TOKYO (AP) — The United States is working with Japan and other like-minded countries to counter China’s efforts to use its economic power to force political change around the world, the U.S. ambassador to Japan said Tuesday at his interview with the Associated Press.
Rahm Emanuel, who was previously the mayor of Chicago and chief of staff to President Barack Obama, is promoting what he calls “trade diplomacy,” the idea that the United States and Japan will be more willing to trade with each other and with similar security . and stable countries amid concerns caused by the COVID pandemic, the war in Ukraine and Chinese economic coercion.
“From intellectual property theft to coercion to debt addiction that China is creating, the idea that they could actually say honestly, “We’re not coercing,” and then you don’t have one, or two, or three — many global examples of them using their economic market access to force a political change a country… I think everyone has woken up to that,” Emmanuel told the AP in an interview at his residence in the heart of central Tokyo.
Emanuel, who arrived in Japan in January, presented some examples of Chinese coercion, including in Japanwhich saw Chinese shipments of rare earth metals blocked due to a territorial dispute; South Korea, which suffered a boycott of Chinese businesses when it installed a US missile defense system. Australia and countries in Europe and Southeast Asia.
He said that by finding ways for Japan and the United States to resist Chinese economic coercion was one of the first issues he raised with the Japanese foreign minister.
Emanuel has repeatedly declined to talk about an expected visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own and has threatened to use force to unify if necessary, referring questions to the White House.
China has criticized the potential trip in recent days, which would make Pelosi the highest-ranking elected US official to visit in more than 25 years. Local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi would arrive on Tuesday night.
Japan has expressed deep concern over increased Chinese activities in regional seas, including the Japanese-controlled island claimed by Beijing, and has pushed for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
While refraining from commenting on Taiwan, Emmanuel praised Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s commitment to a “significant increase” in both the country’s defense budget and military capabilities.
Kishida’s efforts to overhaul Japan’s national security strategy and basic defense guidelines are a legacy of his hawkish mentor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July.
Kishida also said he was open to the possibility of a pre-emptive strike, which opponents say would go far beyond Japan’s war-renouncing constitution, which limits the use of force in self-defense. Kishida also proposed a significant increase in Japan’s defense budget – possibly doubling to 2 percent of GDP, a NATO standard – over the next five years.
“To the prime minister’s credit, he looked around the corner and realized what was happening in this region and the world — Japan had to move forward in ways it hadn’t done before,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel also cited economic opportunities for Japan and the United States in electric vehicle batteries, energy, new research and technology in small modular nuclear reactors, aviation technology and semiconductors.
The business leaders he met as ambassador to Japan would have evaluated a capital spending decision in the past purely on questions of cost, logistics and efficiency, he said, but now they are willing to pay more to avoid penalties and volatility.
“This is a major shift in thinking,” he said.
“For the last 20 or 30 years, cost and efficiency have been the driving factors. They drove public policy and drove corporate decisions. Today cost and efficiency are being replaced, they are being replaced by stability and sustainability,” Emanuel said.