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Japan Diary


May 3, 2013

Abe's government is an asset for the U.S.

Shinzo Abe's government is quietly but widely supported by the Japanese (the approval rate exceeds 70%). It is not so much a fanatic support as a "sigh of relief" from the populist, socialist and deflationary DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) government, which was defeated in disgrace last December.

The reflationary policy of Abe has brought a respite in the society at least in atmosphere, and his steady but efficient style of ruling (he does not antagonize the bureaucrats as DPJ government did, but uses their service), including the efforts to secure the alliance with the U.S., is much appreciated by the majority of the people. Besides the breath-taking reflationary measures, he has decided to join the negotiation to establish TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership--a deepened version of WTO), overcoming resistance from interested groups, and has ushered the process to build better relations with Russia.

If Mr. Abe achieves positive results in the impending election of the Upper House, where his party, LDPJ (Liberal Democratic Party of Japan), does not have majority, he will address important political questions, amendment of the Constitution among others. The democratic and peaceful nature of the Constitution will not be changed (even new civil rights shall be added), but it should be altered so that it will give a firm legal basis to the Self-Defense Forces and their work in UN peace-keeping operations abroad.

The Self-Defense Forces are even not mentioned in the Constitution (therefore, the prime minister is an "unconstitutional" commander-in-general of the Self-Defense Forces), so they are defended by third countries' armed forces, when they are sent abroad for UN operations.

Japan also should become more reliable and fairer ally for the U.S. So far the Constitution prevents the Self-Defense Forces to provide defense to the U.S. forces stationed in and around Japan. In other words even when the U.S. forces are fighting to defend Japan, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are not able to provide assistance. Such unhealthy relations should be altered.

If Mr. Abe does not tilt toward jingoism, the amendment of the Constitution will work for strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance, and Mr. Abe can be considered as a valuable asset for the U.S.

However, if Mr. Abe ever goes further and tilts toward jingoism, which constitutes part of his and LDPJ's constituency, things will become precarious for others and for Abe himself; the majority of the Japanese approve his government not because of his political agenda, but because of his economic policy and reliable governance.

A stable government is badly needed in today's Japan, and so far there is no alternative for Mr. Abe. Then, let us keep supporting Abe, prompting him to stay truly "liberal and democratic", which he is in his mind.

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