After election win, Abe’s military agenda set to rile China
Push to reform constitution, growing chatter of nuclear weapons will elevate tensions between the region’s largest powers
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cruised to an election victory on Sunday, with his Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition possibly winning enough seats to maintain a “super majority” in Japan’s lower house, as Reuters reported. Full results will be tallied Monday.
The win shores up Abe’s position to push for an amendment to Japan’s pacifist constitution amid fast growing tensions in Northeast Asia. North Korea’s strides developing nuclear capabilities coincide with a newly confident China’s challenge to the deployment of US missile systems in South Korea.
A shift in the role of Japan’s military could codify the de facto authority of the government to maintain armed forces, which is technically banned under Article 9 of the US-drafted constitution. This in itself would be a significant shift, which may see Japan’s military — referred to as Self-Defense Forces – play a greater role abroad.
But another potential change long seen as a red line, both domestically and with other regional players, now seems increasingly within the realm of possibility. That is the development of Japanese nuclear weapons.
Kyodo news agency reports Sunday that Japan has “dramatically” watered down a draft resolution on nuclear disarmament.
Since 2010, Japan has included in the resolution a sentence that reads “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of ANY use of nuclear weapons” [emphasis added].
In the most recent proposed resolution, the word “any” was omitted.
“The omission of the word ‘any’ implies there could be a case of nuclear weapon use that would not cause inhumane consequences and therefore this type of use might be permitted,” Tatsujiro Suzuki, director of the Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University was quoted by Kyodo as saying. “It can’t be helped if Japan will be regarded as an unfit advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
The change was reportedly made under pressure from the US, which has under the Trump administration called for South Korea and Japan to take on more of the burden of regional defense. By some accounts China is not especially concerned with a nuclear capable North Korea, rather, they are concerned with whether the North’s capabilities would motivate South Korea and Japan to develop nuclear weapons. It looks as though the trend line is moving in that direction, though in both cases the move would face stiff domestic political opposition.