The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
New Japanese PM Talks Tough to China

Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hasn’t taken office yet, but he’s wasting no time in telling off China over the Senkaku Islands dispute. BBC News reports:

Mr Abe said the islands were Japan’s “inherent territory” and it was his party’s objective was “to stop the challenge” from China.

“We don’t intend to worsen relations between Japan and China,” he said, adding that both sides “need to share the recognition that having good relations is in the national interests of both countries”.

“China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations,” he said.

Acknowledging Mr Abe’s apparent victory, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency warned that an “economically weak and politically angry Japan will not only hurt the country, but also hurt the region and the world at large.”

Abe also affirmed that he will continue Japan’s strategy of taking a more active role in the region, stressing his desire to deepen ties with countries such as India and Australia.

This isn’t surprising given the current political climate in Japan, but it’s a marked contrast with Abe’s previous stint as prime minister, a brief period between 2006–07 in which  Japan’s relationship with China actually warmed. Now Abe seems more keen on making good on one of his unfulfilled promises from the first term: Reforming the constitution to allow Japan to have a more normal military. The escalating tensions with China could be exactly what he needs to convince the public that the time to move on these reforms is now.

Abe’s coalition has enough power in the lower house of parliament to overrule most opposition from the more recalcitrant, DPJ-controlled upper house. If Abe pushes ahead with his plans, the Game of Thrones may get much more interesting.

Published on December 19, 2012 5:05 pm