Japans’ growing interest in Central Europe comes not only from the quite good economic situation, but also the Chinese activity in that region. As always, the main object of interest is Poland. Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Central Europe in mid July was seen as an attempt to „steal our partners.” In a large part it is true; Tokyo directly said that it is trying to counter rising Chinese activity in the region. But the Japanese want to concentrate on energy issues, both from nuclear and renewable sources.
In a joint statement with the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) they declared, in addition to energy cooperation, their willingness to hold regular summits and meetings at the level of Foreign Ministers. The Japanese side strongly emphasized the importance of using the experience of the power plant failure in Fukushima.
However, in the case of Poland, Japan wants, to a much greater extent, to follow in the footsteps of China. Tokyo and Warsaw are clearly interested in military cooperation. The visit of Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak to Tokyo, which took place on 14-16 March, was the first bilateral meeting at the ministerial level for 5 years. Minister Siemoniak met with his counterpart Itsunori Onodera and commander of Central Air Defense Force, Brigadier General Kiyofuji. Poland would like to cooperate with Japan in all areas, with particular emphasis on air and missile defense, air force and naval training, and cyber security. Both parties have devoted much attention to the security issues and possible cooperation between Japan and NATO. Particularly interesting seems to be the possibility of cooperation between the defence industries of both countries. After relaxing restrictive laws regarding the export of military equipment, Japan is actively seeking foreign partners. It now seems to be the biggest hope Tokyo associates with the United Kingdom and Poland. It’s not just a common search for markets, but also the exchange of technology. A good starting point may be India, with which Poland has established cooperation (though not on such scale as wished by the New Delhi), and which develops cooperation with Japan. In addition, because of the close cooperation with the Americans, JSDF has a high degree of standardization with NATO, which significantly eases the eventual cooperation.
For its part, Poland has a particular interest in cooperation in the training of the Navy. Because of their experience, JMSDF are for the Polish Navy a much more attractive partner than PLAN. An introduction to this cooperation was the visit of the Japanese ships to Gdynia (7-10 August). Poland was one of the points from the Japanese group of training ships Kashima and Shirayuki and destroyer Isoyuki. In addition to training naval cadets, Japanese ships have to, of course, present the flag and promote mutual cooperation. The group left Tokyo on May 22 and visited Pearl Harbor, Manzanillo, Panama City, Halifax, Portsmouth, Helsinki, St. Petersburg.The next ports after Gdynia are Kiel, Brest, Barcelona, Taranto, Split, Djibouti, Colombo, Yangon, Sihanoukville and Da Nang.
Strengthening relations with Japan does not mean that Warsaw cools its relations with China it is quite the contrary. In late May, the Minister Siemoniak for second time in the half year visited Beijing, where he met with Vice Chairman of the CMC Fan Changlong and Defence Minister Chang Wanquan. Both sides expressed interest in further deepening of bilateral military cooperation. China is most interested in high-level visits, personnel training and medical exchanges. It is worth noting that the Polish MoD is eager to publish any information on the partnership with Japan and carefully omits meetings with the Chinese.
Abstinence MoD becomes clearer after the storm, which caused House of Representatives Speaker Ewa Kopacz to visit Beijing in early June. Because of fatal coincidence, the visit began exactly on the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown and the first post-war democratic elections in Poland. The opposition and the media demanded cancellation of travel, or at least changing the date. The protests have not been successful and everything was as planned. The main topic of the visit was parliamentary cooperation between the Polish Sejm, and the Chinese National People’s Congress.
Developing Polish only Asia – policy from the very beginning is full of contradictions. President Bronislaw Komorowski as a strategic partner in the region considered China, while Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski pointed to Japan. In the case of an even greater deterioration in relations between Beijing and Tokyo, Warsaw could find itself in a very uncomfortable situation. The fact is that Japan has in Poland a much better opinion than China and cooperation with her is meeting with sympathy of media and public.
On the other hand, the Sino-Japanese rivalry moves into a completely unexpected place – Central Europe. Shinzo Abe traces Hu Jintao, who was the first Chinese leader since Mao to show a closer interest in the region. The question is where the Chinese trails will lead Japanese.