Abe still self-con­tra­dic­tory

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

ONE MO­MENT, HE SOUNDED PER­FECTLY sane, alert­ing the world to the dan­ger­ous ten­sions that could po­ten­tially tear East Asia apart.

The next, he ap­peared the very op­po­site, con­vinc­ing a global au­di­ence there is no way to undo the knot he has tied. Or at least he is not in the mood to undo it.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s rav­ings in Davos showed he is des­per­ate for a way out. Yet his be­hav­ior leaves him no chance of find­ing one.

Abe is spear­head­ing a Ja­panese lob­by­ing spree that mixes self-ex­pli­cat­ing rhetoric with China-bash­ing. Davos is his lat­est stop.

To make his case sen­sa­tional, Abe bor­rowed from re­cent in­ter­na­tional dis­course the anal­ogy be­tween present-day East Asia and the pre-World War I Europe. Close trad­ing ties didn’t pre­vent Bri­tain and Ger­many from an ul­ti­mate showdown, he warned.

Abe ap­peared sen­si­ble when re­mind­ing his au­di­ence that “if peace and sta­bil­ity were shaken in Asia, the knock-on effect for the en­tire world would be enor­mous”.

Yet his nar­ra­tive turned deliri­ous when it came to a pre­scrip­tion for peace.

He told Davos that China’s steady in­crease in mil­i­tary spend­ing was the ma­jor source of in­sta­bil­ity in the re­gion, ig­nor­ing Ja­pan’s provoca­tive “na­tion­al­iza­tion” of the Diaoyu Is­lands, deny­ing there is even a dis­pute, and his high-pro­file pil­grim­age to the Ya­sukuni Shrine wor­ship­ping 14 Class-A war con­victs among the dead.

So, as al­ways, he laid the bur­den of peace­mak­ing on Chi­nese shoul­ders.

Abe was be­ing mod­est in say­ing he doesn’t have a “clear and ex­plicit roadmap”. He has un­folded one that is clear and ex­plicit, which is for China to be­friend an un­re­pen­tant Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion, and to pre­tend no ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes ex­ist — “Without pre­con­di­tion.”

And he wanted trust. “Trust, not ten­sion, is cru­cial for peace and pros­per­ity in Asia,” he said. Ig­nor­ing the fact he has not earned it. He is the Ja­panese leader anx­ious to re­vamp the 1995 apol­ogy by then-prime min­is­ter Tomi­ichi Mu­rayama for Ja­panese ag­gres­sion.

He is the politi­cian de­ter­mined to re­write the def­i­ni­tion of “ag­gres­sion” and white­wash Ja­pan’s un­seemly wartime his­tory.

He is the govern­ment head who smears the Tokyo Tri­als and ad­vo­cates that the 14 con­victed Class-A war crim­i­nals were not guilty of any­thing.

He is the rul­ing party boss ded­i­cated to scrap­ping the war­renounc­ing Ar­ti­cle 9 of Ja­pan’s post­war Con­sti­tu­tion, and the mas­ter­mind of the Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party’s re­cent re­moval of the pledge that Ja­pan will “never wage a war” de­spite his re­peated calls for peace.

Trust­ing him may prove a mis­take too costly to be af­ford­able.

Abe is ea­ger to erase pub­lic mem­o­ries of his coun­try as a van­quished World War II ag­gres­sor. He wants to present Ja­pan as a “nor­mal” coun­try. Which is why he is dy­ing to break the “box” that has con­fined his coun­try for decades. Which is why he sought to de­politi­cize and beau­tify his visit to the Ya­sukuni Shrine as “some­thing quite nat­u­ral for a leader of any coun­try in the world”.

But un­til it can hon­estly face up to its calami­tous past, Ja­pan will re­main dif­fer­ent from any other coun­try in the world.

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