Analysts: Abe's Defense Reforms Will Go Ahead Despite Opposition

- VOA News Brian Padden,August 6, 2015

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sinking public support may be causing some political discomfort but is not expected to impede his plans to expand the country’s military mission. Nor will it likely change regional perception of Japan as a country intent on becoming again a military force in Asia.

Tokyo Tuesday suspended work on a new U.S. military base in Okinawa. In the last year ongoing protests at the base and demands by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga to reduce the American military presence had put regional popular sentiment at odds with Abe’s strong support for strengthening the Japan-U.S. military alliance.   

The controversial expansion project at the U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Schwab is intended to replace the Futenma airbase in the congested southern part of Okinawa. Opposition to the base is fueled in large part by local grievances, resentment over the continued U.S. military presence that occupies 20 percent of the islands, and by what is perceived as a broken promise by Tokyo to reduce that military presence.

“The people of Okinawa are against the fact that the Japanese government is saying this is a reduction because it is not,” said Junichi Tomita, the president of Ryukyu Shimpo, one of Okinawa’s influential newspapers.

Abe Tries to Contain Political Damage

The temporary work stoppage in Okinawa is being viewed by some as a move to contain the political damage the prime minister is taking over the new defense measures he is backing in the Japanese parliament. The bills would give the military more latitude to defend its people and interests, to participate in collective self-defense and defend allies like the United States.

Robert Dujarric, the director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, saud the legislation will not significantly alter post-World War II Japan’s reluctance to utilize military force nor change its status as a junior partner of the United States.

“Japan after the passage of this legislation will very much be what Japan was before,” said Dujarric.

But memories of Japan’s past wartime aggression fuel both significant domestic pacifist opposition and regional criticism abroad.

Symbol of a Militaristic Past

Prime Minister Abe’s family ties and actions have also helped stir the controversy.  The hawkish, conservative prime minister is the grandson of rightwing politician Nobusuke Kishi, an industry minister during World War II who was arrested by the Allied Occupation forces for being a suspected war criminal.

The prime minister’s visits to controversial war shrines and tendency to downplay atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the war, Dujarric said, shows a lack of political skill for a leader trying to build support for a stronger military.   

“You’re not talking about a first class politician. I mean this isn’t the guy who’d rank in the top ten percent,” said Dujarric.

Public Opinion Opposes Militarism

In Japan, thousands protested after the passage of the security legislation in the lower house of parliament. According to opinion polls, a majority of Japanese oppose the security bills, and Abe's approval rating is less than 40 percent.

Although opposition is growing, it is still not strong or organized enough to stop the passage of the bills in the upper house of parliament, where Abe still holds a two-thirds majority.  

Nor have Japan’s neighbors China and South Korea been reassured by the growing domestic opposition to changing the country’s pacifist constitution. Both have voiced concerns over the seeming rise of militarism and nationalism in Japan.

“It has been three years since Abe took power and resistance from Japanese has just begun at this point,” said Hosaka Yuji, a political science professor at Sejong University in South Korea.

Many Asian leaders have urged the prime minister to reassure the world about Japan’s military intentions by making a strong apology for Japan’s past wartime atrocities when he makes a statement on the 70th anniversary of World War II.

VOA Seoul Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

分析:无政治路障阻挡日本通过安保法

- 美国之音帕登,2015年8月6日

日本首相安倍晋三的公众支持率下降可能会造成一些政治不适,但预计不会妨碍到他扩大日本军事存在的计划,也不会改变日本试图再次成为亚洲军事力量的区域观感。

东京周二暂停了冲绳的美军新基地建设工作。在过去一年,针对这个新基地的持续抗议和冲绳县知事翁长雄志“减少美国军事存在”的要求,使得区域民心与安倍强烈支持加强日美军事同联盟的意图背道而驰。

有争议的扩建美国海军陆战队施瓦布营地是为了取代位于人口稠密的冲绳南部的普天间空军基地。日本人要求关闭普天间基地,很大程度上是因为当地民众对美军占据该县20%的土地不满,也因为东京违背了“减少美国军事存在”的承诺。

冲绳有影响力的报纸之一《琉球新报》的总裁富田纯一说: “冲绳人民反对是因为日本政府说这是在减少军事存在,但其实不是。”

安倍设法减少政治损害
冲绳基地的临时停工被视为是防止给安倍在议会力推的新安保法造成政治损害。该法案将使日本军方有更大的自由度来保护本国人民和日本的利益,参加集体自卫和保卫像美国这样的盟友。

位于东京的天普大学当代亚洲研究所主任罗伯特·杜加里克(Robert Dujarric)说,立法不会显著改变二战后日本不愿使用武力的情况,也不会改变它作为美国小伙伴的地位。

杜加里克说:“这项立法通过后,日本很大程度上还会跟从前一样。”
但是对日本过去战争侵略的回忆激发了日本国内和平主义者的反对和外国的批评。

安倍首相的家族背景和言行也加剧了这种争议。他是保守的鹰派右翼政治家岸信介的外孙,岸信介在二战期间是工业部长,后以战犯嫌疑人身份被盟军逮捕。

杜加里克说,安倍访问靖国神社,淡化战争期间日军暴行,都显示出他缺乏政治领导人的技巧来获取对加强军力的支持。杜加里克说,
“你不是在谈论一个一流的政治家。我的意思是没人会把他排入政治家的前10%”。

日本民意反对重返军国主义

日本数千人在国会下院通过安保法后举行抗议。据民意调查显示,多数日本人反对新安保法案,安倍现在的支持率不到40%。

尽管反对派不断扩大,但仍不够强大或是不能有效地组织起来,阻止法案在国会上院获得通过。在那里安倍持有三分之二的多数席位。

日本的近邻中国和韩国也不会因为日本国内出现反对改变和平宪法的呼声而感到安心。它们都对日本军国主义的兴起表达了忧虑。

世宗大学的政治学教授韩国保坂佑二说, “安倍上台已经三年了,在这一点上,来自日本的阻力才刚刚开始。”

许多亚洲领导人都敦促日本首相在二战结束70周年之际发表讲话,对过去的战争罪行深刻道歉,以安抚世界对日本军事意图的担忧。