Shortly after wagging his tongue in a bid to ingratiate Japan with the United States by echoing Washington’s smears about the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and Taiwan, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi sought to reassure his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in a telephone call on Tuesday of Japan’s commitment to ensuring the steady development of relations with China, and stated that the Japan-US alliance does not target any third party.

Japan would appear to be caught somewhat uncomfortably on the horns of a dilemma, having to balance relations between its largest neighbor and trade partner, and its suzerain.

But it does not need to so awkwardly comport itself. As long as it conforms to the trend of the times and norms governing international relations, Japan can serve as a bridge, or mediator, between China and the US. In fact, no other country is in a better position than Japan to assume that role.

Although Japan has signed a treaty of mutual cooperation and security with the US, it should bear in mind that it has also signed a treaty of peace and friendship with China, which it should honor. In this, the two countries agreed that neither of them would seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, or in any other region, and that each would oppose the efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.

The cooperation in COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control between China and countries in the region, Japan included, should have deepened Tokyo’s understanding of China’s sincerity in promoting a community with a shared future in the region.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two neighbors. The past nearly 50 years has witnessed the collective rise of the economy in East and Southeast Asia, with Japan and China as the main contributors. No other countries are better placed than Japan to know that China’s development benefits all, and why the US is hellbent on claiming otherwise.

Yet, before his planned visit to Washington this week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the media on Sunday that Japan will cooperate with the US to ensure Taiwan’s peace and stability. While obviously a calling card ahead of his trip, it is nonetheless characteristic of the Suga administration, which seems to see only one tree rather than a wood. Its shortsightedness will do Japan no favors.

Wang urged Tokyo to look at China’s development in an objective and rational way, instead of being misled by the biased views that prevail in Washington.

Japan should know that it is in its own interest to safeguard the hard-won improvement in its relations with China. It should therefore steer clear of the selfish schemes of the US, to ensure there is no flip-flop, stagnating or backpedaling.