World View: Japan's Leadership Shifts Sharply Right in a Return to Nationalism

This morning's key headlines from

  • Japan's leadership shifts sharply right in a return to nationalism
  • Assad bombs a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria
  • Iran's Ahmadinejad cancels visit to Turkey over Syria disagreements
  • Reminder: Generational Dynamics World View available through e-mail

Japan's leadership shifts sharply right in a return to nationalism

New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reuters)
New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reuters)

Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by Shinzo Abe, won an overwhelming election victory in the Diet (the Lower House of parliament) on Sunday, gaining 320 out of 480 seats, or 2/3 of the house. This is a "veto-proof majority," in the sense that the LDP can override and pass a bill even if it's defeated in the Upper House. The LDP was returned to power after ruling Japan for 50 years, before it was ousted in 2009.

This was a devastating defeat for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and the current prime minister Yoshihiko Noda. Noda was elected only 3 years ago, but many believe that his loss was caused by bad luck - the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster on his watch.

Abe is taking advantage of a new nationalist wave in Japan, following the confrontation between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. This level of tension increased sharply last week, when Japan scrambled war jets to confront a Chinese surveillance plane that traveled into the islands' airspace. ( "14-Dec-12 World View -- Japan scrambles F-15 jets to challenge Chinese surveillance plane")

Abe says that the islands indisputably belong to Japan:

"China is challenging the fact that (the islands) are Japan’s inherent territory. Our objective is to stop the challenge. We don’t intend to worsen relations between Japan and China."

He will also seek to permanently base public servants on the islands to strengthen Japan's effective control.

It's hard to see what he means that "we don't intend to worsen relations," unless perhaps he's making the point that relations between Japan and China are already so bad and so hostile, that it really doesn't make any different what he does.

Abe has indicated some other policy changes that will infuriate the increasingly nationalistic and belligerent Chinese. He intends to establish closer relations with the U.S. and the Obama administration. He intends to revoke a 1993 Japanese admission that Japan used Chinese women as "comfort women" during World War II. He intends to amend Japan's constitution, removing the pacifist provisions that have been in place since the end of WW II. And he plans to resume personal visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, containing Japanese dead from WW II, including 14 convicted or accused Class A war criminals. Abe also plans a pro-nuclear policy, and to reverse the closings of nuclear plants that have occurred since the Fukushima disaster.

The Japanese electorate signaled its sharp move to the right in other ways as well. The newly formed ultra-nationalist Japan Restoration Party became the third largest party in the Diet, while the pacifist, anti-nuclear Tomorrow Party of Japan suffered a major setback. The Asahi Shimbun and Japan Times

Assad bombs a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria

The regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad sent new shock waves through the Arab world on Sunday, when his warplanes bombed the Yarmouk refugee camp, which houses hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The camp was set up in 1957 for Palestinians displaced by the war between Arabs and Jews following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The regime attack was a surprise because although al-Assad has been targeting Sunni Muslims across Syria, the Yarmouk camp houses the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an anti-Israel group that has been supporting al-Assad regime in the current conflict. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said,

"We call on the warring sides in Syria to spare the Palestinian people and their camps in Syria. [The bombing of the refugee camps] must be stopped immediately.

We also call on the international community to take immediate action to provide protection to our people in Syria."


Iran's Ahmadinejad cancels visit to Turkey over Syria disagreements

Relations between Iran and Turkey continue to deteriorate, because the two countries support opposite sides in the conflict in Syria. Iran is a staunch defender of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, and has provided troops and weapons to al-Assad. Turkey used to have a close relationship with al-Assad, until the current conflict began, but now they're mortal enemies, with Turkey hosting well over 100,000 Syrians in refugee camps along the border. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been scheduled to visit Turkey on Monday. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the central city of Konya for an annual ceremony marking the death of Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic. However, Iran is furious that Turkey is installing Nato Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, and Iran's military chief said that the move could lead to a "world war." The larger picture is that Iran has been trying for decades to gain hegemony over the entire Iranian peninsula, and has been courting terrorist groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza with weapons and money. On the other side, Turkey hopes to regain some of the role that it played when it was the head of the Ottoman Empire, and also hopes to gain hegemony over the Arabian peninsula. The two are headed for a collision. Reuters and Arab News

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