How will this cheap act end?

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How will this cheap act end?

How will this pathetic drama end? It is a cheap on-again, off-again romance. The protagonists are Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the nationalist Japan Restoration Party.

The two marquee names of Japan’s right wing almost got together last summer when Abe was mentioned as a possible leader of the Japan Restoration Party that Hashimoto had founded. Hashimoto had invited Abe to join his party, but Abe chose the Liberal Democratic Party to run for prime minister again. In the end, another right-winger, Shintaro Ishihara, became the head of the Restoration Party.

While they had different party affiliations, Abe did not hide his affection for Hashimoto, calling him a “comrade.” In an interview with Sankei Shimbun in August 2012, Abe said he and Hashimoto “share a lot in education reform, constitutional revision and historical perspective.” He especially praised Hashimoto’s stance on the comfort women issue.

Hashimoto has become an international “public enemy” now, but even before his controversial remarks, he had already made terrible comments on comfort women. He frequently said the Kono Statement, which acknowledged the forcible mobilization of the comfort women, was the worst statement not based on evidence.

Abe has praised Hashimoto for being courageous. Abe became prominent after leading a group of Diet members who demanded omission of the comfort women issue from textbooks in 1997. The distortion of history has always been his tactic. So Hashimoto suited Abe’s liking.

At the end of last year, the general election separated the fates of the two politicians - one becoming the prime minister and the other the head of the second-largest opposition. But they were “partners to revise the pacifist constitution” and got together frequently to confirm their affection. So it was generally predicted that the two would collaborate in some form after the Upper House election in July.

Then Hashimoto stirred the world by saying the comfort women were necessary. Since Hashimoto became the enemy of the entire world, Abe changed his stance completely. He had praised Hashimoto’s stance only a few months before, but he drew a clear line that his personal view, as well as the government and the Liberal Democratic Party, have a completely different stance. As if that was not enough, he sent the defense minister to an international conference and had him publicly say that the Abe government does not wish to be associated with the remark of the opposition leader and his historical view. Being betrayed by Abe, Hashimoto criticized him for “telling a lie depending on the situation.”

Only about a month is left until the Upper House election on July 21. Since the comfort women remark, the rating for Hashimoto’s party fell from second to fourth place. Trying to regain Abe’s favor, Hashimoto proposed to host the U.S. Forces’ controversial transport plane training facility in Osaka.

It is pathetic that Japanese politics is swayed by the pas de deux of two politicians with no pride, loyalty or repentance on the history of aggression.

* The author is the JoongAng Ilbo Tokyo correspondent.

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