Section 2. Japan in the Global Context


These changes in the international community affect Japan as well. The global response to the Funeral Ceremonies for the Emperor Showa is but one example of the importance that the world now attaches to Japan. And these changes make it imperative that Japan play a more important role to help to solve international problems.


1. The End of an Era


The Emperor Showa passed away on January 7, 1989, and the representatives of 149 countries participating in the Paris Conference on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the time observed a minute of silence in his honor. Ceremonies for the Emperor were held in Shinjuku Gyoen on February 24 with heads of state and other official mourners from 164 countries, the EC, and 27 international organizations in attendance to pay their last respects. This was an unprecedented international response, both in terms of the number of the countries that sent mourners and in terms of their rank. It was truly the end of an era and the beginning of another.

The strong international representation at the Funeral Ceremonies was eloquent testimony to the world's great respect for both the Emperor himself and the Japanese Imperial family as well as evidence of Japan's position in the world, the international interest in things Japanese, and the importance that the world places on Japan.

The foreign media also expressed a strong interest in the Funeral Ceremonies. In many countries, special features on Japan were timed to coincide with the funeral - further indication of the strong interest in Japan. Many reports focused on the harmony between the traditional and the modern in contemporary Japan, expressing a fresh appreciation of Japanese developments. Many of these same reports were built around the idea that Japan would have to assume responsibilities commensurate with its national strength. At the same time, they attempted a historical appraisal of the Showa era. Japanese should think long and hard about the fact that not a few of these commentaries raised the issue of Japan's responsibility for the war. It is also worth noting that, instead of simple anti-Japanese rhetoric, there was an increase in what might be called "constructive" criticism to get Japan to act commensurate with its abilities.


2. The International Environment Surrounding Japan and Japan's Position


The importance attached to Japan shown on the occasion of the Funeral Ceremonies for the Emperor Showa is an objective reflection of Japan's international position and the strong international interest in what Japan will do. Japan is now an economic superpower, and what kind of country Japan becomes during the remainder of this century will inevitably have a major impact on the rest of the world, whether this will be for the better or the worse.

Although Japan has approximately only 2.5% of the world's population and only 0.3% of the world's land area, it accounts for far more than 10% of world GNP and is the second-largest industrialized democracy. Japan accounted for 8.0% of world trade in 1987 and is a world-leader in a number of advanced technologies such as semiconductors and superconductivity. In 1988, Japan disbursed $9.1 billion in official development assistance (ODA), which was nearly as much as the $9.8 billion disbursed by the United States. Japan has provided assistance to all 128 developing countries that are members of the United Nations and was the prime source of economic assistance to 29 countries in 1987. Japan's subscription to the U.N. topped $470 million in 1986 - 11.3% of the total and second only to the United States. Japan is now playing a major role in resolving many world problems.

However, international circumstances surrounding Japan are trying. In the political sphere, Japan faces such difficult questions as how to react to new developments in East-West relations and other areas and what role to play in contributing to world peace and prosperity. Japan must now contribute vigorously to resolving the many regional conflicts and helping with post-conflict economic reconstruction. In the economic sphere, there are a number of issues mainly among the industrialized democracies that demand immediate attention and settlement, such as the massive external imbalances, market access, domestic and overseas investment and intellectual property rights. There is also fierce competition among the industrialized democracies in advanced technology and other scientific and technological areas. With the persistence of external imbalances and the delays in restructuring, there is an increasing propensity toward unilateralism, bilateralism, managed trade and other forms of protectionism. Instability in the developing countries is another critical problem, not only economically but also in terms of maintaining world peace. Neither is there any dearth of other problems, including the issue of relief for the LLDCs and debt restructuring for the debtor countries. Environmental and energy problems are other global problems demanding a Japanese vigorous response. The flow of people across borders has brought with it its own set of problems. Over 10 million people pass through Japanese immigration control annually, and problems have arisen with exchange students and foreign laborers in Japan, as well as with the behavior of Japanese people overseas.

The fact that Japan has become more important internationally and international developments have a direct impact on Japanese interests means that it is increasingly difficult for Japan to protect its interests unless it makes positive efforts to solve these problems. It is no longer possible or permissible for Japan to ignore these problems. At the same time, domestic public opinion in all countries is starting to have a greater impact on international politics. If Japan is to be diplomatically effective, it must strive to gain the understanding of all peoples everywhere in all walks of life and, instead of becoming introverted, must assume an extrovert stance toward the rest of the world.

The world is constantly changing, but there has been no change in the basic Japanese values which have to be defended. Japan must continue to defend its peace and prosperity that we are enjoying now and the freedom, democracy, and free-trade arrangements that made this possible. As a major player in the international order, Japan must, while adhering to the values that serve as the foundation for its postwar peace and prosperity, take the initiative in accepting more responsibility to enhance world peace and prosperity within this changing context. Japan's international role is growing rapidly larger. Japan must thus carry out further domestic reform to adapt its political, economic, social, and other domestic arrangements to the changing world so as to better contribute to world peace and prosperity. It is, in short, imperative that Japan restructure its domestic systems and undertake vigorous diplomatic efforts commensurate with its determination to contribute to a better world.


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