World Opinion

October 6, 2012 • Editorial

Cameron’s call for action in Syria

Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t just appear on [auth] the David Letterman show during his visit to New York. More important was his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, an impressive performance. Much of his address amounted to an impassioned call for greater intervention in Syria.

While not condemning China and Russia by name for blocking efforts to impose sanctions on the Assad regime, he declared that those who aided and abetted Bashar al-Assad had assisted a “reign of terror” that had resulted in the deaths of up to 20,000 civilians, many of them children.

Cameron has put his finger on a genuine problem at the very heart of the world order: how is the international community, an inherently disparate body, to take a stand against a regime that stops at nothing to stay in power, if the U.N. General Assembly has no clout and the Security Council is stymied by China and Russia? That is the chief problem in mustering an organized U.N. response to the crisis in Syria: two of the biggest powers on the Security Council are, effectively, on the regime’s side.

Cameron is right to condemn the regime’s tactics but it is by no means clear that the rebels, who include jihadist elements, would be a moderate and unifying alternative. We should be thinking harder about containing the war and especially its toxic effects on neighboring Lebanon.

Cameron has made a good showing on the world stage. He has not made the mistake of claiming an ethical foreign policy — but that’s effectively what it is.

Guest Editorial

London Evening Standard

Japan-Russia talks

Japan and Russia will move to improve relations with high-level talks this autumn, ahead of a scheduled visit to Russia in December by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

This is an opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties and bring stability to Northeast Asia, amid tension over territorial disputes in the region. The talks should be used effectively.

Russia has been seeking to increase its oil and gas exports to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, with the aim of diversifying its currently Europe-dominated customer base. This strategic move aims to capitalize on the amazing economic vigor of the Asia-Pacific region and secure economic development for Siberia and the Russian Far East, sparsely populated regions that lack strong industry.

Moscow’s new diplomatic drive to expand ties with Japan reflects its recognition of the importance of Japanese investment and technology.

Russia needs them if it is to develop along the lines of President Vladimir Putin’s vision of a Eurasian nation.

On the other hand, Russia’s rich energy resources have great appeal for Japan, a resource-poor nation which has begun exploring a future without its past dependence on nuclear power.

When Japan considers investing in and cooperating with those industries, it should demand adequate and convincing explanations about the profitability of projects and require that the Russian government improve the business environment.

Japan’s bitter territorial standoffs with China and South Korea are sources of worry for Russia too, which wants to enhance relations with its neighbors in the region.

That is why Moscow has said it will not take sides in Japan’s spats with South Korea and China, over the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Furthermore, Russia has expressed hope for a peaceful settlement.

Implementing this steadily would be the best way to make progress toward what Putin calls a mutually acceptable solution to the Northern Territories issue.

Guest Editorial

The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo

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