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"We Will Take Back Japan"

Prime Minister Abe Attends Naval Fleet Review

On Sunday Japan’s Parliament will hold upper house elections, and the ruling party of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to win comfortably. If that’s the case, it will be a strong endorsement of his policies in the eight months since he assumed office. Those policies—a stronger military and a more nationalist, more antagonistic foreign policy than anything seen in previous administrations, plus a bold economic stimulus program—have been very popular so far. Support for a stronger military continues to grow.

Japanese history shows a pattern of long eras of stasis broken by bursts of rapid and astonishing change. The evidence is accumulating that the shift under Abe is more than a minor adjustment. “The national security environment we face shifts constantly, but I’d say the changes we’ve seen in the past several years have been very drastic,” the defense minister told the Wall Street Journal this week.

Emphasizing the shift in defense policy, Abe visited two remote islands in Okinawa Prefecture this week. He told coast guard officers: “I intend to lead the way in efforts to protect our territorial land, water and sky till the very end.” He recently posed for photos in a tank and fighter jet. His party’s mantra in the lead-up to Sunday’s election is “We Will Take Back Japan.” An unnamed senior source told Reuters today that Japanese exploration ships will operate “right up to the median line” in response to a Chinese plan to explore disputed areas in the East China Sea.

Neither Japan nor China appears able or willing to back down from their territorial dispute. Each continues antagonistic deployments of geologic exploration ships, fishing boats, jets and coast guard vessels into the other’s territory, unnerving military officers in both countries. The potential for a confrontation continues to grow.

“Our resolve to defend our territory is now being tested,” Masahisa Sato, a defense adviser to Abe and one of the parliamentarians running for reelection on Sunday, said in a recent speech. Sato read from a letter a kamikaze pilot wrote to his daughter before he flew his plane into an American ship during WWII. His voice grew hoarse. “We have people we want to protect. We must have the resolve to hand this nation to the next generation.”

[Japanese warships photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • Philopoemen

    I almost laughed out loud when reading the kamikaze quote. This is so absurd it reads like The Onion.

  • Pete

    Talk about being counter-productive. The kamikazes were one reason Truman decided to nuke Japan. He figured the Japanese were too fanatical to be reasoned with otherwise.

  • wigwag

    It seems to me that the current political direction that Japan is taking is a major net plus for the United States. The U.S. won the Cold War not by ourselves but with our trilateral partners, Japan and Western Europe. With the collapse of the Japanese economy and the increasingly leftist orientation of Europe, American strength was negatively impacted. Europe is more pathetic than ever; its economy is in a shambles because of its ignorant austerity program, its defense spending is falling off a cliff and it is more divided and dispirited than ever. Just about the only thing headed up in Europe is the EU’s sactimonious attitude.

    The United States should be delighted that at just the moment our European “partner” is more useless than ever that our Japanese partner has rediscovered its pride while beginning to fix its economy. Japan’s increasing military expenditures means that the United States has an ally willing to spend a little something on its national defense.

    Given that Europe appears to be in extremis, a revitalized Japan should put a smile on all our faces even if for political reasons Japanese politicians occasionally make some stupid comments about World War II.

  • Anthony

    Pretty bellicose posturing. Are these aggresive statements undergirded by U.S. specific American-Japan alliance in the region?

    • rheddles

      One party has to be the good cop, one the bad. Obama has abandoned the position of bad cop and Abe is just picking up the slack.

  • Tim Godfrey

    So if a US soldier sacrifices himself by jumping on a grenade – is he a hero or a lunatic?

    How about a soldier left behind to defend a hopeless position so others can escape?

    Why doesn’t a soldier that sacrifices his life to take out a enemy warship deserve the same respect?

    It is not possible to understand what is going on in Japan today if one insists on filtering information through western prejudices.

    • Jim__L

      Look at it through the filter of history… in the era of the kamikaze, what were the Japanese fighting to preserve? The successful prosecution of the war (from Japan’s side), and the militaristic government policies that were driving Japan to destruction. What were they fighting to prevent? The ability of the US to impose our postwar regime on the Japanese home islands.

      I’ll grant you, it would take a great leap of faith for a patriotic Japanese to believe that what actually happened under the MacArthur administration would be what they could expect. Just look at how the Japanese treated the defeated Koreans or Chinese. (Defeat on the European Eastern Front was grim, as well.) Hindsight is 20/20.

      At a certain point, though, the courage to accept a hopeful peace is more useful to your loved ones (and therefore more honorable) than the courage to take as many b…..ds as you can down with you.

  • Federale

    Sonno Joi!

  • cubanbob

    Bluster is cheap. Rearming is very expensive. With its debt and growth can Japan credibly rearm?

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