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Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe is president of the Liberal Democratic Party and was elected prime minister of Japan in December 2012. He also served as prime minister in 2006 after being elected by a special session of Japan’s National Diet, but resigned after less than a year.

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Shinzo Abe's military ambitions will put regional stability at risk

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 3:50am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 3:50am

Nationalist Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has started turning rhetoric to reality by moving to build up the country's military. His government has approved measures that put in place a defence structure and strategy and significantly increase spending and strength. He has referred to the steps as "proactive pacifism" to make them more palatable to critics and China and other neighbours that suffered at the brutal hands of Japan's imperial forces during and before the second world war. The planned changes are anything but peaceful, though; Northeast Asia's stability will deteriorate if Abe's vision is allowed to come to fruition.

Three security documents were approved by lawmakers last Tuesday, forging a ground-breaking direction for the nation. The first-ever national security strategy aims for a more mobile military and calls for study of the need for long-range strike capability. Near-term strategy and force structure planning were detailed in the defence programme outline and mid-term defence plan. Military spending will increase by almost 5 per cent over the next five years. Controversial secrecy legislation has been approved and a national security council launched.

Abe and his supporters want Japan to break with its post-war US-imposed pacifist constitution. They seek a nation that is able to defend itself and be less reliant on foremost ally the US, whose 50,000 military personnel stationed in the country form the backbone of national defence. Rising tension with China and South Korea over disputed islands has meant citizens' growing support. The ambitions dovetail with Washington's desire, based on economic objectives, for Tokyo to take greater responsibility for its own defence, mapped out in October when the sides agreed to modernise their military alliance.

The developments point in a worrying direction for China and Korea, which bore the brunt of Japan's war-time aggression. They do not believe the nation has sufficiently apologised for its crimes, which Abe and other nationalists are seen as denying. Western governments have taken a two-faced approach: they have expressed no concern about a rise in Japan's military spending or a strengthening of its forces, but greet China's annual increases with misgivings.

Any Japanese military buildup is only going to further stir an arms race. The US has to use its influence to dampen the ambitions of Abe and his cabinet. To do otherwise will only let the region go down a dangerous path.

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This article is now closed to comments

stim
First of all, Shinzou Abe is not a nationalist. I would like to know the reason why this writer judged so. Actually, if the writer really wishes Japan to cease its building up of military, what he should is not to request the US to use it influence but to ask China to cease to threat Japan in any incendiary way including by sending its vessels to Japan's territory or by widening its air defence identification zone. These behaviours give Mr. Abe's government good excuses.
A Hong Konger
The events in the East China sea are realpolitik, China, possessing improved naval power, and pandering to local nationalist thugs, is seeing how far they can expand their sphere of influence. Japan's reaction was predictable, they could hardly do nothing given the changes of the last two years. Indeed Abe's election had much to do with China's posturing.
As Hong Kongers, this is an issue between our neighbours we should keep out of and focus on our own issues with Beijing. However, we should not forget our role as it was the amateurish and irresponsible 'Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands' that triggered the tensions in the first place with their landings on the islands. If you want to do something productive discourage others from giving them money.
As for the article, Japan's defence spending has decreased whereas China's has increased (****www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25411653), Japan has not changed the status quo, yet China has. Even China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have tried to down play the importance of the ADIZ over the past few weeks, suggesting the aggression of the move was counter productive. Japanese wartime aggression is irrelevant. Yet the article attempts to paint Japan in a negative light, any 1st year IR student will tell you it doesn't work like that. These are carefully scripted moves out of a cold war play book. This article is amateurish propaganda showing a lack of editorial control and declining standards at the SCMP.
pliu
Whether you like it or not, Hong Kong is now part of China. This is reality! Any issue that affects China is an issue for our concern. It would be totally naive to think otherwise!
This is a good Editorial by SCMP warning of the dangers of Japanese military expansionism. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people were brutally killed and their women raped by Japan's Imperial Army during the occupation of China in WW2. Even today, many Japanese politicians are still in a period of denial regarding these atrocities. In fact, many want to re-write history to hide their shameful past!
Of course, history is relevant when talking about Japan. However, I'm not saying Japan is all bad and no good. Japanese people in general are very nice, polite and friendly. I have met many both in Hong Kong and London. I have also visited Tokyo very recently. It's their politicians and military I don't trust.
Unfortunately, there is increased nationalism on both sides stirring hatred and fear in both Chinese and Japanese people. I believe people from both countries should visit each other more and have better understanding of each other's language, culture and history. This is the best way to reduce tensions between China and Japan.
There is a lot the two countries can learn from each other. Let's hope sound minds prevail in both countries.
village2206
Chinese political opportunism is a belligerent creeping cancer. To the naive its sloth like and harmless--- beware !!!
lucifer
What about China's ambitions.....this articles is a joke. Abe's actions are in response to Chinese aggression. The rest of Asia is rearming and signing mutual defence pacts for the same reason.
richard.horsington
I don't know why China is paranoid about Japan. WW2 ended 60 odd years ago, Japan is not on a land grab China is. I read recently they claim they have a 1000 year old map which shows the Philippines was once a Chinese Provence. Having lived in the Philippines and studied their history that is absolute fantasy. The Aeta settled PI 50,000 years ago. Malays settled the country 10,000 years ago. No mention of any Chinese involvement.
China is becoming the bully boy of south east and eastern Asia. Very reminiscent of 1937 Germany annexing all of its neighbors.
In the last 60 years Japan has become a good world citizen the same cannot be said about China.
I applaud Japan for being willing to defend itself and improving its defensive capability.
As an a Australian I support the Japanese as I believe most of my countrymen would.
pliu
It's ok for you to say that as an Australian! Australia has not been under the brutal occupation of Japan as China had. I'm not saying China is completely right on this issue but Japan is not totally blameless for the rising tensions either!
I like Japanese people but I don't trust their politicians or military. Japan has not fully repent or acknowledge the horrific war crimes commited by their military against Chinese people in WW2. In fact, they want to re-write history to hide their shameful past. That is why Chinese people are so paranoid about Japan's military expansionism! So when you are comparing China to Nazi Germany, read your history again!!!
john.lone.75
Japan exapnding collective defense is a welcome move by all asian countries, Japan is a responsible nation after WW2 unlike China which has become an aggressor from illegal occupied Tibet, Ughurs, Inner Mongolia, Paracel islands, Scarborough shoal, and few Spartly islands. The chinese are trying to robbed Senkaku islands from Japan and Russian Siberia from Russia. Chinese greed is insatiable has become serious threat to the region.
lamlm38
Tibet, Ughurs, Inner Mongolia dont even appear on the international maps as 'disputed' territories!!! the Senkaku islands and Russian Siberia are still in JP and Russian hands respectively.. who do you mean 'robbed‘? forgot to insert ur brain didnt u!!!
XYZ
Weakness invites aggression. It's long past time that Japan strengthened its military. The best policy for peace in Asia would be for Japan to develop an independent nuclear strike capability.

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