Japan’s troubling shiftShinzo Abe, head of the right-wing opposition Liberal Democratic Party, is expected to become prime minister for the second time if his party wins next month’s parliamentary election. Abe, the grandson of a World War II minister and convicted war criminal, unsurprisingly announced a far-right platform on foreign and defense affairs. He promised to take concrete steps to strengthen Japan’s control over islands in territorial disputes with China and Korea and reviewed an earlier statement in which the Tokyo government admitted the imperial Japanese military’s involvement in recruiting young girls from Korea and other parts of Asia to provide sex services for Japanese soldiers during the war. He also pledged to revise the war-renouncing constitution to allow for self-defense and military buildup. He plans to rewrite textbooks to deny or justify Japan’s invasive and imperialist history. As a victim of Japan’s brutal colonial rule, we cannot but express deep concern about Japan’s decisive turn to the right.
The right-wing movement has gained momentum in Japan over the last decade amid prolonged economic stagnation. Abe, while serving as a prime minister for a year from 2006, before he stepped down due to health reasons, promoted the Defense Agency to a full-fledged Defense Ministry for the first time since World War II. The passionate advocate of a more assertive Japan strengthened his policies for a new term.
We are appalled by his proposal for the central government to sponsor a local government’s ceremony of Takeshima Day - Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo - and promise to strengthen education to defend its sovereign claim over the islets. His renunciation of the “comfort women” issue and promise to take a strong defensive stance against Korea’s demand for an apology are also troubling. If his party wins and he is elected as prime minister, Korea-Japan relations could fall apart beyond repair.
Its plans to beef up defense spending and military power will enrage its neighbors, including China. A country that pained its neighbors greatly with its military aggression and is yet to properly apologize is poised to renew its military ambitions. It could spur an arms race in Northeast Asia and undermine regional stability and security.
Abe’s platform has raised controversy and criticism within Japan as well. But we can no longer deny that Japan’s politicians and society have veered to the right. The government should properly prepare to effectively cope with Japan’s new direction.