The next leader of Japan?

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While millions of Asians continue to express their outrage over Japanese Prime Minister Junichro Koizumi's repeated visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Brian Bremner at BusinessWeek suggests a more confrontational figure could be waiting in wings to claim the top job after Koizumi steps down next September, as he has promised. 

In an article published on September 14, Bremner says the man to watch is the hawkish Shinzo Abe.  At the relatively young age of 50, Abe is a rising star in Liberal Democratic Party with a family history bound to fan the flames of historical mistrust across Asia.

If Mr. Abe does become the heir to Koizumi, the implications for American foreign policy in the region could be profound.  Mr. Bremner writes:

The 50—year—old Abe has been one of Koizumi's biggest supporters on economic reform —— privatization of Japan's postal savings system, tighter government spending to rein in Japan's massive budget deficits, and an overhaul of the country's state—run pension system.

Even more important, Abe has raised his international profile both in Beijing and Washington with his right—leaning views on Japan's need for a more assertive national security policy, given potential regional threats from North Korea and China.

Indeed, a great deal of his popularity in Japan is due to his work in drawing attention to the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, and he has advocated tough economic sanctions against Pyongyang if current diplomatic efforts aimed at deterring its development of nuclear weapons go nowhere.

And there is also the family connection.  Abe's grandfather was the notorious Nobusuke Kishi, one of Japan's wartime leaders and former prime minister in the late 1950s.

Over sixty years ago, Kishi served in the Hideki Tojo war cabinet, and actually was tried at the war crimes tribunal after the war and imprisoned for a number of years. Starting in 1935 he played a key role in the industrial development of Manchuko, the region in northeastern China that Japanese forces invaded and occupied until the war's end in 1945.

Sadly, whoever becomes Japan's next leader, the intense debate over Japan's wartime past shows little sign of fading.

Brian Schwarz    10 22 05

While millions of Asians continue to express their outrage over Japanese Prime Minister Junichro Koizumi's repeated visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Brian Bremner at BusinessWeek suggests a more confrontational figure could be waiting in wings to claim the top job after Koizumi steps down next September, as he has promised. 

In an article published on September 14, Bremner says the man to watch is the hawkish Shinzo Abe.  At the relatively young age of 50, Abe is a rising star in Liberal Democratic Party with a family history bound to fan the flames of historical mistrust across Asia.

If Mr. Abe does become the heir to Koizumi, the implications for American foreign policy in the region could be profound.  Mr. Bremner writes:

The 50—year—old Abe has been one of Koizumi's biggest supporters on economic reform —— privatization of Japan's postal savings system, tighter government spending to rein in Japan's massive budget deficits, and an overhaul of the country's state—run pension system.

Even more important, Abe has raised his international profile both in Beijing and Washington with his right—leaning views on Japan's need for a more assertive national security policy, given potential regional threats from North Korea and China.

Indeed, a great deal of his popularity in Japan is due to his work in drawing attention to the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, and he has advocated tough economic sanctions against Pyongyang if current diplomatic efforts aimed at deterring its development of nuclear weapons go nowhere.

And there is also the family connection.  Abe's grandfather was the notorious Nobusuke Kishi, one of Japan's wartime leaders and former prime minister in the late 1950s.

Over sixty years ago, Kishi served in the Hideki Tojo war cabinet, and actually was tried at the war crimes tribunal after the war and imprisoned for a number of years. Starting in 1935 he played a key role in the industrial development of Manchuko, the region in northeastern China that Japanese forces invaded and occupied until the war's end in 1945.

Sadly, whoever becomes Japan's next leader, the intense debate over Japan's wartime past shows little sign of fading.

Brian Schwarz    10 22 05