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

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 ShinzoAbe, won an overwhelming election victory in the Diet (the Lower Houseof parliament) on Sunday, gaining 320 out of 480 seats, or 2/3 of thehouse. This is a “veto-proof majority,” in the sense that the LDP canoverride 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, beforeit 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 waselected only 3 years ago, but many believe that his loss was causedby bad luck – the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster on his watch.

Abe is taking advantage of a new nationalist wave in Japan, followingthe confrontation between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyuislands. This level of tension increased sharply last week, whenJapan scrambled war jets to confront a Chinese surveillance plane thattraveled 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) areJapan’s inherent territory. Our objective is to stop thechallenge. We don’t intend to worsen relations between Japan andChina.”

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

It’s hard to see what he means that “we don’t intend to worsenrelations,” unless perhaps he’s making the point that relationsbetween Japan and China are already so bad and so hostile, that itreally doesn’t make any different what he does.

Abe has indicated some other policy changes that will infuriate theincreasingly nationalistic and belligerent Chinese. He intends toestablish closer relations with the U.S. and the Obama administration.He intends to revoke a 1993 Japanese admission that Japan used Chinesewomen as “comfort women” during World War II. He intends to amendJapan’s constitution, removing the pacifist provisions that have beenin place since the end of WW II. And he plans to resume personalvisits to the Yasukuni Shrine, containing Japanese dead from WW II,including 14 convicted or accused Class A war criminals. Abe alsoplans a pro-nuclear policy, and to reverse the closings of nuclearplants that have occurred since the Fukushima disaster.

The Japanese electorate signaled its sharp move to the right in otherways as well. The newly formed ultra-nationalist Japan RestorationParty 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 wavesthrough the Arab world on Sunday, when his warplanes bombed theYarmouk refugee camp, which houses hundreds of thousands ofPalestinian refugees and their descendants. The camp was set up in1957 for Palestinians displaced by the war between Arabs and Jewsfollowing the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The regimeattack was a surprise because although al-Assad has been targetingSunni Muslims across Syria, the Yarmouk camp houses the radicalPopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an anti-Israel groupthat 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 thePalestinian people and their camps in Syria. [The bombing of therefugee camps] must be stopped immediately.

We also call on the international community to take immediateaction 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 thetwo countries support opposite sides in the conflict in Syria. Iranis a staunch defender of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, and hasprovided troops and weapons to al-Assad. Turkey used to have a closerelationship with al-Assad, until the current conflict began, but nowthey’re mortal enemies, with Turkey hosting well over 100,000 Syriansin refugee camps along the border. Iran’s president MahmoudAhmadinejad had been scheduled to visit Turkey on Monday. TurkishPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the central city of Konya foran annual ceremony marking the death of Rumi, the 13th century Sufimystic. However, Iran is furious that Turkey is installing NatoPatriot missiles along its border with Syria, and Iran’s militarychief said that the move could lead to a “world war.” The largerpicture is that Iran has been trying for decades to gain hegemony overthe entire Iranian peninsula, and has been courting terrorist groupsin Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza with weapons and money. On theother side, Turkey hopes to regain some of the role that it playedwhen it was the head of the Ottoman Empire, and also hopes to gainhegemony over the Arabian peninsula. The two are headed for acollision. Reuters and Arab News

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