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Japanese Nationalism Rises Ahead of Election

Polls are predicting that former Prime Minister Shinzio Abe’s Liberal Democratic party will take the most seats in the parliament’s lower house in Japan’s December 16 elections. Über-nationalist Grandpa Ishihara is also making strides; some recent polls have his Japan Restoration Party coming in second place. Both Ishihara and Abe advocate revising Japan’s war history, taking a more hawkish position toward China, and even nuclear armament. Reuters reports:

Parts of Abe’s agenda, including calls to drop Japan’s self-imposed ban on exercising its right of collective self-defense, or defending an ally under attack, and to boost defense spending after years of decline, would be welcome in Washington.

Abe also wants to revise Japan’s U.S.-drafted constitution, never altered since it was adopted after World War Two. U.S. officials have indicated in the past that they would like to see Tokyo loosen constitutional restraints on its military to allow a bigger global security role.

But other aspects, such as an aggressive stance toward China that risks aggravating an already tense territorial row, and a desire to rewrite what conservatives see as overly apologetic accounts of Japan’s wartime past, would not only upset China and South Korea but the United States as well.

Abe and Ishihara’s popularity is the latest evidence of increasing Japanese-Chinese tensions, alongside the Senkaku Islands dispute and the collapse of Chinese tourism in Japan.

Both countries are driving the intensification of this conflict. China’s foreign policy is pushing Japan to create stronger ties to the U.S. and other regional powers. Japan’s nationalism and increasingly assertive presence in the Pacific, on the other hand, is lending support to hardliners in China as well.

Via Meadia is cautiously supportive of Japan’s emergence as a more active and independent regional player; it’s a positive development in principle from the U.S. perspective. But that doesn’t mean we’re not also concerned about the potential for nationalistic excesses along the way. At the moment Japan and China are keeping a lid on the tensions. Let’s hope things stay that way.

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