Politics | Discuss Japan-Japan Foreign Policy Forum - Part 2

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No.41, Politics, Discussions  Oct. 27, 2017

A Long-Lived, Unamended Constitution

As the debate in Japan over constitutional revision becomes heated, two researchers from the University of Tokyo make comparisons with other nations and discuss the unique features of Japan’s constitution and the constitutional revision debate. Kenneth Mori McElwain is an associate professor specializing in comparative political institutions and party politics, while Makihara Izuru is a professor specializing in oral history, political studies, and the study of public administration. Makihara Izuru (MI): I know that you are researching issues connected with the constitution of Japan (COD) and its revision. Please could you first tell us a little about the background to that research. Kenneth Mori McElwain (KM): My original study theme wasn’t constitutional law but comparative political institutions and party politics. Like my parents, I was very interested in politics, and just as I finished high school in 1994 the Japanese electoral system was revised. ... ... [Read more]

No.38, Politics  Apr. 10, 2017

PKO Cooperation Act with Serious Flaws Finally Improved after a Quarter Century Issues Left for Kaketsuke-Keigo in UN Peacekeeping Operations

A task known in Japan as kaketsuke-keigo (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack) will be added to assignments for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) unit to be sent to South Sudan in November 2016, at the earliest. Armed forces dispatched by emerging nations will perform the role of guarding the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in the country. The SDF unit will be mobilized in a limited way. However, changing the procedural standard is necessary for the SDF unit to properly perform the newly assigned task of kaketsuke-keigo.   Located in the center of the African continent, South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, is the youngest nation in the world. Japan is involved in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) aimed at helping the country build and stabilize itself. In July 2016, a large-scale armed conflict broke out ... ... [Read more]

No.38, Politics  Apr. 10, 2017

Passing Down The Significance of President Obama’s Visit to The Future

I thought that it would be the last chance. In May 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima. Because I was convinced that a visit to Hiroshima from the president of the United States would be a historic event and the chance for such a visit would be strong while President Obama was in office, we continued to work for several years to realize the presidential visit. When it was decided that the Summit would be held in Japan in the year that President Obama leaves office, I thought that it would be the last chance for him to visit Hiroshima. Looking back, the first step was taken when former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who took office in 2009, participated in the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6, 2010. We had also been advised that it would be better if a ... ... [Read more]

No.34, Politics  Oct. 25, 2016

Interpreting the Upper House Elections: Two concerns about maintaining the status quo ― Sustaining social security and Japan’s policy towards China

Tanaka Naoki, President, Center for International Public Policy Studies

The Upper House elections saw a fourth consecutive national election victory for Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. On the domestic front, one of the reasons behind voters’ decision was down to expectations of the Japanese market broadening its horizons, as a result of current economic policy and progress with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In particular, domestic restrictions standing in the way of the TPP would have remained unresolved under any administration other than Abe. Another reason why voters chose to retain the current administration was down to fundamental concerns regarding Japan’s involvement in the international community. Amidst growing friction with the likes of China and South Korea, there has inevitably been a degree of reluctance to criticize the government at home. ... [Read more]

No.34, Politics  Oct. 16, 2016

Interpreting the Upper House Elections: Please don’t squander your political capital, Prime Minister! ―Putting growth strategies and fiscal health ahead of constitutional reform

Both the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito emerged victorious from the Upper House elections. In addition to the decision to delay an increase in consumption tax, voters sided with the Abe administration’s diplomatic and security policies, including related legislation, as well as the government’s economic and social policies. In this article, I would like to take a look at future political issues from the point of view of domestic affairs. By way of a conclusion, I would like to see Prime Minister Abe Shinzo prioritize growth strategies, including deregulation, and fiscal health ahead of constitutional reform. The LDP has restored a single-party majority in both houses for the first time in twenty-seven years. Prime Minister Abe has now won four national elections in succession, thereby establishing an even stronger power base for his administration. Komeito appears to have lost some of its say within the administration. Nonetheless, the LDP... [Read more]

No.28, Politics  Sept. 16, 2015

Evaluating the Statement made by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo

KAMIYA Matake, Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan

I read the statement made by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on August 14 (http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201508/0814statement.html) with a lot of sympathy. That is because Abe was successful in making a renewed appeal to the international community that Japan has adopted a completely different approach after World War II from that which it pursued before and during the war, and in taking the opportunity to establish future-oriented policies while making it clear that Japan is not turning its back on the past. To fully understand the Statement, it helps to know that it is based on the three speeches Prime Minister Abe has made since the summer of 2014; namely, the speech he made at the Australian Parliament on July 8, 2014 ... [Read more]

No.28, Politics  Sept. 10, 2015

“Security” or “Constitution” – Don’t Fall Between Two Stools

YOSHIZAKI Tatsuhiko, Economist

The former ambassador for Thailand, Okazaki Hisahiko , who passed away last fall, always used to give his “Assessment of the Current International Affairs” at a forum held by the Okazaki Institute every spring. In spring 2013, after the start of the second Abe administration, he said something like this. “Conservatives in Japan have two causes. One is to amend the historical perception of the Japanese. The other is to establish a better security policy. They cannot do both at the same time. If we had to choose between them, security policy must surely be given greater priority at the moment.” In other words, if we focus on the problem of historical perceptions, such as the issue of Prime Minister’s official visits to Yasukuni Shrine, ... [Read more]

No.28, Politics  Jul. 20, 2015

Paper Commemorating Receipt of the 30th Seiron Prize Comfort Women in the Battle over History The battle over history started by South Korea and China continues to get worse. Is there any prospect of Japan mounting a counterattack?

Modern Historian Hata Ikuhiko

The “Narrow Road to the Interior” in Japan-South Korea relations seems, all of a sudden, to have turned into a frozen road. Some have apparently observed that the two countries have entered an ice age. At any rate, given that the South Korean President has gone so far as to publicly declare that “The dynamic of (Japan) being the aggressor and (Korea) being the victim will never change, even after the passage of a thousand years,” it stands to reason that there is also no prospect of the ice melting, right? ... [Read more]

No.25, Politics  May. 27, 2015

Dull Bull/ Philosopher Prime Minster and Intellectuals Looking at the Prime Minster Ohira Policy Research Council

UNO Shigeki, Professor, Institute of Social Science, the University of Tokyo

The first Ohira Masayoshi Cabinet was established in December 1978. At the beginning of his policy address to the Diet on 25 January 25 1979, Prime Minister Ohira made the following statement:
In the more than 30 years that have passed since the end of World War II, Japan has focused single-mindedly on achieving economic affluence, and as a nation we have produced remarkable results. This represents the positive outcome of efforts that have continued for the 100 years since the Meiji period to modernize and model our country after Western nations. (Snip) However, we cannot really say that we have given our full attention to the harmony between man and nature, the balance between freedom and responsibility, and the purpose of life deeply rooted in our spirit. Today,... [Read more]

No.24, Politics  May. 7, 2015

A Diet Dissolution Solely for Survival Is the Root of All Evil for Japanese Politics Refrain from arrogance, Mr. Abe

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo held a press conference on the evening of November 18 (2014) and postponed a hike in the consumption tax to 10% by a year and a half, along with asking for a decision by the people and calling for a dissolution of the lower house of parliament. I was frankly disappointed when I watched this press conference live on television. Although rumors of a dissolution had been circulating since around the end of October, I thought, “there is no way.” I was disappointed because Abe decided to choose a course that I had thought “should in no way happen.” I had various views about the Abe administration’s individual policies, but also had great expectations for them. This was because his administration had created a precedent and made it customary to steer policies that looked five and ten years beyond, enabling politics and citizens to share a long-term time line.... [Read more]