Investigating Koizumi's Motive for Visiting Poland
John de Boer (Research Associate, GLOCOM)
Those who followed Prime Minister Koizumi's trip to three European countries (Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic) this past week noted three overriding objectives: (1) increase Japan's economic reach in Europe, particularly in Eastern European countries scheduled to join the EU in May 2004; (2) create an international consensus that would pressure North Korea into resolving the abduction issue; and (3) enjoy Germanic culture, particularly Wagner. Judging from the press coverage, Koizumi largely succeeded in securing these objectives. All three European leaders explicitly pressed North Korea to resolve the abduction issue, they endorsed initiatives to increase Japanese investment opportunities in Europe, and entertained Koizumi with a hefty dose of culture including a Wagner opera.
What caught my attention, however, was the motive behind Koizumi's visit to Poland and its timing. As press accounts stressed Koizumi's effort to encourage Japanese investment in this soon to be EU members state, my eyes shifted to the contents of the joint statement entitled Towards a Strategic Partnership between Japan and Poland that was signed on 19 August by Koizumi and his Polish counterpart Leszek Miller. Although, economic issues did figure in the statement, the majority was dedicated to increasing mutual political cooperation. These included cooperation in areas of counter-terrorism, restructuring the UN Security Council, North Korea, anti-nuclear proliferation, and halting the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Most interestingly, however, was the clause pertaining to a pledge by both to seek possibilities for political partnership in multilateral frameworks, with specific reference to the European Union.
In the aftermath of the transatlantic crisis over Iraq, Poland has come to be referred to as the US' Trojan Horse in Europe. Many European capitals view Eastern European EU candidates, particularly Poland, as at minimum susceptible to US pressure and possibly loyal to US interests. In fact, French president Chirac directly accused Poland of deliberately dividing Europe when it sided with the US in relation to the invasion of Iraq. In that context, the above mentioned clause looks like Japan's attempt to influence EU policies through the same avenue, Poland. In exchange Koizumi has promised to increase Japanese investment in Poland, thereby, helping the country climb out of its worse recession in over a decade.
Considering Japan's close alignment with the US and its common position with Poland vis-a-vis the situation in Iraq, the choice may not have been a bad one. Japan could certainly benefit from Poland's military experience in Iraq, and in fact, may even be considering placing the SDF under its command as have the Spanish. Nevertheless, if Japan's thrust in Poland turns out to be motivated by the desire to influence EU policy through that country, it will certainly not be an appreciated by the rest of Europe and could potentially affect Europe's relations with Japan as a whole.