Koizumi's political moves distress China

In a recent cabinet reshuffle, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has picked a couple outspoken conservatives as his new top ministers. these choices are bound to generate more tension with Beijing and Seoul during in his remaining ten months in office.  As a leading candidate to succeed Koizumi, Mr. Shinzo Abe was given the powerful post of chief cabinet secretary.

As the grandson of accused war criminal and former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Mr. Abe has staunchly defended Mr. Koizumi's controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that has set off the predictable diplomatic protests in East Asian capitals. The position of Chief Cabinet Secretary is viewed by many as a stepping stone to the top job. Abe will act as prime minister when Koizumi is abroad in his new post.

In the next few years, it will be interesting to watch what influence, if any, Abe's family history will have on his political ambitions.  Starting in 1935, grandfather Kishi 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.

Mr. Abe is likely to generate a strong reaction from the far right. They can often be seen driving large trucks around cities with banners and loudspeakers defending Koizumií's actions.  The Japan Times says:

The post of chief Cabinet secretary, often called "the linchpin of the Cabinet" and the prime minister's right—hand man, is the top government spokesman as well as the main coordinator of policies and interests among government ministries and ruling parties.

As one of the top policy priorities of the new Cabinet, Koizumi cited reform of the social security system, including public pensions and health insurance.

"It's easy to only discuss (social security) benefits, but you have to think about who shoulders the burdens, too," he said. 

Mr. Abe, who is known for his ease with the media, has won a public following for his strongly worded comments North Korea.  In recent years, he has gained popularity by demanding the communist state come clean on its past abductions of Japanese citizens. 

In another move sure to raise eyebrows in diplomatic circles, Koizumi has also tapped hardliner Mr. Taro Aso, as foreign minister. According to the South China Morning Post, in April, as thousands of Chinese people hit the streets of Shanghai and Shenzhen in wave of anti—Japan protests, Mr. Aso was the only cabinet member to pay a visit to Yasukuni just as Mr Koizumi was seeking a dialogue with Chinese President Hu Jintao to ease tensions.

As noted by Mr. Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker, the political situation has become so bad that top officials of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), including Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, made a secret trip to China on September 30th and held talks with President Hu  and Premier Wen Jiabao.

As an American who has taught young people in both countries, it is distressing for me to watch the ongoing diplomatic war between Tokyo and Beijing. While welcoming his strong support on the war of terror and admiring his determination to reform Japan, Koizumi has done considerable damage to Japan's reputation. 

If another hardliner like Abe or Aso do, in fact earn the prime minister's job, the situation is likely to deteriorate even more.  Sadly, whoever becomes Japan's next leader, millions of Asians will continue to have an intense dislike and mistrust of Tokyo's leadership.

Brian Schwarz   11 01 05

In a recent cabinet reshuffle, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has picked a couple outspoken conservatives as his new top ministers. these choices are bound to generate more tension with Beijing and Seoul during in his remaining ten months in office.  As a leading candidate to succeed Koizumi, Mr. Shinzo Abe was given the powerful post of chief cabinet secretary.

As the grandson of accused war criminal and former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Mr. Abe has staunchly defended Mr. Koizumi's controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that has set off the predictable diplomatic protests in East Asian capitals. The position of Chief Cabinet Secretary is viewed by many as a stepping stone to the top job. Abe will act as prime minister when Koizumi is abroad in his new post.

In the next few years, it will be interesting to watch what influence, if any, Abe's family history will have on his political ambitions.  Starting in 1935, grandfather Kishi 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.

Mr. Abe is likely to generate a strong reaction from the far right. They can often be seen driving large trucks around cities with banners and loudspeakers defending Koizumií's actions.  The Japan Times says:

The post of chief Cabinet secretary, often called "the linchpin of the Cabinet" and the prime minister's right—hand man, is the top government spokesman as well as the main coordinator of policies and interests among government ministries and ruling parties.

As one of the top policy priorities of the new Cabinet, Koizumi cited reform of the social security system, including public pensions and health insurance.

"It's easy to only discuss (social security) benefits, but you have to think about who shoulders the burdens, too," he said. 

Mr. Abe, who is known for his ease with the media, has won a public following for his strongly worded comments North Korea.  In recent years, he has gained popularity by demanding the communist state come clean on its past abductions of Japanese citizens. 

In another move sure to raise eyebrows in diplomatic circles, Koizumi has also tapped hardliner Mr. Taro Aso, as foreign minister. According to the South China Morning Post, in April, as thousands of Chinese people hit the streets of Shanghai and Shenzhen in wave of anti—Japan protests, Mr. Aso was the only cabinet member to pay a visit to Yasukuni just as Mr Koizumi was seeking a dialogue with Chinese President Hu Jintao to ease tensions.

As noted by Mr. Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker, the political situation has become so bad that top officials of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), including Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, made a secret trip to China on September 30th and held talks with President Hu  and Premier Wen Jiabao.

As an American who has taught young people in both countries, it is distressing for me to watch the ongoing diplomatic war between Tokyo and Beijing. While welcoming his strong support on the war of terror and admiring his determination to reform Japan, Koizumi has done considerable damage to Japan's reputation. 

If another hardliner like Abe or Aso do, in fact earn the prime minister's job, the situation is likely to deteriorate even more.  Sadly, whoever becomes Japan's next leader, millions of Asians will continue to have an intense dislike and mistrust of Tokyo's leadership.

Brian Schwarz   11 01 05