Former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s close ties with Donald Trump failed to get results as the president ran roughshod over Japan and the notion of multilateralism, the core of its diplomacy. Tokyo will welcome renewed US engagement in Asia but is still hedging its bets, amid lingering questions about waning US influence.
The Japanese emperor, who will abdicate in favour of his son Naruhito, was the nation’s chief emissary of post-war reconciliation in Asia. His pacifist leanings have been at odds with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s revisionist view of history.
Japan’s defiance of an international ban on commercial whaling could yield positive results. Tokyo can raise a nationalist banner over its exit from the agreement, but also pull the plug on a heavily subsidised industry.
The anniversary of the Kono Statement, in which Japan apologised for its treatment of ‘comfort women’, is a reminder that the country must reckon sincerely with its past if it wants to build a new future with its neighbours.
It may be too early to celebrate Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un, because the disgruntled Japanese prime minister may seek to stop them from happening – and might succeed.
The recent opening in Tokyo of a museum on disputed territories marks the beginning of a month of nationalistic celebrations in Japan. The average Japanese citizen, however, appears uninterested in these displays.