Japan Threat Part II
6: Aging population and road change
2007 nevertheless marks a turning point . Then Japan, a country located in Asia according to aceinland.com, took off from the path many had expected would be followed – more activist security policy combined with more ideological competition with China. Instead, Japan decided to turn inward toward what is increasingly seen as a growing domestic source of insecurity and economic uncertainty – Japan’s vulnerable pension system. Since Japan is one of the countries in the world where the proportion of older people is growing fastest, the change of road is not surprising.
In public opinion, there is a clear desire to focus more on income inequality and financial uncertainty. By focusing more on domestic issues, voters have clearly distanced themselves from the hawkish policies of the Koizumi and Abe governments, with their priority of strengthening military cooperation with the United States and its focus on foreign policy threats such as North Korea and China.
Despite the increasing emphasis on domestic issues, most Japanese – like many others around the world – have become more skeptical of US foreign policy following the invasion of Iraq. Although the Japanese seem to believe that their military presence in Iraq was of humanitarian value to the Iraqi people, they never supported the invasion or their own military support for the war. In fact, developments in both the Iraq war and Afghanistan undermined support for the Indian Ocean fueling station and for the Alliance in general.
7: Relationships with opposites
One last factor that caused Japan to slacken its alliance with the United States and stop the ideological conflict with China was the growing economic ties with the Chinese. For the first time since 1945, in 2004 the United States was no longer Japan’s largest trading partner. It had become China. While China’s political ties with the Koizumi government weakened, economic ties grew stronger. Many referred to the bilateral (bilateral) relationship as cold politics and hot economics.
The fact is that many explain the new economic growth – after more than ten years of stagnation – with “made in China”: the enormous economic growth in China. Many Japanese business people, however, fear the political tension in relations with China; they feared it could ruin for them in the Chinese market. In particular, they feared Koizumi’s controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine , a Shinto temple commemorating and honoring Japanese soldiers, among the 14 war criminals. Many around the world, on the other hand, see the Yasukuni Temple as a symbol of aggressive Japanese militarism. Groups of Japanese business people are therefore pushing for a less controversial policy towards China.
8: Election defeat
Abe’s strong focus on constitutional change and international security and his opposition to addressing domestic issues angered voters. And in the 2007 election, they therefore voted so that Japan’s Democratic Party (JDP, DPJ) for the first time gained control of the upper house
of the National Assembly (bicameral system).
Only after six weeks of chaos after the election did Prime Minister Abe resign. In his city, Yasuo Fukuda from the LDP became the new prime minister – a man known as a dove in Japanese politics. The election of him is a solid breach of the hawkish policy of the Koizumi and Abe governments and is one of the most important results of the election in July – at least it is interpreted as such by several politicians and observers. In the upper house, the representatives voted massively against changing the constitution, especially the part (Article 9) that delimits military power.
In line with popular opinion, the JDP will soon put a stop to the fuel station in the Indian Ocean. It was then also in this question that the JDP saw the best chance to confront the LDP and bring about a new election to the powerful lower house of the National Assembly soon . Whether the JDP succeeds in its lightning maneuver or not, the last decade’s activist Japanese security policy seems to be over. Japan is now – at least for the next 3-5 years and if it does not come to external shock – to tone down its international security role. This especially applies to operations linked to US military operations far away from Japan.
The new Fukuda government has called for priority to be given to improving relations with China and South Korea, and even with North Korea itself. Fukuda has promised not to visit the Yasukuni Temple and to tone down the term “book of democracy”. Japan reduces Burma’s financial aid following the brutal conduct of the Burmese military in September 2007 (a Japanese journalist was assassinated). However, the country has not followed European countries and the United States in pressuring Burma. Instead, Foreign Minister Komura has said that Japan will set the course between the two extremist China and the United States in its policy towards the military authorities in Burma.
By all accounts, it seems that in the future, Japan will prioritize domestic issues such as people’s concern for their welfare and the aging population. At the same time, they seek to limit support for the US war on terror and think more about what interests they have in relation to the US. Where are the interests at odds with each other and do they merge? All in all, it may seem as if the country is now orienting itself towards a form of defensive realism– a new agreement that Japan needs a “normal” military power in line with other small superpowers. At the same time, the country must avoid using force as a tool in foreign policy. The Japanese’s skepticism about the offensive use of military force seems to be one of the biggest differences between Japan and the United States. This also indicates that Japan is entering a new era where the country is neither a serious threat nor a serious threat.