"We Will Take Back Japan"
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]