for opening the door to Japan’s exercise of its right to collective self-defense, which set his proposal apart from what conservative, nationalist politicians would call for.

Specifically, he argued that Japan must reaffirm its commitment not to deploy the Self-Defense Forces for purposes other than self-defense and not to equip itself with nuclear weapons.

At the time of the 2001 speech, the international community was largely optimistic about the path China would take.

But Miyazawa said he cannot help but worry about the possibility of China morphing into a military power. He proposed building a framework to engage China in the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

In the records of his daily political activities, Miyazawa, who served as prime minister between 1991 and 1993, wrote about the speech in San Francisco as early as Jan. 30, 2001.

The records include seven entries about the speech, showing he carefully prepared its contents through discussions with scholars of international politics and other experts.

Miyazawa visited London in March 1980 to attend a plenary meeting of the Trilateral Commission, a forum where politicians, business leaders and other experts from Japan, the United States and Europe discuss policy issues.

In a keynote speech, Miyazawa suggested that Japan and European countries share more of the burden that the United States had shouldered single-handedly.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 ended the detente that characterized the 1970s and raised the specter of a new Cold War.

In the speech, Miyazawa said the United States should acknowledge the reality that it could no longer wield the power it once had on the economic front.

On the other hand, he said neither Europe nor Japan had been able to share the burden as demanded by the United States, creating an imbalance of power and responsibility.

Miyazawa, who was well versed in U.S. affairs, was concerned that the U.S.-led international order had shown signs of destabilizing.

He shared those concerns with Takakazu Kuriyama, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau.

In the records of his daily political activities, Miyazawa wrote in an entry dated March 12, 1980, that Kuriyama helped him draft the speech.

Kuriyama, who later served as vice foreign minister and Japanese ambassador to the United States, wrote in his book that he inserted his personal views in Miyazawa’s speech on the state of the Western alliance and the path that Japan should take in that context.

The issue of burden sharing grew into the most important challenge for the U.S. relationships with Japan and European countries in the 1980s.

The Japan Center for International Exchange serves as one of the regional secretariats for the Trilateral Commission, which was founded in 1973.

Tadashi Yamamoto, the center’s founding president who died in 2012, had said Miyazawa’s speech attracted the most attention in the history of the Trilateral Commission.

You may also like...