The Japanese government is pressing ahead with a state funeral for its former prime minister Abe Shinzo — essentially a state blessing for Abe’s legacy. In death as in life, Abe is strengthening the grip of ultranationalist militarism on Japanese politics.
Gavan McCormack is emeritus professor of Australian National University, editor of the Asia-Pacific journal Japan Focus and author of many works on modern Japan and East Asia, which are commonly translated and published also in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
Seventy-five years ago today, Japan adopted a constitution that ruled out ever using war as a tool of state policy. The country’s conservative leaders now want to ditch that commitment as they embrace the dangerous role of a militarized US client state.
Okinawans have long campaigned against the massive US military bases that dominate their island. But the Japanese state is pressing ahead with a new base against their will, placing the island on the front line in a region made more dangerous by US saber-rattling against China.
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party has chosen a new leader to boost its chances of retaining power in this month’s election. But the LDP is still fully committed to the militarization of Japanese foreign policy as part of Washington’s anti-China alliance.
A sexist outburst from Japan’s Olympics chief derailed preparations for the rescheduled Tokyo Games and provoked an international furor. Mori Yoshiro’s antiquated attitudes are rooted in a conservative, authoritarian worldview that’s deeply entrenched on the Japanese right.
Suga Yoshihide, longtime aide to Abe Shinzo, has now replaced him as Japan’s prime minister. Suga will preserve the main features of Abe’s long stint in power: creeping militarism, subordination to the US, and a high-handed approach to political opposition.
Abe Shinzo’s government was slow to respond to COVID-19, lagging behind neighbors like South Korea. The public health crisis has been worsened by the recklessness of Abe’s foreign policy, which relies upon an erratic US sponsor whose bases are a vector for spreading the disease.
The Japanese prime minister’s plans for “resilience” will serve corporations and US military goals more than the Japanese people.