One of biggest questions in world politics right now is this: Which way will Japan jump after the brutal murder of two hostages by ISIS? Will nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-militarism hand be strengthened as the country becomes more defense-minded? Or will the reaction to ISIS push Japan back towards postwar pacifism and turning inward, away from an ugly world? The FT reports on the political ramifications of the killings:
Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, released a video on Sunday that appeared to show the beheading of Mr Goto, a freelance journalist captured in Syria last year. […]
The news shocked Japan, which had hoped for three-way hostage exchange involving Jordan, but instead awoke to gruesome Isis threats to “let the nightmare for Japan begin” and “cause carnage wherever your people are found” broadcast on Japanese breakfast television.It highlighted tensions between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, allowing for a more proactive national defence, and opponents who argue such interference is what puts Japanese citizens at risk.Mr Abe’s response was defiant. “Japan will never give in to terrorism,” he said. “We will further expand our humanitarian assistance in the Middle East in areas such as food and medical care.”
It is not so easy to predict, and Japan is a very complicated, very unique society—but so far the early signs favor Abe being able to seize the moment. If Japan’s own neighborhood were peaceful and quiet, it’s possible the Japanese would turn inward. But East Asia these days is anything but quiet, and it’s likely that Japanese opinion will on balance come out in favor of a continuing strengthening of alliances and a growing role in world affairs.