‘Dangerous direction: If Japan’s Abe wins snap election, he’ll join US in confronting N.Korea’

‘Dangerous direction: If Japan’s Abe wins snap election, he’ll join US in confronting N.Korea’
If Japan's Prime Minister Abe wins the snap election, he'll develop cooperation with the US and join in its willingness to take risks in confronting North Korea, said Gregory Clark, head of the Research Japan Office. That’s a dangerous direction, he adds.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dissolved the lower house of the parliament, paving the way for a snap election next month. Abe wants to capitalize on high approval ratings to get a mandate for tougher defense policies toward North Korea.

RT: Does Abe effectively use the “North Korean threat” as a pretext to get more power and to militarize the country?

Gregory Clark: This has been going on for more than a decade. This all began back in 2004, when then-Prime Minister Mr. (Junichiro) Koizumi made a major breakthrough in relations with North Korea, namely solving the abduction issue. North Korea had in the 1970’s and 1980’s abducted a number of Japanese people and used them for teaching Japanese and so on to spies. Japan’s foreign ministry had negotiated secretly with North Korea and obtained the release of the five abductees who were still alive. North Korea said the rest had died.

Now, Mr. Abe seized on this to say: “Oh, they are hiding some of these people they abducted, they are still hiding them. There must be more than five.” But there is no reason why North Korea would want to hide them. At the time the then-Prime Minister Koizumi put out what’s called the Pyongyang Declaration, which promised the normalization of relations with North Korea. In other words, there would be a Chinese embassy or consulate in Pyongyang, and aid North Korea to develop energy without having to rely on nuclear energy, and so on.

This was a threat to Mr. Abe – that relations with North Korea would improve, and he would lose the pretext he needed for Japan’s moving to the right; for Japan’s getting closer to the US, and for Japan’s rearmament. So he moved firmly, consciously and deliberately to sabotage the Pyongyang Declaration, using in the first instance the abduction question.

Then America did the same thing with its sabotaging of the 1994 agreed framework, which would also have promised normalization. But under the (George W.) Bush regime these two were broken. So North Korea did the obvious thing – it said: “Ok, we have to develop our nuclear weapons, as other people have refused to normalize relations.” Then Mr. Abe uses the North Korean development of nuclear weapons as a reason for an even harder line against North Korea…

RT: Do you think that Abe uses fear mongering to achieve his goals? How effective is that?

GC: Yes, it is very effective. The Japanese are rather emotional people, and they don’t think about things very logically. They don’t think why North Korea had to develop nuclear weapons. When America applies pressure to try to stop North Korea developing these weapons, North Korea makes loud noises and starts firing rockers. Some of them have to go over Japan as they want to test long-distance rockets. This is denounced as illegal, and a threat to Japan and they have rocket alerts with children in the schools having to hide under their desks, and so on. No one has mentioned the fact that the rockets go more than 100 kilometers into the air. They are in space – space is international territory. They have as much right to put rockers there as America has to put satellites there…

RT: What could be the consequences of further militarization?

GC: I am not too worried because the Japanese now are not really interested in the military – the young people at least. There is full employment. The military is a hard life. Young Japanese don’t like a hard life…

RT: If Abe wins would this mean further militarization of the country? Which pro-militarization steps do you expect from him?

GC: Of course they will change the Constitution somewhat to allow the existence of military forces. At that moment the existence is prohibited. It already has been the status quo – that already has been the situation for many years. So that is not that much of a change. What he will do – is rather than develop Japans’ military forces,… he’ll emphasize even more cooperation with the US. America, of course, is very willing to take risks in confronting North Korea, and Japan would join America in doing that. That would be a major step in, what I see a dangerous direction.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.