Japan's Aggressive Diplomacy Alienates Rivals & Friends Alike
writes in the Financial Times, “hovers between the ludicrous and the sinister.” A handful of mistakes and gaffes in recent weeks by Abe administration officials has irked South Korea and China and encouraged them to grow friendlier with one another at Japan’s expense. The same ludicrous diplomacy has embarrassed Washington, Japan’s protector in chief, and forced the Obama administration to consider the possibility of “Japan’s most nationalistic government since 1945” dragging the US into a war with China.Consider the recent launching of Japan’s huge new warship, an aircraft carrier in everything but name, the Izumo. Izumo was also the name of a flagship cruiser that led the brutal invasion of China in the 1930s and that, a few years later, fired on the USS Wake and sunk the HMS Peterel in one of the first actions in the Pacific theater of World War II. “What genius” made that decision, Rachmann wonders.There have been other gaffes. The Japanese Deputy Prime Minister asserted that the Nazis should serve as a model for Japan’s attempt to modify its pacifist constitution (which was quickly recanted); Abe was photographed in the cockpit of a jet decorated with the number of an infamous imperial army unit that carried out chemical and biological experiments on Chinese civilians. Incidents like these have further alienated China and South Korea. Traditionally, new South Korean heads of state travel to Tokyo on their first trip abroad; South Korean President Park Geun-hye went to Beijing on hers. Later she proposed building a monument in China to the South Korean soldier who assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister and then-Resident General of Korea Ito Hirobumi in 1909.Tomorrow, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, we’ll see just how many and which Japanese politicians choose to visit the Yasukuni shrine, where several convicted war criminals are interred; these visits will certainly be interpreted as another jab at Beijing and Seoul. Rachmann writes that it’s high time for the US to disengage from Tokyo, to revise the security arrangement that makes Tokyo “so utterly dependent on the US for security” and allow, even encourage, Japan “to build up its own military forces.” Considering Japan’s (and the region’s) ongoing militarization, and the Abe administration’s slightly unhinged nationalism, that might lessen the chances that the US gets dragged into a conflict, which is good, but it also might increase the enmity between the world’s second and third largest economies.