Canada-Japan Relations: Turning Great Potential into Reality

Note: This piece is part of “Abe Shinzō: Transformational Leader in 21st Century Indo-Pacific and Global international Relations” – the main essay on this website.

Canada and Japan have similar – constitutional monarchal- parliamentary political systems, and share all democratic socio-political values: freedom of expression, of the press and of religion, human rights, the rule of law and gender equality; their market economies are  (potentially) highly complementary as already are their cultures (Anne of Green Gables, aurora borealis tourism/anime/manga etc.)

The two democracies are prominent members of the OECD, APEC, G-7, G-20 as well as of the highly promising CPTPP in which they are the largest economies. It was former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s assiduous efforts -together with Canada’s- that saved the pact after President Trump’s withdrawal. The absence of the United States – the most important ally of both Canada and Japan and the ultimate guarantor of their security and economic prosperity since WW II – should be seen as only a temporary setback. Given its strategic, political as well as economic/trade benefits, the Biden administration has signalled its intention to rejoin the grouping.

The Canada-Japan relationship is metaphorically reminiscent of an impressive building whose construction is being inexplicably stalled after the foundation is in place.

In the First World War, Japan and (the then Dominion of) Canada were allies and the Japanese navy secured Canada’s west coast. A century later, their relationship has reached a point where present political and security circumstances – first and foremost Chinese imperialism- warrant serious consideration of a much more meaningful relationship, leading to a formal alignment aimed at maintaining and advancing democracy, security and peace in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Ninety-three years after establishing diplomatic ties, bilateral relations between Canada and Japan are friendly and solid but must be dramatically enhanced so that they – together with the US, South Korea, Australia, India, Taiwan – as well as most ASEAN members, the EU and especially the UK –can contribute fully to the defence and promotion of peace, prosperity and democracy, in the face of Chinese aggression and in support of the Free and Open  Indo-Pacific [FOIP] concept launched by former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō. In 2021, France coordinated a multinational naval exercise in the Gulf of Bengal ; a French nuclear submarine has been patrolling in the South China Sea; a German frigate is scheduled to sail through the South China Sea later in the year. Even more consequential is the Johnson administration’s dispatch of a naval taskforce to the area and Britain’s expected application for CPTPP membership.

While trying to strike a balance between needs and costs , especially since the economic crisis of the 1990s, and forced by the deteriorating security environment caused by  Beijing and Pyongyang, pacifist Japan has built a solid, defensive conventional military capability, whose value is proven daily when countering , by itself or in cooperation with allied American forces (based on the 2014 Collective Self-Defence agreement) Beijing’s relentless imperialist forays into the East China Sea and South China Sea perimeters.

The high quality of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces [SDF] in human resources, training and equipment is matched on the Canadian side only by the first two parameters. A RCN [Royal Canadian Navy] fleet of modern frigates is in the early stages of construction; the RCN’s second-hand submarines purchased from Britain two decades ago are safe only on land, while the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] is still awaiting a government decision on replacing the antiquated CF-18s. In other words, Canada is only capable of occasionally “showing the flag” – through participation in anti-submarine warfare exercises in the South China Sea in early 2021 or HMCS Winnipeg joining the NEON international campaign of enforcing sanctions on North Korea or sailing through the Taiwan Straits (picture below).

Compare that with Japan’s advanced, domestically designed and produced reconnaissance planes, tanks, submarines, Izumo-class dual-use (helicopter and jetfighter) light carriers and squadrons of Lockheed F-35 stealth jets of its Air Self- Defence Forces (pictures below) as well as the advanced, domestically designed and produced F-3 fighter of the future.

The 2010 Canada-Japan Joint Declaration on Political, Peace and Security Cooperation is the adequate take-off platform for a deeper bilateral partnership on regional and global security issues. The document’s practical core is the Political, Peace and Security Subcabinet “2+2” Dialogue, which commits the nations to periodic consultations on foreign affairs and defence issues at the deputy- minister level and includes the Symposium on Peace and Security Cooperation which brings together researchers and policy-makers to consider important regional security and bilateral cooperation topics. In April 2018, Canada and Japan signed the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, which further enhances cooperation between their militaries.

Prime Minister Abe visited Canada in April 2019 for consultations with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the agenda of the G-20 gathering in Osaka in June of that year. The visit came at what must be the most auspicious time in Canada-Japan relations since the establishment of formal diplomatic ties. Indeed, there has never been a more promising convergence of mutually beneficial multilateral circumstances and complementary national interests, with the potential to expand bilateral ties most significantly in the immediate future.

The two leaders, in addition to substantive talks, shared celebratory moments mixing the 90th anniversary of Canadian- Japanese diplomatic relations, with sport. They exchanged rugby jerseys with the identical number “90” (picture below) and the Japanese dignitary expressed his wish that the two nations meet in the final of the Rugby World Cup which Japan was to host  in September. Canada and Japan did not meet in the rugby final; yet, should the two nations aim at multilateral and mutually beneficial cooperation, major results can be expected.

Even before the 2019 New Coronavirus pandemic, perilous developments in Canada-China relations -particularly the festering Meng Wanzhou extradition crisis – when Bullying Beijing resorted to hostage-taking (which, together with kidnapping ,are routine  political tools of the Regime) of two innocent  Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in order to force Ottawa to ape Xi’s lawless system and illegally interfere with the judiciary and free the seven passports holding “communist  princess.” This most serious incident, together with Beijing’s scandalously manipulative behaviour regarding the Wuhan pandemic, should at last, make Ottawa recognize that a comprehensive  – economic, political, security –  relationship with Japan- a highly developed, friendly, reliable, fellow democracy – whose citizens (businessmen fraudulently accused of espionage) have also been victims of  Hostage-Taking Beijing – is vastly preferable to being a meek member of an emerging stable of states kowtowing to Despot-for-Life Xi Jinping’s dictatorial and racist (for putting millions of Tibetans and Uighurs in Sinification camps, forcing them to accept Han- Chinese agents as  “relatives” in their families and for continuing the forcible harvesting and selling of organs of Falun Gong  practitioners) , domestically and expansionist internationally 21st century version of the ancient Confucian “tributary”- these days Confucian- Fascist – system. (see essay Dire History Repeated on this website).

The Wuhan pandemic crisis was an opportunity for Canadian-Japanese cooperation in finding a treatment for, or a vaccine against the plague. Japan’s Mitsubishi-Tanabe Pharmaceutical Co. already has a presence in Canada through a joint-venture with Montreal’s Medicago company. The project is highly original in that the vaccine – now in second-stage trials – is produced by using live plants that mimic the Coronavirus (as Virus-like-Particles or VLPs ) but are not infectious and only boost the immune systems of  patients. Furthermore, the Japanese multinational Fujifilm’s Avigan anti-viral drug was being tested in Canada. The two nations, however, were temporarily unsuccessful in producing in timely fashion either a treatment or a vaccine for the New Coronavirus and had to rely on American and European products.

Japan has consistently shown a positive inclination toward much enhanced relations with Canada. On the Canadian side, however, positive thinking toward a strategic partnership is yet to materialize, in the past six years due to Prime Minister Trudeau’s and his Liberal Party’s  regrettable affinity for totalitarian criminal regimes- smaller like Castroite Cuba, and especially the biggest of them all- China, stemming from a short- sighted and misplaced admiration for the perceived efficiency of the Beijing Regime and its “inevitable” dominant global role in the future.

Historically, the late Maurice Strong – a globe-trotting, well-connected, clever and somewhat shady international operator who spent his last years in Beijing – and past Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrètien (the “architect” of the dubious Team Canada concept) and business leaders like the Demarais  family have been instrumental in promoting Chinese influence in the Liberal Party.

New examples of misguided China policies of the present Trudeau administration appear all the time. Health Minister Patty Hajdu has constantly praised Beijing’s “responsible and open” New Coronavirus approach. Worse yet, the government- as the devastating investigative reporting of Global News TV’s Sam Cooper revealed  in July 2020 – allowed Beijing’s diplomatic offices, together with a number of Chinese community groups in Canada heavily penetrated by the CCP’s United Front Work Department (the espionage and subversion arm of the Party which preys on the Chinese diaspora to  participate in Beijing’s ghastly plot of delaying to inform the world about the real scale of the 2019 pandemic as mentioned earlier, until the Regime cornered the global market in basic medical supplies , for financial and political gain!  It is this appalling inclination to appease evil that underpinned Ottawa’s dogged pursuit of a free trade agreement and strategic partnership [!!!!!] with aggressive, imperialist, supremacist Beijing.

Positive, unexpected developments have taken place recently. First, on September 18th, 2020, Ottawa announced its highly appropriate decision (in light of Beijing’s overall behaviour) to discontinue FTA negotiations. This could open the way for an FTA and a further enhanced relationship overall with Japan. Second, and equally promising, the first courtesy phone conversation between Prime Minister Suga and Prime Minister Trudeau, in late September, indicated that the two leaders were ready in principle, to proceed toward closer bilateral relations based on the FOIP concept. Such a move, if implemented would have a transformative impact. However, one can only take a very cautious approach to this promising potential change on the Canadian side. This is particularly so when considering the very detailed (advisory) position paper of September 2020 by Global [in fact Foreign] Affairs Canada’s Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada [APFC] Vice-President for Research Jeffrey Reeves. The title- “Canada and the Indo-Pacific: ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ not ‘free’ and ‘open’” (emphasis added) – is the clear and condensed message of the very long, in the main ideologically Leftist essay. It constitutes a disconcerting example of intellectual, political and strategic appeasement as demonstrated in my Dire History Repeated essay on this website – aggressive German Fascism of 80 years ago, being reincarnated in the form of the even more globally threatening Neo -Fascist Xi Beijing regime of today, Reeves wants Canada to accommodate. Indeed, as the tried and true maxim reminds us, those who forget history tend to repeat it. Winston Churchill’s definition of the appeaser of his time (as the one who kowtows to the crocodile hoping to be eaten last) fits ours, too. The Reeves proposition is the 2020 metaphorical digital version of the Munich agreement sheet fluttering in the wind in Neville Chamberlain’s hand who then uttered the mortally wrong “Peace for our time,” on September 30th, 1938. Default supporters of the Reeves thesis most probably include the China hands at the University of British Columbia – especially Paul Evans and Wenran Jiang- the China Institute and related outfits in Alberta (whose activities are about to be drastically curtailed in provincial retaliation to Beijing’s relentless and multilateral aggression against Canada) and particularly Independent Senator Yuen Pau Wu (whose “Now that [former Prime Minister Stephen] Harper is gone can we have a serious talk about China?” – iPolitics, October 30, 2015) qualifies as the “Beijing on the Rideau Manifesto.”

At the dawn of the third decade of the 21st century, the fundamental incentive for dramatically expanding multilateral – security, political, economic and overall strategic – cooperation among Indo-Pacific nations is the existential threat posed by the imperialist Xi Beijing regime and its allies (see “Dire History Repeated”). The nations of the world are strangely unaware of the fact that historically, the two most successful imperialist and colonial powers have been China and Russia .Over the past 72 years the top targets of Beijing imperialism have been – in chronological order- Xinjiang, Tibet, the Korean peninsula, Vietnam, India, the Soviet Union, Japan (in the Senkaku perimeter of the East China Sea) as well as Taiwan and the nations bordering the South China Sea; in 2021 the latter four are the most potentially explosive  areas. In 2019, the Parliament of Canada declared China the nation’s top security challenge. Japan preceded Canada by a decade. Therefore, in the immediate future, the existential Beijing threat must bring Canada and Japan as well as other fellow democracies like South Korea and Taiwan much closer together. Japan should be invited to formally join the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing security framework with which it now has informal arrangements. Former defense minister Kōno Tarō in late October 2020 publicly requested the affiliation. Ottawa should consider the very delicate task of mediating between Tokyo and Seoul by convincing the latter to really pursue its frequently pledged but never adhered to, “future-oriented” relationship, since cooperating with Beijing against Japan and the US, only benefits Chinese expansionism. After all, Beijing is the direst threat not only to Ottawa, Tokyo and Seoul, but to all nations outside the emerging BIMPAT [Beijing/Islamabad/Pyongyang/Ankara/Tehran] Axis.  .