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EDITORIAL | The Shinzo Abe Vision, More Important than Ever

On the second anniversary of his assassination, Shinzo Abe and his vision continue to inspire Japan as it navigates through a dangerous and unstable world.



Two years have passed since the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. People observe a moment of silence at the scene, timed to coincide with the incident, in Nara City on July 8. (©Sankei by Yasuaki Watanabe)

Two years ago on, July 8, 2022, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a terrorist while delivering a streetcorner stump speech during the House of Councillors election. Once again, we would like to express our heartfelt condolences. 

Shinzo Abe served longer than any other prime minister in the history of constitutional government in Japan. He held the office for a total of eight years and eight months. During that time he achieved many accomplishments from a conservative perspective. After stepping down as prime minister, he remained an active politician who continued working for Japan and the Japanese people. His loss continues to be grievously felt. 

Violently taking the lives of politicians or seeking to stifle the expression of free speech through assassination directly challenges democracy. Such actions cannot be allowed and The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

A memorial service anniversary of the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was held at Choanji Temple in his hometown of Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, with about 50 people attending, including his wife Akie. (©Sankei by Koya Chida)

A Time Once Again to Mourn

Meanwhile, we are greatly concerned that there have been instances in which people have even praised the assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami. He outrightly murdered Abe. Affirming the despicable acts of terrorists can only lead to more terrorism. It can never be forgiven. 

The election of Tokyo's next governor took place on Sunday, July 7. Soon there will also be other important elections. They include the selection of the next ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president and a House of Representatives election. These are approaching quickly and we must accordingly remain as vigilant as possible. 

Additionally, in the United States, the chances of former president Donald Trump being elected to a second term this November appear to be increasing. Many people cannot help but wish that Abe, who had developed friendly ties with Mr Trump, was still alive today. 

Nonetheless, the value of Abe's politics goes beyond his relationship with the Trump Administration. Its true value lay more than anything else in the way Abe, unafraid of criticism, actively worked both at home and abroad to create a favorable international order and environment for Japan and the world. 

The Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept he championed has taken root in international society. He imagined the concept to deter a China that is disruptive of the international order. Abe also came to be trusted by world leaders as a staunch advocate for free trade. 

People lay flowers and pray at a memorial stand set up near the scene of the incident, Nara City on July 7. (©Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

Paving the Way for Meaningful Self-Defense

Despite facing fierce opposition from leftist and liberal quarters, Abe reinterpreted the Constitution of Japan. He pushed through the enactment of the country's security-related legislation. Moreover, he paved the way for Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense, albeit still on a limited basis.

Japan has entered into a mutual defense arrangement with the United States. Thanks to Abe, the bonds and deterrent power of the bilateral alliance have increased dramatically. If it had not been for Abe's decisiveness, Japan would be hard-pressed to respond to a possible Taiwan contingency. Equally, there would be little confidence in addressing the nuclear and missile issues involving North Korea. In turn, that would undoubtedly deliver a hard blow to the Japanese economy.

Except for Japanese policy towards Russia in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has continued and advanced Abe's diplomatic and security line. This is reflected in the revision of the nation's key three security documents, including the National Security Strategy. Along with the documents, he has fundamentally strengthened the nation's defense capabilities. Kishida deserves high marks on that score.

PM Fumio Kishida speaks at the House of Councillors Special Committee on Political Reform, on June 18, at the Diet. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Problems Plaguing the Current LDP

On the other hand, public support for the Kishida Cabinet remains mired at extremely low levels. Among the factors contributing to this situation are issues that arose after Abe's assassination. For example, the scandals surrounding the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church). Also, the issue of unrecorded funds from parties staged by factions within the LDP, including the Abe faction. 

However,  there are other deeper causes for its unpopularity.

There are two key points concerning which Prime Minister Kishida and other LDP members have lost their pride as conservatives. That is because they have not shown any sign of making progress on deeply important issues to Japan today. Instead, they have wavered in the face of a backlash from left-wing and liberal elements that was to be fully expected.

Two Reasons for the Low Level of Support

For example, although some problems were addressed through last-minute revisions, the LDP went along so easily with passing the law on promoting understanding of sexual minorities including LGBTQ. This only amplified public anxiety. It raised concerns that men who claim to identify as women could use the law to justify entering women's only spaces. 

Furthermore, the LDP is set to resume internal debate on the optional use of separate surnames for married couples. This will be the first time to take up the issue in three years. That is in response to a call by the Keidanren for the early adoption of such a system. Even though it would be "optional," such a system would have ramifications for the family unit and society as a whole. 

If it is introduced, some children would be forced to take a different surname from one of their parents. In turn, that would undermine the sense of unity of the family. The koseki family register would also lose some of its significance. Instead, the identification of individuals by their family surname would dissolve into identification by individual names like so many grains of sand. 

Japan's Supreme Court rulings have clearly commented on this. Such a sensitive issue should be decided based on a comprehensive appraisal, taking into account national traditions and public feelings. Moreover, becoming obsessed with issues that sow seeds of discord is not appropriate conduct for a conservative party. 

Post-war Constitution of Japan is the only constitution in the world that has never been amended. It was adopted during the occupation of Japan.

Fundamental Issues That Must Be Resolved

Another problem is the slow progress being made on two fundamental issues facing the nation. One is the establishment of a stable system of succession for the throne. This is necessary to ensure that there are a sufficient number of members of the imperial family. 

The second issue is the revision of the Constitution of Japan. 

These two issues should have been addressed directly by extending the regular session of the Diet. There are claims that debate concerning both of them would continue during the Diet break. However, can we really believe that? As the Prime Minister and president of the LDP, Kishida must lead the Liberal Democratic Party as a whole. Together they must demonstrate through their actions that their words are not just empty talk.

At present, there are no signs that support for the Cabinet and the LDP are about to rebound. The September election of the next LDP president looks like it could be the party's last chance to recover. Hopefully, the Diet members who throw their hats in the ring will display some conservative spirit and discuss how they intend to lead Japan into the future. 

Whoever becomes the next leader needs a strong spirit and drive to surpass the historical achievements of Shinzo Abe. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun