Financial Times

AbeShinzo2It was only a matter of time. Until now, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has managed to control the demons of his inner nationalism.
Now Mr Abe – riding high with more than a 70 per cent approval rating – has let the mask slip. Last week he sent an offering of a cypress tree branch to Yasukuni along with several members of his cabinet. Worse, he appeared to question whether Japan had been “aggressive” in the second world war, a rightwing hobby horse. He has also opened a campaign to make it easier to amend the constitution.
These actions have provoked a predictable reaction from neighbours. South Korea’s foreign minister cancelled a meeting. Beijing condemned the actions and, coincidentally or not, upped the stakes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands by officially designating the disputed islands a “core” Chinese interest. Even the US, Japan’s ally, is annoyed that Mr Abe should have opened up this can of worms.
Mr Abe has better things to do with his time. He has set in train the boldest effort in many years to spark the economy into life. His establishment of a 2 per cent inflation target and appointment of a can-do central bank governor has brought a real sense of hope that perhaps Japan can turn things around. The experiment, however, is exceedingly risky. It also requires the goodwill of other countries, which must tolerate a weaker yen as a side-effect of massive monetary expansion.
That cause will hardly be helped if the world loses sympathy. Mr Abe must also follow up with structural reforms to improve economic efficiency. His forays into revisionism are distractions at best, dangerous at worst. He should stick to his knitting.

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  1. shinichi Post author

    Shinzo Abe must resist dangerous distractions

    Japan’s leader should stick to what is important

    Financial Times

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/cc6d09a4-ae76-11e2-bdfd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2SyCcyjO9

    It was only a matter of time. Until now, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has managed to control the demons of his inner nationalism. Unlike his first term five years ago, this time he has concentrated on the business of reviving Japan’s long-moribund economy. He has avoided opening up fractious questions of history and has refrained from visiting Yasukuni, the shrine hated by Japan’s neighbours because it honours 14 convicted Class-A war criminals as well as 2m ordinary war dead.

    Now Mr Abe – riding high with more than a 70 per cent approval rating – has let the mask slip. Last week he sent an offering of a cypress tree branch to Yasukuni along with several members of his cabinet. Worse, he appeared to question whether Japan had been “aggressive” in the second world war, a rightwing hobby horse. He has also opened a campaign to make it easier to amend the constitution.

    These actions have provoked a predictable reaction from neighbours. South Korea’s foreign minister cancelled a meeting. Beijing condemned the actions and, coincidentally or not, upped the stakes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands by officially designating the disputed islands a “core” Chinese interest. Even the US, Japan’s ally, is annoyed that Mr Abe should have opened up this can of worms.

    Mr Abe holds some unpleasant views. Still, his wish to be able to mourn his country’s war dead is not unreasonable. The problem is that Yasukuni, which is irredeemably associated with the nationalist cult of emperor worship, is the wrong place to do it. Mr Abe should use his rightwing credentials to push for the establishment of a less controversial secular memorial.

    In general, though, Mr Abe has better things to do with his time. He has set in train the boldest effort in many years to spark the economy into life. His establishment of a 2 per cent inflation target and appointment of a can-do central bank governor has brought a real sense of hope that perhaps Japan can turn things around. The experiment, however, is exceedingly risky. It also requires the goodwill of other countries, which must tolerate a weaker yen as a side-effect of massive monetary expansion.

    That cause will hardly be helped if the world loses sympathy. Mr Abe must also follow up with structural reforms to improve economic efficiency. His forays into revisionism are distractions at best, dangerous at worst. He should stick to his knitting.

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