The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Abe Goes Overboard

Shinzo Abe is not backing down. Responding to China and South Korea’s protests over Japanese lawmakers visiting a controversial shrine in Tokyo, Abe made an inflammatory speech that’s sure to further anger the neighbors.

With emotions running high over visits by members of his cabinet to a wartime memorial, Mr. Abe stoked passions further by appearing to question whether Japan’s World War II aggression and occupation of countries around the region could be labeled an “invasion.”

“The definition of what constitutes an ‘invasion’ has yet to be established in academia or in the international community,” Mr. Abe said in parliament on Tuesday, after a fellow lawmaker asked whether he supported a 1995 apology issued by Japan’s prime minister at the time for Japan’s colonial behavior. “Things that happened between nations will look different depending on which side you view them from.”

These comments will not only enrage neighbors; they will cool US support for Japan.

Perhaps President Obama should ask Prime Minister Abe whether he believes that the attack on Pearl Harbor was an “invasion” or something else, like a friendly house call. Will Abe now claim that the Bataan Death March was actually a pleasure outing, or that the horrifying treatment of British POWs in Singapore was actually a sign of imperial benevolence?

Most Japanese want nothing to do with this madness. According to a recent poll, though Abe’s overall popularity stands at a remarkable 70 percent, just 14 percent support his stance on diplomacy and security issues and only 6 percent back his constitutional views, which include amending Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Japan today faces an aggressive and challenging China. At home, Japan’s population is ageing and shrinking. Does Abe really think that international isolation is what his country needs?

Published on April 26, 2013 11:30 am
  • rheddles

    Perhaps Fifi could add Tokyo to the summer schedule. Seems some have forgotten her prior visits.

  • Andrew Allison

    Whatever the attack on Pearl Harbor was, it certainly wasn’t an “invasion”!

  • jtintokyo

    Japanese politics is largely theatre and this PM is currently playing to that portion of the audience up in the second deck and at the extreme right corner. Their catcalls will be lessened, if not muted, and he can then forge a consensus among the broader Japanese public for a more firm stance vis a vis China.

  • Dave

    To
    Mr Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the leader of the world’s second largest
    developed economy, the world’s tenth most populated country, Japan,

    I can not believe my eyes as I read the headline of this article. I
    can not believe even at this day and age there will be people in this
    world, not to mention a person with your stature, will be questioning
    whether Japan did “invade” China or not during WII.

    Questioning this fact is as if you were questioning whether Nazi Germany
    had invaded Poland in 1939. This is a slap on the face of all Chinese
    people around the world. It is a sprinkle of salt on the wound of those
    who lost their life during the Japanese occupation of China and not to
    mention the atrocity that the Japanese army inflicted in the city of
    Nanking.

    I am sure a lot of
    chinese people around the world would feel the same way as I do.
    Continuing to buy any more japanese products would imply that I was also
    questioning history as you did, and that I was supporting the government
    that you lead or I am in any way in agreement with you.

    Today
    is the day I draw the line. Today is the beginning of the day I will
    no longer buy any more products that are branded or produced by your
    country.
    I am, at least one of the Chinese people around the world, in protest against your attempt to change history.

    Good luck to your countries’ economy, good luck to your next election.

    a Chinese person.