Thatcher Praises Japan’s Role in Cold War

Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

KOBE — Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Wednesday praised Japan’s Cold War role as a bulwark in Asia against the communist giants of China and Russia and declared that “communism would never return.”

Reliving her glory days as a world leader, Thatcher, who was prime minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990, recalled personal meetings at crucial points in history with peers such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin of Russia, Deng Xiaoping of China and George Bush of the United States.

But it was the rise and fall of the communist “tyranny” she came to speak about, and speak she did with all the passion and frankness for which she is known.

“It must be a tremendous relief to Japan that she no longer has two communist neighbors,” Thatcher said during a lecture at a Kobe hotel hosted by the Yomiuri Shimbun. “One (of those neighbors) which has rejected communism, Russia, is now — at last, I believe — finding her way through the thicket” to democracy. “At last, that country (Russia) is privatizing many, many of its state-owned industries and, I believe, that it has gone so far that communism would never return. That also is very, very good news.”

During her 35-minute speech, the 69-year-old former prime minister called the fall of communist states the “victory of the century” and expressed gladness at being on the winning end of the battle. “The free world has won its point and there should never be any doubt about it in the future,” she said.

But along with the success of market economies have come increases in crime and a lowering of societal values, she said, and in that sense, Japan is an example to be followed by the other foreign powers.

“Your violent crime has not gone up, and you are an example to others,” she told the Japanese audience. “Whether it is because you’re very homogeneous, whether it is because you’ve kept very strongly to the family, you’ve kept very strongly to the best in your traditions, you are in fact showing the rest of the world how to tackle (these problems). And we must. Because having come this far — getting liberty, justice and democracy — we can’t be defeated by problems happening within our nations that we should be very well-able to cope with.”

Another “downside” of the close of the Cold War, according to Thatcher, is that it has left the world less certain of where countries stand in relation to each other.

“Outlaws” like Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, she said, are freer in a sense and still need to “be put down by the west” when they get out of line.

Conversely, Thatcher chastised the west for its “weak” approach regarding the Bosnia-Serbia conflict, saying, “I never thought to see ‘ethnic cleansing’ in my lifetime again. It’s a terrible phrase.”

She later added that western nations should step in and handle the Bosnian situation themselves, deriding the consensus needed to take any action under the jurisdiction of the United Nations.

As for the future of the Asia-Pacific region, Thatcher predicted that the most important links will be U.S.-China and U.S.-Japan relations.