New de­fense min­is­ter will not bring Japan closer to neigh­bors

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS - The au­thor is China Daily Tokyo bu­reau chief. cai­hong@chi­


Ja­panese PrimeMin­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s Cabi­net reshuf­fle last week has com­manded much at­ten­tion. Among his new19-strong Cabi­net, 13 are mem­bers of Re­birth Japan, a con­ser­va­tive bi­par­ti­san group of law­mak­ers. These peo­ple ar­guably make Abe’s third Cabi­net the most con­ser­va­tive of the post­war era. Abe heads the group that was founded in 2007 to seek “a reawak­en­ing of the pride” of the Ja­panese peo­ple in their his­tory and cul­ture, with a spe­cial fo­cus on the Im­pe­ri­alHouse.

The most con­tro­ver­sial per­son sit­ting in Abe’s newCabi­net is To­momi Inada, who is now Japan’s de­fense min­is­ter. Her ap­point­ment has raised eye­brows in and out­side Japan for her re­vi­sion­ist views of her coun­try’s role in theWorldWar II.

Ja­panese dai­lyMainichi Shim­bun dubbed Inada as a “hawk”, and Japan’s English-lan­guage news­pa­per Japan Times named her “na­tion­al­ist”.

Inada is a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the Ya­sukuni Shrine that wor­ships war crim­i­nals in­clud­ing 14 A-class ones, and it is where she met Abe, who was the Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party’s deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral at the time. (Since then Abe has been her men­tor, find­ing her con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal credo matches his own. He named Inada min­is­ter for ad­min­is­tra­tive re­form in his Cabi­net in De­cem­ber 2012 when he be­came prime min­is­ter for the sec­ond time. And she was chief of the LDP’s pol­icy re­search coun­cil be­fore tak­ing on the de­fense post.)

Inada has ques­tioned the le­gal ba­sis of the Tokyo Tri­als that con­victed Ja­panese mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers of war crimes.

Inada is a mem­ber of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Di­etMem­bers forWor­ship­ing at Ya­sukuni Shrine To­gether, which or­ga­nizes law­mak­ers’ mass vis­its to the Ya­sukuni and ad­vo­cates mak­ing the shrine a nor­mal place where Ja­panese Cabi­net mem­bers and the Em­peror can pay reg­u­lar of­fi­cial wor­ships.

Inada has ques­tioned the le­gal ba­sis of the Tokyo Tri­als that con­victed Ja­panese mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers of war crimes. Head­ing the LDP’s pol­icy re­search coun­cil, Inada set up a panel to probe the Tokyo tri­bunal’s ver­dicts, which, in her words, were “based on a poorly con­structed” per­cep­tion of his­tory, and how Japan’s Con­sti­tu­tion was writ­ten.

She has also ques­tioned whether Japan forced women from theKorean Penin­sula and other ar­eas into mil­i­tary broth­els. In 2007, she sup­ported a full page an­nounce­ment in theWashington Post that the women had worked as li­censed pros­ti­tutes.

She has de­nied Ja­panese sol­diers en­gaged in “killing games” dur­ing the Nan­jingMas­sacre, which were in fact ev­i­denced by Japan’s me­dia.

It is an open se­cret that Inada is emerg­ing as Abe’s hand-picked suc­ces­sor in the LDP. Abe is re­port­edly said to call Inada the LDP’s “Joan of Arc”.

Abe is unit­ing the right wing forces un­der a like-minded pro­gram. Inada has called for chang­ing Japan’s Con­sti­tu­tion af­ter the LDP and its rul­ing coali­tion part­ner Komeito won a land­slide vic­tory in an elec­tion for par­lia­ment’s up­per house on July 10.

At a meet­ing of Re­birth Japan last year, Abe ap­pealed to the con­ser­va­tive LDP mem­bers for unity be­cause the party was formed with the aim of re­vis­ing the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion and free­ing Japan from the regimes cre­ated by the Al­lied Pow­ers.

The Nikkei Asian Re­view­con­cluded last year that Inada might well be­come Japan’s first fe­male prime min­is­ter given the ex­cep­tional sup­port Abe has ex­tended to her.

And Inada does not hide her am­bi­tion, claim­ing that ev­ery politi­cian as­pires to be prime min­is­ter.

Abe’s Cabi­net reshuf­fle was Japan’s in­ter­nal af­fair. But his pick of Inada as de­fense min­is­ter will make it dif­fi­cult for Japan’s strained re­la­tions with its neigh­bors to move on.

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