With the landslide election victory by the mainly-Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition, the foundation has been laid for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to continue his medium- to long-term strategy.
Some analysts have said that the LDP win was due to the divided opposition. However, the bigger reason is probably voters’ judgment that only Abe, with his harsh real-world experience, is capable of handling the impending North Korean crisis. The people of the nation, understanding the seriousness of the threat and the challenges that lay ahead, have set their hopes on the Abe administration to bring Japan some reprieve.
Maintaining Peace with A Strong Deterrent
The challenge for the Prime Minister is to handle the North Korean crisis, carefully dealing with critical matters, including constitutional revision, yet all the while tackling the issues proactively.
Short-term predictions for the North Korean situation are extremely dire. Looking back over history, the reason behind Japan’s wars—including the Battle of Baekgang, the Mongol Invasions, and both the First Sino-Japanese war and the Russo-Japanese war—was almost always the situation on the Korean peninsula. If one considers the terrible suffering of the victims in those occasional battles, measures to deal with the current immediate North Korean crisis need to be infallible.
An emergency will arise in the far east contingent on the decisions of American President Donald Trump. The ultimate path to preserving the peace and avoiding military conflict is to prepare a strong deterrent. Firstly, provisions to deal with North Korean outbursts must be strengthened. Reconsidering Japan’s exclusively defensive capabilities, establishing the military capability to attack enemy bases, increasing military personnel and equipment, and increasing the defense budget would have the power to stop other countries, not just North Korea, but also China, in their tracks.
Amid preparations to deal with a range of challenges, most for the first time in the postwar era—such as rescuing North Korean abduction victims, ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals, accepting refugees, and undertaking measures to deal with spies—increased understanding of the need for a strong deterrent to preserve the peace would be likely.
Spreading Values Different From China’s
Meanwhile, as far as Japan is concerned, the biggest threat is China, hiding behind North Korea. On October 18th, in the opening speech at the 19th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping (head of state) revealed a position of increased military strength and autocratic rule. In the almost three-hour-long speech, Xi highlighted becoming a world-class military power, and urged party members and citizens alike to yield to the absolute authority of the CCP. “China-fication” and “adaption to socialist society” was even demanded of religion. Perhaps this means that Tibetans will be prohibited from studying Tibetan Buddhism, and the current increased focus on the Analects will be further promoted.
Xi praised the “revival of the Great Chinese Race,” saying “the Chinese race towers above the ethnicities of the world,” and advocated for the construction of a “community of destiny for humanity.” Reflecting on what this reveals regarding the future of China, I think the crucial words here are “build a community of destiny for humanity,” which sounds synonymous with a “declaration of world domination.” Will all of humanity be urged to live under the rule of China as a member of the Chinese-led community of destiny?
On October 18th, in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was unusually candid in his criticism of China’s stance. Tillerson emphasized the importance of the establishment of a cooperative Japan-US-Australia-India framework to deal with China. It was a proposal which overlapped with Prime Minister Abe’s strategy of recent years.
Given his preference for a long-term strategy, it is possible that, at times, Tillerson’s views would be contrary to Trump’s policies, in light of the President’s preference for short-term strategies. Amid this, Prime Minister Abe is one of the few leaders able to advise President Trump regarding how to understand China. Of course, despite the importance of a cordial relationship with China, it is in Japan’s national interest for Japan and the US to build a secure long-term strategy regarding China, while using Japan’s experience to explain to President Trump that China is a long-term threat to the free world.
This latest election result is a mandate for Abe diplomacy to have Japan wield more power in order to build an international community based on the universal values of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. The Prime Minister should rely on Japanese values, distinct from China’s, and have the mettle to proceed toward setting up a Pacific-Indian regional framework, with Australia and India joining the Japan-US partnership.
It is the Time for Constitutional Revision
One hundred and sixty years ago, Japan was flustered by the arrival of the Perry Expedition. At the time, Japan was vulnerable, having experienced a long period of isolation and being unaware of the industrial revolution. Information gathering capabilities were poor, and military might was equally so.
The country was in a precarious state, with no economic power, military might, nor information gathering capability, and yet, unlike other Asian countries, it was never colonized and had been able to protect the nation-state. The reason for this is that the people of the nation awoke to the harsh reality that national prosperity and military power are necessary to protect the nation, and had the mettle to protect their homeland.
Today, Japan is the third largest economic power in the world. It also has adequate military and information gathering capabilities. And yet something has been lost. A sense of reality and mettle. Buried by the pacifism of the current Constitution, we are repulsed by military matters and do not even feel discord at the notion of leaving the responsibility of protecting the nation and its people to the US. Japan has become an abnormal country.
However, for the first time, those in favor of constitutional revision have surpassed 75%. The majority of those 75% are probably people who have begun to recognize the crisis at hand. The Prime Minister has continued to speak “frankly,” and now the time has come to carry out constitutional revision. The current era and the people of the nation are, right now, giving Prime Minister Abe a nudge. The Prime Minister’s most important mission is to fulfil his responsibility to the era and the people, as well as ensuring that Japan is not left behind by the rest of the world.