Could Abe Use Some Friendly Advice?

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and Finance Minister Taro Aso at a Diet session in Tokyo this week.

TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his top priority when he meets with President Obama in Washington on Friday will be repairing the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

Obama’s priority ought to be making sure that Abe’s right-wing fantasies don’t wreck it entirely.

On the surface, the meetings should go well. Abe and Obama see eye-to-eye on most defense and foreign policy issues. Abe supports the U.S. “re-balance” to Asia, opposes China over its aggressive territorial demands, and mirrors Obama’s strong stand against North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile tests.

Abe is also heeding U.S. requests to boost Japan’s defenses. He increased defense spending for the first time in 10 years (minimally, to be sure, but an increase nonetheless). He is working hard to ease restrictions on so-called ‘collective defense’ – an odd interpretation of Japan’s Constitution that prevents the military from coming to the aid allies, including alliance partner America. And Abe plans to seek formal approval from Okinawa officials next month to begin the long-delayed process of relocating an important Marine air base there.

Abe should know the issues, since he served as prime minister once before. He took office in 2006 with a plan to expand Japan’s defense capabilities. But he resigned less than a year later, a victim of poor health, political scandals and a conservative agenda that was seen as out of touch with many voters.

He’s made a better start this time.

He quickly dropped the campaign rhetoric that earned support from the conservative wing of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and focused instead on the economy. Since he took office in December, the stock market has climbed to a five-year high, the over-valued yen has fallen 20 percent and his public approval rating has climbed to 71 percent.

Still, it’s hard not to sense an underlying unease with Abe. Part of it may be his lifelong connection with conservative elements; he is, after all, the grandson of a wartime industry minister who was arrested on suspicion of war crimes (Nobusuke Kishi, who was never charged and later became prime minister).

But much of it may have to do with Abe’s goal of revising the Constitution, a pacifist document initially drafted by American Occupation forces.

Abe wants to change key provisions of the Constitution that, according to critics, would weaken individual rights and give greater authority to police and government agencies. It would also require, by law, public “respect” for Japan’s Rising Sun flag and the Kimigayo national anthem – symbols for many people at home and abroad of Japan’s dark militarist past.

“These are radical changes and would make Japan into a very different kind of country and society,” says Lawrence Repeta, a law professor and constitutional expert at Meiji University in Tokyo. “America has a stake in seeing that Japan continues to play a role in the world as a free society. Obama has every right to take this up with Abe, and he should.”

Polls show the Constitution retains wide support. To achieve the changes, Abe is proposing some parliamentary sleight-of-hand: He first plans to alter the amendment process, requiring a simple majority of Diet members rather than two-thirds vote. A national referendum would follow.

Abe has needlessly inflamed relations with South Korea, a key U.S. ally. Abe has indicated he wants to revise the so-called “Kono Statement,” in which Japan apologized and accepted responsibility for recruiting  comfort women — sex slaves, to some. This is a highly emotional issue in South Korea and any revision would certainly bring a strong reaction.

What’s more, Abe this week was reportedly planning to send a representative to celebrations marking Japan’s claim to Dokdo Island, a rocky outcropping in the Sea of Japan that is controlled by South Korea. If there is an issue guaranteed to infuriate South Koreans more than the comfort women issue, Dokdo/Takeshima is it.

Disagreement on those two issues last summer led South Korea to cancel the signing of defense agreements with Japan pertaining to intelligence-sharing and logistics — agreements that U.S. officials dearly wanted them to sign.

“I would hope that Obama, or somebody, tells Abe, ‘Now more than ever, don’t revise the Kono Statement or do something crazy on Takeshima.’ Because a key part of Obama’s vision for Asia is that we want South Korea and Japan on the same page to counter China and North Korea,” says Sean King, an East Asia specialist with the Park Strategies consulting firm.

It may be that Abe’s doesn’t need the advice and that his right-wing dalliances are just a nod to the LDP’s conservative wing. Changing the Constitution has been a stated goal of the LDP since the 1950s, but is yet to happen. Neither Abe’s foreign or defense ministers — two of his most important appointments and indication of Abe priorities — have particularly conservative credentials and neither has shown a hint of nationalist tendencies, so far.

We may discover more about Abe in July, when upper house elections are held. If Abe’s LDP wins a majority there, he’ll have greater opportunity to pursue his own course. And perhaps arrange another conversation with Obama.

quotesnotes 1 Like

As man is the best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is worst of all when he divorced from law and morals. ....Hence man without goodness is the most savage, the most unrighteous, and the worst in regard to sexual licence and gluttony. The Ethics

Book 1 Chapter 2 Aristotle

Philosophically Speaking



ABE, another short lived PM for Japan, it seems,  Japanese people,  like to change their PM more often than they change their car engine oils; every 6 month?

Don_Bacon 1 Like

Good, balanced information. Thank you.


". . . Abe’s right-wing fantasies . . ." Responsible journalism at its most conspicuous! 


@trygorOwnership of the Senkaku/Diayou islands is honestly disputed. PM Abe has displayed a "right-wing fantas[y]" that he can lecture China to recognize Japan's claim, stop its challenge, and accept Japanese hegemony in order to maintain good relations.

The Senkaku Islands dispute concerns a territorial dispute over a group of uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, the Diaoyu in China,[1] and Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan.[2] Aside from a 1945 to 1972 period of administration by the United States, the archipelago has been controlled by Japan since 1895.[3] The People's Republic of China (PRC) disputed the proposed US handover of authority to Japan in 1971[4] and has asserted its claims to the islands since that time.[5] Taiwan (Republic of China) also claims the islands. The territory is close to key shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds, and there may be oil reserves in the area

BBC, Dec 16, 2012
Japan election: LDP's Shinzo Abe vows tough China line

Mr Abe said the islands were Japan's "inherent territory" and it was his party's objective was "to stop the challenge" from China. . "China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations," he said. "China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations," he said.

LawrenceP 1 Like

@Don_Bacon @trygor The Chin Dynasty had never claimed or disputed against Japan over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands. Neither had Chiang Kai-shek's "Republic of China" in Taiwan.  Communist China was established in 1949 and they have no legitimate basis on the international law to be successor of either the Chin dynasty of Manchurian or Chiang Kai-shek's "Republic of China."  Chiang Kai-shek or "Republic of China" had recognized the Senkaku Island that were inhabited by Japanese fishermen before the WII.  The islands have never been inhabited by Manchurian, Han Communist Chinese or any other Chinese tribes.  During the meetings of Chiang Kai-shek and FDR in Potsdam before the end of the WII, Chiang Kai-shek declined repeatedly FDR's offer to hand over the island to Chiang Kai-shek although Chiang regretted that later.  And Communist China has known that as the episode was publicized  in their official Communist newspaper, the News of the Communist Party of China.  Well, would Communist China retract their "One China" policy by contradicting what Chiang Kai-shek had decided? 

The numerous official maps compiled by both "Republic of China" and Communist China before 1971 unmistakably demarcated the islands as Japan's territory, which Communist China is now trying to make disappear.  So has the People's Daily or the official Communist China's mouth piece.  They reported the article accusing the USA of the unwarranted occupation of Japan's territory of Okinawa including the Senkaku Island on Jan. 8, 1953.  Moreover, the editorial of the People's Daily on March 26, 1958 reiterated the same accusation against the USA by quoting the Communist China's then prime minister, Zhou En-lai as saying "There exist No international agreements that can justify the secession of the Ryukyu archipelago (of which the Senkaku Islands are a part) from Japan." 

Communist China's alleged claim over the island started in 1971 only after the UN ECAFE issued the report in 1969 of the region entailing the islands that discusses the potential large-scale undersea oil reserve.  Communist China has never produced nor demonstrated any documented or proven evidence of their claim over the islands other than a big mouthy word "history."  Neither have they refuted the historical evidences that clearly show the islands as Japan's inherent territory on the basis of the International law then and now.  In the International community of the democracy, the big mouth or shouting match, or the intimidation by brutal force has no place to prevail.   Also, as saying, the size doesn't matter… much as the maturity of a democratic nation state.  It's true even to the USA, the nation that had "the erected president" in the White House.  Otherwise, Communist China must go back to the 19th Century to seek for their hegemony with a vengeance, not in the 21st Century the rest of the world live in.

By the way, what would you call Communist China with humongous military build-up when you call Abe "right-wing"?

1971 CIA Report:


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