Plunge Pontificates

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Imperial Japan's legacy Lives on in Japan's Diet

A rather disturbing article from Australia discusses the ties between the Diet of today and the rulers, movers and shakers of Imperial Japan of the past.

Aso is Japan's Foreign Minister, and this August he may well become its prime minister, if the ruling Liberal Democratic Party stays with a rotation of leadership despite the incumbent Junichiro Koizumi's huge election win last year.

But whether Aso or his main rival, Shinzo Abe, represents new blood is another thing.

Both men have lineage back to the darker side of the LDP and prewar Japan.

Aso's family company ran coalmines in Kyushu where thousands of Korean men worked in slave-like conditions during the war years. Abe's father, Shintaro Abe, later a senior LDP figure, was training as a kamikaze pilot when the war ended.

Aso is a grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, Abe of Nobusuke Kishi - two of the early postwar LDP prime ministers who forged a new role for Japan as the US's forward base off the Asian mainland, despite the limits on military activity set by its postwar constitution's article nine.

Acceptance of figures like Kishi - wartime Japan's munitions minister and arrested by the Allies as a war crimes suspect - must have been eased for many Americans by the expectation that generational change would clean out the wartime taint in the LDP.

Yet, partly thanks to hereditary succession in the party's Diet seats, a perverse mindset lives on. Koizumi,
Abe and Aso have been out to stir Japanese nationalism by invoking wartime symbols and stirring bitter memories in China and Korea through offensive remarks.
I would be the first to say who cares who someone's father or grandfather was, except for the fact that these two seem determined that their ancestors and other Imperial Japanese leaders be praised instead of properly vilified.

These two are right-wing extremist in the worst way and the thought of them leading Japan is extremely worrisome. It will certainly cause an uproar among Japan's neighbors.

In less than a year as Foreign Minister, Aso has shown a particular bent for stirring up the neighbours: Taiwanese are better educated than Chinese mainlanders thanks to the Japanese occupation. Koreans liked to adopt Japanese names and abandon their Hangul script. A visit by Emperor Akihito to the Yasukuni shrine would be the best.

How deep this runs is anyone's guess. Aso and Abe are intelligent men. They went to American universities. They show no sign of ultimately wanting to break free of the American embrace.

According to some reported private soul-baring by LDP leaders, twisting the dragon's tail is consciously aimed at creating a threat psychology about China in the Japanese population, to let the LDP put through a revision of article nine.
Please read that carefully. Japan's leaders consistently remark on how China is twisting the news and the truth to anger their citizens against Japan. Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now and it is the leaders of Japan doing their own poetic pontificating in order to become a military power once again. For those that don't know, it takes a revision of article nine for Japan to be able to have a true military and not just a defensive force. Some might say article nine has become a joke already with the size and sophistication of Japan's military.

With leaders like Aso and Abe gaining in power and public favor, the discord and distress in Asia can only continue to rise. More and more, countries will be choosing sides and strong lines of division will begin to form. I can think of nothing better for China and their leaders must be chortling as nations who should oppose them, continue to support them as they remember the days of Imperial Japan and vow never to let something like that happen again.

I personally wonder how Japan could be so stupid as to support leaders like Koizumi, Aso and Abe. They are destroying their ability to positively affect actions in their region let alone the world in general.

Taro Aso