How to create peaceful East Asia without fear of war--An excerpt from Shii's speech at the JCP Congress

[Editor's note: This is an excerpt from a speech given by Japanese Communist Party Executive Committee Chair Shii Kazuo at the 29th JCP Congress on January 15, 2024. He is now Chair of the JCP Central Committee].

First, I would like to talk about how we can create a peaceful East Asia without fear of war.

From December 19 to 27, a JCP delegation visited three countries in Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam. This visit was arranged based on the partial revision of the Party Program we made in the last Congress 4 years ago when we recognized the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to build a regional community for peace as "a significant contribution to the peaceful order of the world." I talked about the details of the visit in the "urgent report" in the January 1 issue of Shinbun Akahata. Here I would like to speak on the development of awareness we have gained through this visit and the direction we can take to further develop our diplomatic policy.

ASEAN's latest achievement: much wisdom for peace

First, we were able to vividly grasp the latest achievement of ASEAN's efforts and gain much wisdom on the topic of making peace.

How was ASEAN able to turn the region into a community for peace? In our talks in Indonesia, our counterparts stressed that Southeast Asia has a good "habit of dialogue". When I visited the ASEAN headquarters 10 years ago, I was surprised to hear that ASEAN held 1,000 meetings a year in the region. When I mentioned this in the talks this time, I was even more surprised because they told us that they now have more than 1,500 meetings a year, increasing 1.5 times in 10 years, and that "not just quantity, but quality matters." They also explained: ASEAN's "habit of dialogue" is a "byproduct of diversity"; Southeast Asia has diverse races, languages, religions, economic developments, and social systems; because of the diversity, they had no choice but to promote dialogue; and, "Dialogue is our everyday life, our way of life." These were very memorable words.  

Why is ASEAN trying to extend regional cooperation to countries outside the region and the whole of East Asia with the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP)? The answer given to this question was this: Since peace and stability in Northeast Asia are important for peace and stability in Southeast Asia, they are making efforts to expand the "habit of dialogue" in the whole of East Asia. They stressed that only with peace and stability can they prosper. This reminded me of the slogan, "Business thrives only in peace," promoted by the Democratic Commerce and Industry Organizations (Minsho) and the All-Japan Commerce and Industry Organization Association (Zenshoren). I want to emphasize that ASEAN's wishes are the same as Japanese small- and medium-sized business owners.

How is ASEAN trying to respond to the increasing rivalry between the U.S. and China? When I asked, "What is the secret for the success of the ASEAN?" during our talks at the ASEAN headquarters in Indonesia, they said that while they welcome major powers' involvement, they avoid taking sides with either the U.S. or China as they maintain neutrality and independence. They emphasized ASEAN's centrality and unity. Their position of independence has something in common with ours.

These efforts of ASEAN offer many precious lessons Japan should utilize for its diplomacy.

Appreciation for JCP's diplomatic vision - two directions of development

Second, the diplomatic vision the JCP released in January 2022 was highly appreciated and welcomed everywhere. The vision proposes the path Japan should take: to cooperate with ASEAN to set AOIP as a common goal; utilize and develop EAS to create a peaceful East Asia free from threats of war; and pursue a peaceful diplomacy by making the best use of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

In our talks at the ASEAN headquarters in Indonesia, our counterpart said they appreciate the JCP's vision as it is in line with ASEAN's direction. In Laos, which is ASEAN's chair in 2024, and in Vietnam, an ASEAN member state playing more roles in international society, we had talks with the heads of ruling parties of both of the states and confirmed with them that we will cooperate for the success of AOIP. I believe this achievement is significant.

Based on this latest visit, I believe it is important for us to further develop our diplomatic vision with the following two points:

First, in addition to the collaboration with ASEAN to bring AOIP to success, we will strengthen our efforts to solve various issues facing Northeast Asia. Such "double efforts" are necessary.

Although Southeast Asia has a good "habit of dialogue," Northeast Asia lacks it. In a series of meetings, we became keenly aware of this difference. This is because Northeast Asia, compared with Southeast Asia, has the following difficulties:
First, there are military alliances between Japan and the U.S. and between Korea and the U.S. as well as foreign military bases. Second, it is at the forefront of the U.S.-China struggle for hegemony.
Third, the war has not ended on the Korean Peninsula.
Fourth, Japan has contentious historical issues remaining because it has not reflected on its war of aggression and colonial rule.

We cannot depend on ASEAN to solve these issues in Northeast Asia. Northeast Asia needs to exert its own effort to solve its problems.

During the visit, we were happy to receive strong attention and appreciation whenever we introduced the "JCP proposals for positive breakthroughs in Japan-China relations" we released in March last year. I would like to acknowledge here that we must further develop our policies for diplomatic solutions to issues in Northeast Asia, including the Korean Peninsula, history, and Taiwan-related problems.

The other point is that, in order to build peace in East Asia, not only intergovernmental efforts but also civil movements are necessary. The entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons presents an important lesson regarding this. It was the result of the collaboration of governments and civil society. Without civil society's movement led by Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors), it would not have been possible. I believe the same thing can be said for peacebuilding in East Asia. It will be possible only when governments, political parties, and civil society collaborate. When I said this, our counterparts in all three countries agreed.

When I talked about the differences between Northeast and Southeast Asia during our talks in Vietnam, they said that it is a very interesting and deep analysis but there is also a common point: the people in each region all want peace. I completely agree with that. True peace can be built with the support of citizens' grassroots movements. To build peace in East Asia, I would like to propose that this Party Congress call for national and civil movements in various forms domestically and internationally.

Japan with Article 9 should lead creation of "habit of dialogue" in Northeast Asia

Third, if we want to build peace in East Asia, changing Japanese politics is essential.

In the talks with the Communist Party of Vietnam, we talked about the summit meetings Vietnam had with U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hanoi in the last three months. It should be noted that at the summit meetings with the U.S. and with China, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, expressed Vietnam's basic position of independence and omni-directional diplomacy as well as a security policy of "four no's": no military alliances, no collusion with other countries to counter third countries, no approval of installing foreign military bases, and no use or threat of force. This policy is also consistent with ASEAN's major policy of welcoming major powers' involvement but not taking sides.

What about the Japanese government? It promotes "four yes's" instead of "four no's." It says yes to the military alliance, bloc politics, foreign military bases, and use and threat of force. It promises massive military buildup, throwing away the "exclusively defense-oriented" policy. Japan is strongly urged not to pursue a military buildup as told by the U.S. but to work to create peace through independent diplomatic efforts as ASEAN is practicing.

Let us work hard to change Japan's politics so that Japan, with Article 9 of the Constitution, will lead the effort to create a "habit of dialogue" in Northeast Asia.

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
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