Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe escalated tension in the already volatile Asia-Pacific region on December 26 when he made a controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine. The visit came on the one-year anniversary of his tumultuous presidency. Abe’s leadership has been marked with a forcefulness not seen from Japan since World War II.
Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the shrine, the first by a sitting Japanese leader in seven years, defended his visit, saying that he was simply praying for the souls of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for Japan: “Regrettably, it is a reality that the visit to Yasukuni Shrine has become a political and diplomatic issue,” Abe said. “Some people criticize the visit to Yasukuni as paying homage to war criminals, but the purpose of my visit today, on the anniversary of my administration’s taking office, is to report before the souls of the war dead how my administration has worked for one year and to renew the pledge that Japan must never wage a war again.”
However, Abe’s pledge to never wage war again has fallen on deaf ears as many of his policies say the exact opposite. Since coming into office, Prime Minister Abe’s has stated that his “life’s work” was to change the pacifist constitution drafted by the Americans after World War II. He has repeatedly voiced his desire to amend Article 9 which limits Japan’s ability to wage war.
Abe’s policies have been met with plenty of support in Japan. He is one of the most popular leaders in recent years; his approval rating is at 60 percent. Japan’s so called “self-defense force” is very well equipped, ranking in as the sixth best-equipped army in the world, according to some sources. “We are not pacifist in that sense,” said Narushige Michishita, director of the security and international program at Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. “We supported all the U.S. wars, contributing $13 billion to the Gulf war. Japan isn’t remilitarizing–we are already there.” Currently Japan’s active military is larger than the U.K.’s.
Other Pacific nations have already voiced their desires to purchase some of Japan’s advanced weapons technology, something limited by Japan’s constitution. Japan is one of the most advanced weapons producers in the region. If Japan’s pacifist policies were repealed, it would open up a new avenue of revenue for the nation. At the start of December, the Abe administration announced that the government was working to reverse the limits on weapons exports and permit exports as long as they “contribute to Japan’s national security” or meet other conditions. The vague and open-ended wording of this proposition would extend Japan a lot of freedom to export a range of weapons to various other nations.
Full article: Imperial Japan Rising? (The Trumpet)