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Shinzo Abe Failed to Rearm Japan. Let’s Keep It That Way

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Houston Chronicle July 20, 2022, Koichi Nakano,

Japan had barely begun processing the shock of the former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination by a gunman on July 8 before attention turned to whether his quest to remilitarize Japan, including the revision of its pacifist Constitution, would survive him.

Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Mr. Abe was a towering presence at home and an influential statesman abroad. He advocated a more globally engaged Japan, was a driving force in the Quad alliance between the United States, Australia, India and Japan and is credited by some with initiating the very idea of the wider Indo-Pacific region.

He also envisioned a more militarily robust Japan, centered on his unfulfilled dream of revising its postwar Constitution, which prohibits his country from maintaining an offensive armed forces capability. His supporters have vowed to make these dreams — driven largely by fear of a more powerful China — a reality.

Yet it’s time for Japan to bid farewell not only to Mr. Abe but also to his nationalist rearmament agenda. Japan’s political and economic resources should be focused not on revising the Constitution and increasing defense spending but on maintaining peace through diplomacy and shoring up an economy left shaky by years of Mr. Abe’s trickle-down policies.

Critically, at a time when the United States is focused on confronting China, a humbler, more pacifist Japan could have an important role to play by re-engaging with Beijing to help decrease tensions between China and the United States.

Mr. Abe was shot while campaigning on behalf of his Liberal Democratic Party for parliamentary elections that were to be held just two days later. He leaves behind a personal legacy far more controversial and checkered than is warranted by the simplistic, fawning tributes that followed his demise.

………………………………… few aspects of Mr. Abe’s career threatened to alter Japan’s national character and role in the region as much as his crusade against Article 9, which renounces war as a means of solving international disputes and limits Japan’s military to a self-defense role. Mr. Abe unnerved millions of Japanese who see no reason to depart from a commitment to peace that kept Japan out of any direct involvement in war since 1945, allowing it to focus on becoming an economic power.

Mr. Abe failed to change the article despite two stints in power, from 2006 to ’07 and from 2012 to ’20. He settled instead for a reinterpretation that allows Japan to help close allies militarily under certain conditions but has been criticized as unconstitutional.

Japan looks no closer to revising Article 9 today, especially with the L.D.P.’s right wing now deprived of its uncontested standard-bearer. A commitment to peace runs deep in a country that was taken to war by a military government, causing huge suffering in Asia and ending in Japan’s total defeat and the distinction of being the only country attacked with nuclear weapons.

……………….. Attention now turns to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, but it’s a measure of just how smothering Mr. Abe’s presence was — he forbade open dissent among party leaders — that the Japanese don’t really know what to expect from Mr. Kishida, who represents L.D.P. moderates who have opposed constitutional revision. After the election, Mr. Kishida promised greater defense spending and pledged renewed attention on Article 9 but gave no hint that this was more than a courteous nod to the departed Mr. Abe.

But there is no doubt that Mr. Kishida’s hand is strengthened. Mr. Abe left no clear right-wing successor, and his death throws the faction into disarray, allowing Mr. Kishida an opportunity to assert more control over the national agenda.


Stripping away the safeguards of Article 9 and remilitarizing Japan would only further inflame tensions with China and risk an arms race with potentially devastating consequences for Japan and the region. On the contrary, a reaffirmed commitment to peace would allow domestic resources to be focused on the economy and open the door for better relations with Japan’s neighbors founded on peace through diplomacy.

It’s time to beat Mr. Abe’s swords into plowshares.


July 22, 2022 - Posted by | Japan, politics, weapons and war

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