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?