Mon, Nov 06, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Shinzo Abe and Japan-China ties

By Parris Chang 張旭成

For the past five years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing the three arrows — monetary, fiscal and structural adjustments — of his Abenomics. Economic performance has been good, as the policy has launched seven consecutive quarters of economic growth and helped the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) win a landslide victory in last month’s general elections.

Abe’s vision — to normalize Japan’s status — has won widespread support among the Japanese public. In last month’s lower house election, the LDP won a majority of seats and together with the Komeito Party, the LDP’s coalition partner, Abe’s government holds a two-thirds parliamentary majority, exceeding the qualified majority required to make constitutional amendments.

As the Japan Restoration Party and other opposition parties are also in favor of amending the constitution, it is only a matter of time before it happens.

There have been reports that Abe might propose the amendments following next year’s LDP chairman-and premiership elections, and follow that with a referendum in 2020, but he has said that there is no timetable.

North Korea can take much of the credit for Abe’s landslide win. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s threats to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan, and North Korea over the past couple of months firing missiles over Japan on two occasions have left many Japanese with a feeling of uncertainty and helplessness.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons are posing an existential threat to Japan, which was the main theme of Abe’s election rallies throughout Japan.

He said that the LDP government is dealing firmly with the North Korea issue, that the government has increased the defense budget sharply over the past few years, that it is cooperating closely with the US on sanctions against North Korea, and that it is participating in military exercises with the US and South Korea. Japanese voters found these arguments both legitimate and persuasive.

By playing the North Korea card, Abe reminded voters that the LDP alone had the ability and experience to handle Japan’s national security crisis, and that the elections were a major choice that would determine whether it will be possible to protect Japan, resist the North Korean nuclear threat, and guarantee Japanese’s happiness and way of life.

North Korea’s hostile attitude toward Japan is doing itself a disservice.

During the 1990s, the Japanese government was undecided as to whether it should establish a theater missile defense system, but when North Korea test-fired a Taepodong-1 long-range missile over Japan in August 1998, it pushed the Japanese government to make up its mind.

Since 2000, China’s hostile actions toward Japan, including economic sanctions and dispatching military vessels and aircraft to challenge Japanese sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — have been counterproductive.

Some pro-Chinese Japanese, such as former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan, have had the whimsical notion that Japan should distance itself from the US and “join Asia” by co-opting China in opposition to the US.

Beijing’s threats and intimidating behavior caused these efforts to fail completely and lose public support, and indirectly led to Abe’s comeback in 2012.

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