Sunday, September 17, 2006

It’s All about Abe on “Sunday Project”

The three LDP presidential candidates appeared together on the cantankerous septuagenarian Soichiro Tawara’s Sunday Project. Taro Aso and Teiichi Tanigaki seemed to understand that for them the whole election process was an audition as Shinzo Abe’s understudy. (Though in the September Chuo-Koron Mr. Aso flashed his resentment over what he seemed to have seen as Mr. Abe’s attempt to muscle in and take more than his share of the credit for Japan’s diplomatic success in bringing North Korea under UN sanctions.) Neither seemed to mind that Mr. Tawara spent most of the time on the history question, repeatedly calling on Mr. Abe to give his views on the Pacific/Greater East Asia War, establish a government committee to settle the question once and for all, and announce his acceptance/rejection of the 1995 Murayama speech that has so far been the definitive official apology, as referenced by subsequent prime ministers, including Junichiro Koizumi.

Despite Mr. Tawara’s dogged persistence, Mr. Abe refused to rise to the bait. But he did show some aspects of his thinking and character that should be reassuring to those want a steady hand on the tiller.

First, he showed his usual unfailing politeness and even temper, backed by a persistence that matches the indomitable Mr. Tawara, that surely has won him more admirers, both among his ideological fellow travelers and those less inclined to tack to starboard. Second, he tended to display a wonkish tendency, common to many politicians of his generation, attention to detail in answering Mr. Tawara’s questions. Third, although his dissatisfaction with the Murayama speech was discernable, he displayed his pragmatic streak by stating to the effect that he recognized the official status of the speech and the political assumptions that it created in Asian nations and would abide by its spirit. The Chinese authorities will surely be reading the translated transcript with relief. In this respect, the Chinese will be pleased to know that Mr. Abe was firm on the point that China is not a threat and that he did not see China engaging in military aggression against its neighbors.

On the other hand, Mr. Abe did not show the presence of mind to come up with a comment that would have cut off the tiresome, repetitive exchange and freed the debate for the other issues of his interest, i.e. education and social reform. At times, he would let slip comments such as that the US had supported Japan’s annexation of Korea. There is a measure of truth to that, and Mr. Abe does recognize that what was a run-of-the-mill imperialist act no worse or better than those of the other Great Powers was also an invasive act for the victim, such comments can easily be construed as a justification of the act.

But this last point calls to mind a possible cause of problems for the Japan-US relationship. Although Mr. Abe is clearly to the right of the Japanese mean on the war issue, there is an emerging consensus in Japan that does make the distinction between the war of the world and the war in Asia. Mr. Aso’s statement was the most explicit, but even the dovish Mr. Tanigaki recognizes the dual nature of the conflict. Thus, the US and European conflation of Auschwitz and Pearl Harbor/Nanking will increasingly trouble the Japanese psyche.

More specifically, there is a fairly widely held sentiment in Japan that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has racialist overtones. More broadly, resentment over the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets and other US wartime acts, as well as Russian atrocities, remains under the surface, ready to bubble over if bumbling US politicians continue to chime in and ignite a full-scale debate.

(Sidebar on the Cryptic.)

自民党の総裁候補三名が、あの頑固じいさん田原総一郎の「サンデープロジェクト」にそろって登場しました。麻生太郎、谷垣禎一の両氏は、今回の選挙が自分達にとって安倍晋三氏の代役としてのオーディションでしかないことを理解しているようでした。(もっとも、「中央公論」9月号の麻生外相の論稿からは、対北朝鮮制裁のための国連安保理決議という外交上の成果に関して安倍官房長官がとった行動を余計な割り込みであり実際以上の手柄の横取りであると感じてそれに対する反感を持っているという印象を受けたが。)お二人とも、田原氏が時間の大部分を歴史問題に費やして、安倍氏に対して、繰り返し、太平洋/大東亜戦争に関する自らの意見を述べるよう、戦争責任問題に決着を付けるために政府が委員会を設けるよう、そして、1995年のいわゆる「村山談話」 -- それはこれまでのところ、小泉首相を含むその後の首相達も引用している、公式謝罪の決定版になっているのだが – を受け入れるのか受け入れないのかを明らかにするよう、迫ったのを気にするふうでもありませんでした。






(Tales from The Crypticに余談が載っています。)

No comments: