Text of Shinzo Abe’s speech to Australia’s parliament

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swears that Japan’s 20th century ‘horrors’ will not happen again, and stresses Australia and Japan’s shared support for the “rule of law.” Full text in English here.

One key quote:

We will never let the horrors of the past century’s history repeat themselves. This vow that Japan made after the war is still fully alive today. It will never change going forward. There is no question at all about this point.

Would this line raise eyebrows in Washington? Abe, discussing the conclusion of the Australia-Japan FTA says:

The next step for us will be the TPP. After that, RCEP. And then the FTAAP.

RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, is the China-backed regional trade deal, that is seen as the rival to the US-backed TPP. Australia, is one of a number of countries pursuing both agreements.

Also, Abe’s mentioned “rule of law” twice, which echoes lingo that has been used since the time the US’s Asian pivot was announced.


Shinzo Abe visits Yasukuni shrine: Brace for backlash

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, showing his “third face”,  to the public and world.

The visit to the Shrine, which is considered a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past in China and South Korea comes as tensions have flared in the East China Sea in the past month.

From the WSJ:

“I have no intention at all of hurting the feelings of the Chinese or the South Korean people,” Mr. Abe said, adding that he wanted to explain his views to the leaders of both countries.

In the WSJ piece, Japan’s FM Fumio Kishida described it as a personal issue… “It’s something to do with one’s heart,” he told a news conference.

The same piece notes that this decision will likely make Washington unhappy. But for Japan to step out of the shadow of WWII, as Germany has since 1989, means that sometimes Washington won’t be happy.

The decision by Abe signals to his ideological backers that Abe is true to the unreconstructed conservative Japan. This is one of Abe’s three faces, according to Shinichi Kitaoka, president of the International University of Japan.

“My understanding is that Abe-san has three faces: Abe as right-wing, Abe as a pragmatist, Abe as the economic reformer,” he told Reuters in July.

We’ve seen the economic reformer through the many policies of Abenomics. We’ve seen the pragmatist in navigating tensions with China. Now is time for the right-winger.

Japan to “embrace” China?

This New York Times piece, on a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, concludes that US power in the Western Pacific will slowly be eroded by China’s growing military might. But

At the same time…China’s economic interdependence with the United States and the rest of Asia would probably prevent it from becoming a full-blown, cold-war-style foe, or from using military force to try to drive the United States from the region.

Curiously, I see more of a case for a break in the US-China interdependence. But more on that some other time.

As for Japan, the options will grow more stark, the CEIS report says:

The report found that in most projections, Japan would probably respond to China’s growing power by clinging more closely to the United States, as it has done recently during a heated argument with China over the islands in the East China Sea that both countries claim.

At the same time, despite the stance of its hawkish new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s fiscal troubles and political paralysis will probably prevent it from significantly bolstering military spending, as some in Washington have hoped it will do to help offset China’s increasing capabilities, the report said.

In the most extreme instances, the report predicted, doubts about the ability or commitment of the United States to remain the region’s dominant military power could one day grow strong enough to drive Japan to more drastic measures, like either embracing China or building its own independent deterrent, including nuclear weapons.

Far be it from me to question the CEIP, but the notion of Japan embracing China seems a bit of a stretch. In a strategic sense, the geography supports a Japan-China cooperation, of course, but if Japan’s culture-apart identity is any guide, a China-Japan link up seems highly unlikely. So important is Japanese self-identity that it has not allowed the immigration that would have helped its economy decades ago. I can’t image that culture turning and “embracing China.”

But who knows what the future holds? I don’t see the US retreating from Asia any time soon and I don’t see the economic trajectories assumed today as etched in stone, either. Economy-shifting technology may begin to advance again in a meaningful way for industry. Also, surely, at a certain level the US could benefit from giving into an isolationist streak and focusing on its own. My thought about China is that it’s not a mature enough modern-day political unit to promise peace in Asia.

Also, I doubt the conclusion in the report that  “for the foreseeable future, China would not follow the former Soviet Union in becoming a global rival to the United States.” Not sure where the reporter or the authors of the report are getting this notion from. Maybe it’s just retail-level rhetoric. But China seems to motivate itself by becoming the next number one.

Japanese would expel the Chinese by force: Abe

It’s always hard to tell if tensions are at a new level, or they are at the same plateau. However, today, we have a new mix of factors: the Japanese nationalist flotilla, eight Chinese government ships, the Japanese war shrine visit.

From the BBC:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pressed in parliament to say how Japan would react to a Chinese attempt to land on the tiny islands, said it would be “natural to force them to leave”.


“Since it has become the Abe government, we have made sure that if there is an instance where there is an intrusion into our territory or it seems that there could be landing on the islands then we will deal will it strongly,” he said.