News compilation on New Cold War.org, Oct 23, 2017
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party won a big re-election victory in the Japanese election on October 22. Abe is an ally and confidant of Donald Trump. The election result puts China and the two Koreas on edge.
Five news articles are enclosed.
Japan shares jump after Shinzo Abe wins big in general election
Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index jumped one per cent on Monday to its highest in more than 20 years after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secured a resounding win in a general election, indicating the Bank of Japan’s easy monetary policy will continue.
While Typhoon Lan, which battered Japan on Sunday as voters went to the polls, had delayed some vote counting, Abe’s coalition had secured 309 seats in the 465 seat parliament, according to Monday morning official tallies. That returns the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner to power with a so-called supermajority in the Diet (parliament).
“This should extend the lifespan of ‘Abenomics’, including the BOJ’s mega stimulus,” wrote analysts at the Blackrock Investment Institute, cited in a Reuters report.
The supermajority will also give him the mandate to pursue a change in Japan’s pacifist constitution, which Abe argues is needed because of North Korea and its threat to attack Japan.
Opponents say tinkering with the constitution – which was imposed on Japan after World War II by U.S. occupying forces – opens the door to Japanese troops being deployed overseas. That for some is a raw nerve even 72 years after the country’s crushing defeat in war.
Article 9 of the constitution renounces war and states Japan will not maintain military forces and other war potential. Japan, of course, has an air force, army and navy named the Self Defence Forces, which creates an ambiguous status for the SDF that Abe says needs to be changed.
The prime minister has said he wants to make the changes by 2020 and said on Monday he will encourage a nationwide debate on the issue beforehand. Regardless of that outcome, the win on Sunday extends Abe’s five-years in office and makes it as certain as certain can be in politics that he’ll win another three-year stint as LDP leader next September. That means he is on track to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
The LDP is claiming the win as an endorsement of their leader’s so-called Abenomics economic policy. This aims to drag Japan out of decades of deflation using monetary and fiscal policy, married to industrial restructuring and reform.
However, after his five years in power Abenomics has its share of critics for not doing enough on the reform front to tackle vested interests and improve corporate governance in Japan.
On the corporate governance front it’s clear much needs to be done. Japan Inc. has taken a battering in recent weeks by revelations Kobe Steel Ltd. was falsifying manufacturing data and Nissan Motor Co. had unqualified staff signing off on vehicle inspections. They join a long list of Japanese companies caught fiddling the books in recent years – Olympus (accounts) Toshiba (accounts), Nuclear plant operators (safety checks) to mention a few – and all on the LDP’s watch.
Abe staying on a prime minister will also put him back in parliament where his popularity took a nosedive earlier this year over allegations he’d been using his clout to extend favors to associates: Cronyism in most dictionaries. The prime minister was getting an uncomfortable grilling in the Diet over the allegations before he called the snap election and dissolved the Diet. That questioning will likely continue.
“Nobody that has been associated with any of these scandals is going to be kicked out, so for any opposition party coming in the same cast of villains will be available to them in budget committee sessions because you can ask any question you want in budget committee sessions,” said Michael Cucek, adjunct professor at Temple and Waseda universities in Japan.
Abe needs to be concerned about that, said Cucek in a press conference before the election. “Consider the number of people voting for the LDP in this election. There are 106 million voters and he’ll get 17 million to 18 million or less than 17 per cent. That’s not much of a mandate, so he needs to be careful.”
His initial main challenge in the election came from the recently established Party of Hope led by popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. Despite the initial buzz surrounding the Party of Hope, it quickly fizzled out when Koike made clear she would stay on as governor and not challenge Abe for the top job.
The Party of Hope never had a hope, said Cucek, which was demonstrated at the voting booths where it won just 49 seats at the latest count.
With Abe’s win and the Party of Hope’s loss largely predicted in newspaper opinion polls before the election, the dark horse in the vote was the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan or CDPJ. This group, like the Party of Hope, mostly comprised the remnants of the opposition Democratic Party that effectively disbanded itself before the election.
The CDPJ, headed by Yukio Edano, won 50 seats and is as the name suggests largely opposed to Abe’s plan for constitutional change. It may emerge as Japan’s largest opposition party.
After Typhoon Lan’s torrential rains and gale force winds on Sunday, Tokyo was enjoying blue skies and fresh breezes on Monday morning, giving Abe his day in the sun before he gets down to plenty of unfinished business.
Japan’s Abe to push pacifist constitution reform after strong election win
TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, buoyed by a huge election win for lawmakers who favor revising Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution, signaled a push towards his long-held goal on Monday but will need to convince a divided public to succeed.
Parties in favor of amending the U.S.-drafted charter won nearly 80 percent of the seats in Sunday’s lower house election, media counts showed.
That left the small, new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) as the biggest group opposed to Abe’s proposed changes.
Formed by liberal members of the Democratic Party, which imploded before the election and no longer exists in the lower house, the CDPJ won 55 seats, a final count by public broadcaster NHK shows. That is a fraction of the ruling bloc’s two-thirds majority of 313 seats in the 465-member chamber.
Abe said he wanted to get other parties on board, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s new conservative Party of Hope, and was not insisting on a target of changing the constitution by 2020 that he floated this year.
“We won a two-thirds majority as the ruling bloc, but it is necessary to strive to form a wide-ranging agreement among the ruling bloc and opposition (to revise the constitution),” Abe told a news conference on Monday.
“And then we aim to win the understanding of the people, so that we can gain a majority in a referendum,” Abe said. He stopped short of claiming to have won a mandate for amending the constitution in Sunday’s election.
Amending the charter’s pacifist Article 9 would be hugely symbolic for Japan. Supporters see it as the foundation of post-war democracy but many conservatives view it as a humiliating imposition after Japan’s defeat in 1945.
It would also be a victory for Abe, whose conservative agenda of restoring traditional values, stressing obligations to the state over individual rights and loosening constraints on the military, centers on revising the constitution.
“Mr. Abe is trying to create a legacy. His first legacy project was to get the economy out of deflation,” said Jesper Koll, head of equities fund WisdomTree Japan.
“The second legacy is to change the constitution,” he said. “You can debate whether he has a mandate but what will make or break him … is the constitutional issue.”
Any revision of the constitution requires support from two-thirds of the members of both chambers of parliament and a majority in a public referendum, with no minimum quorum.
“I think that debate in parliament will begin,” said Zentaro Kamei, a senior researcher at think tank PHP Institute and a former lawmaker of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
“But the reason given for this snap election was Abe’s proposal to change what sales tax hike revenues would be used for. If he starts talking about the constitution, people will say, ‘You didn’t ask me that’,” Kamei said.
Abe proposed last May adding a clause to Article 9 to legitimize Japan’s Self-Defence Force. Read literally, Article 9 bans a standing military but has been interpreted to allow armed forces exclusively for self defense.
Parliament enacted laws in 2015 allowing Japan to exercise collective self-defense, or aid allies under attack, based on a reinterpretation of the constitution rather than a formal revision.
After election win, Abe’s military agenda set to rile China
Push to reform constitution, growing chatter of nuclear weapons will elevate tensions between the region’s largest powers
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cruised to an election victory on Sunday, with his Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition possibly winning enough seats to maintain a “super majority” in Japan’s lower house, as Reuters reported. Full results will be tallied Monday.
The win shores up Abe’s position to push for an amendment to Japan’s pacifist constitution amid fast growing tensions in Northeast Asia. North Korea’s strides developing nuclear capabilities coincide with a newly confident China’s challenge to the deployment of U.S. missile systems in South Korea.
A shift in the role of Japan’s military could codify the de facto authority of the government to maintain armed forces, which is technically banned under Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution. This in itself would be a significant shift, which may see Japan’s military — referred to as Self-Defense Forces – play a greater role abroad.
But another potential change long seen as a red line, both domestically and with other regional players, now seems increasingly within the realm of possibility. That is the development of Japanese nuclear weapons.
Kyodo news agency reports Sunday that Japan has “dramatically” watered down a draft resolution on nuclear disarmament.
Since 2010, Japan has included in the resolution a sentence that reads “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of ANY use of nuclear weapons” [emphasis added]. In the most recent proposed resolution, the word “any” was omitted.
“The omission of the word ‘any’ implies there could be a case of nuclear weapon use that would not cause inhumane consequences and therefore this type of use might be permitted,” Tatsujiro Suzuki, director of the Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University was quoted by Kyodo as saying. “It can’t be helped if Japan will be regarded as an unfit advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
The change was reportedly made under pressure from the U.S., which has under the Trump administration called for South Korea and Japan to take on more of the burden of regional defense. By some accounts, China is not especially concerned with a nuclear capable North Korea, rather, they are concerned with whether the North’s capabilities would motivate South Korea and Japan to develop nuclear weapons. It looks as though the trend line is moving in that direction, though in both cases the move would face stiff domestic political opposition.
Abe victory shadows Seoul-Tokyo relations
A big victory by Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition in Japan’s snap election is casting a cloud over relations between South Korea and the neighboring country.
Abe will obviously push for a revision to Japan’s so-called pacifist constitution based on his renewed political momentum. The militaristic move could complicate bilateral policy cooperation against North Korea’s provocations and resolving historical issues, analysts said Monday.
“Abe must have interpreted this overwhelming victory as being given the authority to push ahead with the constitutional revision, his personal ambition that had been pushed back by a recent corruption scandal,” said Yang Kee-ho, a professor of Japanese studies at Sungkonghoe University.
Yang says the timing could be advanced against this backdrop. “If the revision is realized, the psychological impact will be huge for both South Korea and China, and it could disturb security cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”
Abe’s LKP-led coalition won 312 seats in the election Sunday, securing a two-thirds majority in the 465-seat lower house that is enough to revise the Constitution.
He earlier proposed that the war-renouncing Article 9 be amended to include grounds for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to operate overseas by 2020. The move is expected to be accelerated as Abe is likely to secure a third three-year term as LDP leader next September.
The North’s provocations and public fears gave Japan’s ruling bloc a much-needed boost in the election. Abe’s hard-line stance toward North Korea will be further strengthened, Yang said, which could trouble smooth coordination with the Moon Jae-in government seeking a two-track North Korea policy of dialogue and sanctions.
“Japan, in close coordination with the U.S., has focused on putting more pressure on North Korea at an international level, while South Korea is openly pursuing more dialogue with the country before it completes its nuclear weapons program,” he said.
“Japan’s hard-line drive could threaten to upset policy coordination between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.”
Park Won-gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University, pointed out that Abe’s boosted power could leave little room for Seoul and Tokyo to resolve the issue of wartime sexual slavery of Koreans during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of Korea.
“Japan now has a strong right-wing administration without an opposition powerful enough to check and balance it. That means, when unsolved historical issues are rekindled, they are less likely to seek a compromise.”
The sex slave issue could be further expanded later this month, as UNESCO is expected to decide on whether it will list records of comfort women on its Memory of the World Register. Civic groups from eight countries, including Korea and China, requested the listing in May last year. The Abe administration has protested the move, threatening to end financial contributions to the body.
Another variable in Seoul-Tokyo ties is how the South Korean government will assess the implementation of the accord reached between the two sides in December 2015 over the sex slaves, the analyst noted.
Seoul’s foreign ministry launched a taskforce to review the agreement in late July, aiming to draw up a conclusion by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Japan’s claim to territorial sovereignty over the Dokdo Islets is expected to remain in its annual defense white paper and history textbooks.
The Japanese stock market rocketed to a 21-year high with a record 15-day winning streak after the result of the Japanese parliamentary election. Japanese capital was pleased that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had won the snap general election and, with its Buddhist-affiliated Komeito, the incumbent coalition had retained the two-thirds majority necessary to pass legislation without recourse to the upper house.
This means that Abe can claim a mandate to change Japan’s constitution from a ‘pacifist’ defensive role for its military to a fully offensive imperialist stance for the first time since the end of the second world war. Abe claims this is necessary to resist the growing danger of nuclear attack by North Korea and the insurgent presence of China. In reality, it is an obsession within the ruling clique of the LDP to reassert Japan as an imperialist power and not just a lapdog of the Americans.
However, even with this vote, Abe will have to proceed cautiously because Japanese citizens are still divided on whether any constitutional change is necessary and Abe has had to agree not to move on this until 2020 at the earliest. But now he has a longer-term mandate to do this…
Once again, the real winner in Japan’s election was the ‘no vote’ party. The voter turnout was just over 52%, the second lowest since 1945 and up only 1% on 2014 – a turnout even lower than in the US elections. The majority of Japan’s working class, seeing no party representing their interests, just did not vote…