The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Shinzo Abe Pokes the Dragon in the Eye

“I swear I will do everything in my power to change the situation in Tibet, where human rights are being suppressed. . . . Tibet seeks freedom and democracy and we agree on those values.” So said Shinzo Abe, likely Japan’s next prime minister, who met the Dalai Lama in Japan yesterday.

It was a direct jab at China by the nationalistic Abe. China’s response was swift: “Japanese right-wing forces have openly supported Dalai’s separatist activities. . . . We express severe criticism to this.”

Last month Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead (including war criminals); now he’s met with the Dalai Lama and expressed his support for Tibet. These moves will infuriate Chinese nationalists and raise tensions between Tokyo and Beijing even higher, especially if Abe becomes Japan’s next Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Japan’s current prime minister offered to call early elections, Reuters reports: “[Prime Minister] Noda told parliament he would be willing to dissolve the lower house on November 16 and hold elections in December if the opposition agreed to pass reforms to the electoral system.”

Abe’s day in the sun may be coming closer. If so, the U.S. will have to brace itself for stormy weather in the Pacific.

Published on November 14, 2012 12:30 pm