Kirk Spitzer: Shinzo Abe, The Wild Card

tags: foreign policy, Japan, Shinzo Abe, Imperial Japan, Kirk Spitzer



Kirk Spitzer is a Tokyo-based freelance writer and former defense correspondent for USA Today and CBS News.

TOKYO — Japanese voters are almost certain to give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) an overwhelming victory in upper house elections on July 21. The election so far has focused largely on economic recovery -- and for once there's hope on the horizon. Abe's aggressive program of monetary easing and government spending has begun to jolt the economy out of nearly two decades of deflation and stagnation. The prime minister, who's been operating with only the lower house of the Diet backing him, is looking to regain a majority in the upper house to help push through his "third arrow" of structural reforms....

Dramatic as these changes would be, the LDP's plans for amending the constitution go well beyond security issues, and could return Japan to an earlier and likely less benign version of itself. Draft revisions unveiled by the LDP last year would reduce press freedoms, designate the emperor as the head of state and impose new, nationalist-tinged requirements on citizens.  The public would be required, for example, to "respect" the rising-sun flag and "Kimigayo" national anthem -- symbols, in much of Asia, of Japan's World War II-era aggression and colonial expansion.

According to the LDP, the revised constitution would reflect "the history, culture and tradition of Japan. The current constitution includes some provisions that are based on the Western theory of natural rights. We believe these provisions should be revised."

Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Tokyo's Meiji University, said in an interview that the proposed revisions, if adopted, "would create a Japan we don't know."...



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