Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Election and the Q&A, Natch

Quoted in Al Jazeera here, so, the full online Q&A below.

1. Takao Toshikawa, editor-in-chief of Tokyo Insideline, spoke at the FCCJ last week. He said the overarching intention of Abe's 6 year term (if achieved, of course) is to revise the Constitution.
Do you agree? Why, why not?

Not being a mind reader, I won’t go that far, but I am sure that revising the Constitution is at or near the top of his list of political goals.

2. If Abe does continue as PM and LDP president for the next 4 years, rather than run again for the presidency in 2018 and enjoy the limelight of the 2020 Olympics, he will promote Tanigaki as the president and PM, according to Toshikawa.
This is because Abe believes his own ultra-conservative image would block Constitutional revision, whereas the more liberal Tanigaki has a better chance of getting the two-thirds majorities in both houses, plus a majority in the national referendum needed to amend the Constitution.
Do you agree or disagree? Why?

That’s an interesting piece of speculation, but I disagree. Tanigaki is unlikely to push for the kind of amendment that Abe wants. If amending Article 9 had been anything approaching a priority item for people like Tanigaki, the LDP would have made a serious push decades ago.

3. In your opinion, do a majority of Japanese support changes to Article 9 in the Constitution, perhaps as a matter of national pride?

My understanding is that a majority or a healthy plurality of us Japanese still prefer to maintain Article 9 as is. A people that blanches at the idea of collective self-defense even as it supports individual measures that are justified under that rubric is not going to support an amendment to a constitutional restriction that justifies Japan’s minimal role in overseas armed conflict.

4. If Toshikawa's scenario plays out and the LDP is able to garner the votes to amend Article 9 in the Constitution, what are the ramifications for Japan?

If my aunt had wheels, she would be a teacart. That point aside, it would turn on two interacting factors: the substance of the amendment and the regional security environment. The Chinese authorities will object in any case, not because it really thinks that Japan is reverting to militarism (a ridiculous if domestically convenient charge), but because it enhances Japan’s alliance with the United States to the detriment of China’s regional policy objectives. The response from the South Korean authorities will depend on public perception of Japan in general. If the history issues have been laid to rest by then, the South Korean public will be less mistrustful of Japanese intentions and the South Korean authorities will act accordingly. If not, then they will dutifully register their displeasure, then move on. Japan’s allies and friends in the neighborhood, most notably the United States, will welcome the amendment. The rest of the world will be largely indifferent, NYT’s lead editorial writer on Japan and likeminded people in the Western media notwithstanding, since it will have little effect on the geopolitical circumstances beyond Japan’s “near abroad” and economic sea-lanes.

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