• US & Canada

Unity, Strength of U.S. Tested on Biden’s Inauguration / Take Helm of Democracy, Intl Cooperation

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The start of the new administration comes at a time when the United States faces a host of difficult domestic and foreign issues. This should be an opportunity for the people to share a sense of urgency and move toward unity.

It is hoped that the United States will steadily resolve each of these issues and achieve tangible results. That will surely lead to the restoration of social stability and help the United States, which is a world leader, exert its real strength.

■ Prioritize virus, economy

Democrat Joe Biden has assumed the presidency of the United States. In his inaugural address, he said: “My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation,” thus calling for cooperation from the people to overcome divisions in society.

The presidential inauguration ceremony was held at the Capitol, which was recently occupied by supporters of former President Donald Trump. The face of democracy has just barely been preserved, but the problem has not disappeared.

Trump did not participate in the presidential inauguration ceremony, breaking the custom of a peaceful transfer of power in which the outgoing and incoming presidents attend the ceremony together. The venue and its surroundings were placed on high alert, and the audience attending the ceremony was restricted in order to prevent terrorism and infections with the novel coronavirus.

Being held in an unusual manner with a less celebratory atmosphere than usual, the ceremony symbolizes the plight of the United States. The only way for the new administration to increase its leadership and influence is to achieve results by bringing the coronavirus under control and rebuilding the economy.

Deaths from the coronavirus have reached 400,000 in the United States, exceeding the number of U.S. troops killed during World War II. The situation must be improved through the widespread use of masks and prompt vaccinations.

More than 10 million people have become unemployed, and the damage to service industries such as tourism and retail is particularly serious. Many workers in those industries are paid little, which has further widened the gap.

■ Realize bipartisan agreements

The new administration has come up with an additional economic stimulus package worth about ¥200 trillion, centering on cash benefits for households. It is important to pass this economic policy through Congress as soon as possible to shore up families in need.

For many years, Congress has been unable to reach bipartisan agreements due to the intensifying rivalry between what might be described as the ruling and opposition parties. The Democratic Party has secured a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but it will be difficult to carry out effective policies without the cooperation of the Republican Party.

Biden has a wealth of experience as a centrist and moderate politician and is known for his honest character. Hopefully, he will call for the cooperation of the Republican Party and realize “decisive politics” by quashing extreme assertions from left-wing Democrats and unifying his party.

The Biden administration emphasizes diversity, as evidenced by the choice of Kamala Harris, a Black woman whose mother was born in India, as the first female vice president of the United States. Few white workers who support Trump apparently accept this.

There remains a deep-rooted emotional rift stemming from racial conflict and differences in values even now that Trump has left office. Reconciliation will not begin unless the opposing sides break away from a structure in which they label each other “racist” and “socialist.”

Biden, who has pledged to become “a president for all Americans,” has a responsibility to build a foundation for reconciliation by paying attention to Trump’s supporters as well.

■ Strengthen alliances

In his inaugural address, Biden said, “We will repair our alliances, and engage with the world once again.” From the first day of his presidency, Biden has made moves to return to the international framework of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change and retract the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization.

It is also of great benefit to allies such as Japan if the United States returns to multilateralism from Trump’s “America First” policy, and takes the helm of the international order based on universal values such as the rule of law, and alliances.

China’s increasingly self-righteous behavior in the South China Sea and Hong Kong should be dealt with immediately. The infringement of intellectual property rights and unfair trade practices cannot be ignored either.

The Biden administration has shown its stance to cooperate with China on such global issues as climate change, while stressing that it will beat China in competition in the military, economic and technological fields.

Many past U.S. administrations have failed in engagement policies that hope that economic growth will lead to China’s democratization. Biden must cooperate with U.S. allies to deal strictly with China’s disregard for the rules.

Japan’s vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” is an effective framework for that purpose. The administration of former President Trump supported the vision and it has been widely backed by India, Australia and other Asian countries. The Biden administration should also share this vision.

On the other hand, Japan, Europe and other allies need to realize that the new administration will be busy with domestic affairs for the time being, and that it will take some time for it to fully engage in foreign policies.

Given that U.S. public opinion is now tending to be inward-looking, there cannot be excessive expectations for the revival of a strong United States. It is important for allies to share a perspective of expanding their roles and strengthening cooperation for global stability.