Expectations, worriesTaro Aso, one of the most conservative politicians in Japan and the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, was officially named prime minister on Sept. 24.
As he took office, he replaced 12 of the 17 existing cabinet members. The new members include extreme right-wing figures who maintain that Japan’s claim over Dokdo should be mentioned in school textbooks, deny the existence of wartime sex slaves for the Japanese army and argue that Japan should be nuclear-armed.
As we remember Aso’s controversial remarks, including that people in Joseon voluntarily adopted Japanese names, and that the Korean War was timely as Japan took the opportunity for rebirth, we have more worries than positive anticipation.
After taking office, Aso said his mission was to make Japan a happy and strong country. He also swore that he would devote himself to resolving difficult issues.
Whether he will have the chance to realize these ambitions is another matter. If the Liberal Democratic Party loses in the general election, which has to be held by early November, Aso will be Japan’s shortest-serving prime minister.
Winning the election will not be easy, considering the party’s low approval ratings.
While Korea-Japan relations flounder over the Dokdo issue, the situation in Northeast Asia requires cooperation among Korea, China and Japan.
Rumors about the incapacitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il intensify insecurity on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is adding to the tension by restoring its nuclear facilities.
The current financial crisis also requires cooperation among the three countries in the Northeast Asian region.
It is clear which path Prime Minister Aso should take. He needs to cooperate with his neighbors; his usual extreme right-wing conservatism and belief that Japan is superior won’t help.
When serving as foreign minister, he refrained from visiting the Yasukuni War Shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, saying, “When convictions and national interest are at odds, national interest is more important,” a move that displayed his prudence.
He has named pro-Korean figures for the two most crucial cabinet posts, foreign minister and chief cabinet secretary. But he also has installed extreme right-wing figures.
That is why we have expectations as well as worries for the new Aso cabinet.