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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #366: October 5, 2006

Crisis is Not All Bad News for Japan's New Leader

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Crisis is Not All Bad News for Japan's New Leader
(Bronwen Maddox) TimesOnLine,,3-2389184,00.html


The article introduced above is a well-balanced assessment of the current situation in this part of the world, where North Korea has just announced its intention to test-detonate nuclear bombs, immediately after Mr Abe taking office as the new Prime Minister of Japan, and the opportunity to make the relationships with China and South Korea friendlier.

Mr Abe was announced to make a trip to China and South Korea this weekend to meet the leaders there. There was a meeting between Mr Koizumi, then the PM, and the Chinese leader Hu Jintao in Jakarta in April, 2005, and South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun in November of the same year. Since then, there have been no meetings between the leaders despite a number of opportunities at various international summit conferences.

It must be noted, however, that the proposals of meetings of the leaders had been made by Japan but were rejected by China and S.Korea. Whatever the perceptions and understandings by the governments and the peoples of the related countries with regard to that war that ended more than six decades ago or the status of a Shinto shrine called Yasukuni, it was China and S.Korea who kept avoiding Mr Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan, chosen by the people through one of the most thoroughly established systems of democracy in the world.

During the past few years, China and S.Korea campaigned against the behaviors of the Japanese government of both past and present. Although some Japanese media, especially those who persistently claim their value lies in attacking the government, resonated with, and in effect joined forces with, China and S.Korea to condemn the Japanese government, it apparently had an adverse effect on the Japanese people as a whole. The people began to wander if they are, and were, really that bad - to the extent as denounced by China, S.Korea, and some of the domestic media.

This is how it was like, when Mr Koizumi made a visit to Yasukuni Shrine in August this year, defiantly claiming that his visit - or not - has no relevance in Japan's relations with its neighbors. The action, although denounced by most of the media, was supported by the majority of the people, as evidenced by practically every poll conducted after the PM's shrine visit.

At the time, China and S.Korea issued only a casual comment of dissent against Mr Koizumi's shrine visit, indicating that the leaders of the two countries by then had realized - finally - that their campaign against the Japanese government not just failed, but backfired. Even after it was revealed Mr Abe had made a "quiet" visit to Yasukuni shrine in April, the two countries were in no way vocal in handling the information.

Mr Abe, being the Chief Cabinet Secretary at the time, must have sensed the changes of the attitudes of the two countries. On September 8, in the announcement to run for presidency of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Mr Abe declared that he would want to meet with the leaders of the neighboring countries (if he becomes the president, thence the PM). This was a message to the two countries, in effect setting an opportunity to mend the tangled relationships.

Mr Abe's trip to the two countries would be worthwhile even if the leaders could only confirm that North Korea's nuclear bomb development is something unwanted. Although the practical tactics to cope with the bombs may differ in nuances among the countries, the confirmation of such basic understanding will definitely be beneficial in setting the common grounds for future discussions.

It has always been the wish of the Japanese people, and the government reflecting the wills of the people, to maintain good relationships with any country in the world, especially the neighbors, - and that through respect and trust of one another. People look forward to the leaders' meetings.

Incidentally, it has been reported that the former PM Mr Koizumi, upon hearing about Mr Abe's visit plan, expressed sincere delight and wholehearted regards to Mr Abe - a very politically calculated behavior a cynical critic might say, but the sort which kept Mr Koizumi's popularity high all through his regime.

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