Japan Chair Platform: Abe’s Perilous Patriotism
Why Japan’s New Nationalism Still Creates Problems for the Region and the U.S.-Japanese Alliance
By Thomas U. Berger
Oct 3, 2014
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to promote “healthy patriotism” presages neither the end of democracy in Japan nor the return to militarism that his critics claim. Rather, Abe’s brand of nationalism needs to be understood within the context of post-1945 Japanese politics, where how to evaluate modern Japanese history has been a central bone of contention for decades. For conservatives like Abe, a positive view of Japanese history is necessary to rebuild the vital link between the Japanese state and society and allow Japan to mobilize its energies for a variety of pressing tasks, including reviving the economy, addressing various social problems and defending against external threats.
Historically, whenever there has been pressure on Japan to do more on defense and national security issues, Japanese conservatives have pushed hard to strengthen Japanese nationalism. In this they have been supported by more moderate Japanese, who view tolerating some part of the conservative agenda as part of the coalition-building process needed to get changes on defense issues through Japan’s tortured political process. However, whenever Japanese governments have gone too far in promoting nationalism, moderate support has evaporated and nationalist leaders have been forced to settle for relatively marginal gains in terms of both defense policy and changes in the national discourse on defense. The Abe government today seems to be repeating this process, and one might be tempted to expect a similar result as in the past.
Thomas U. Berger is an associate professor of international relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.
Japan Chair Platform is published by the Office of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
© 2014 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.
Managing Japan-South Korea Tensions
A CFR Discussion Paper
Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date December 2015
Fifty years after the establishment of official diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea, continued animosity between the United States' two Northeast Asian allies remains a problem for Washington, hampering its ability to deal with the challenges posed by North Korea, China, and a host of nontraditional security threats. Mutual suspicion and mistrust between Tokyo and Seoul, fueled by disputes over territory and history, jeopardize the Barack Obama administration's rebalance to Asia, which seeks to strengthen "minilateral" partnerships among Asian allies and partners. The ongoing, and in some areas worsening, tensions between Seoul and Tokyo constrain Washington's influence in East Asia by limiting joint contingency planning and trilateral coordination for crisis management as well as the ability to address the challenge of China's rise.
As North Korea expands its nuclear and missile capabilities and as China pushes to expand its influence in East Asia, often at the United States' expense, an increasing number of U.S. policy analysts are calling on the United States to shed its long-standing reluctance to intervene more forcefully in Japan-South Korean disputes despite the risks of doing so. U.S. policymakers have a number of options for facilitating closer bilateral cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul, as well as trilateral cooperation among Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington. Although more forceful intervention in Japan-South Korea relations carries risks to the United States, the costs of nonintervention are rising.
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