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Japan`s troubling shift toward ultranationalism

Posted November. 19, 2012 02:04,   


The Japan Restoration Party led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and the Sunrise Party of Japan led by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara have been merged Saturday. Formed as a retroactive statist party targeting the Dec. 16 parliamentary elections after last week`s dissolution of the Diet’s lower house, the new Sunrise Party denies that the country committed atrocities in World War II. Its right-wing extremist ideology advocates revising Japan’s Peace Constitution, which bars the country from possessing a military and going to war, and leaves open the possibility for Tokyo`s nuclear armament.

The new party is projected to emerge as Japan`s third-largest party after the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan by winning 50 to 100 seats in the elections. As the liberal party, led by Shinzo Abe who is expected to be Japan’s next prime minister, is unlikely to win majority, the new party is a potential coalition partner. Abe advocates Japan’s exercise of its collective self-defensive right on his country`s territorial dispute with China and regrets not visiting the maligned Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead including Class A war criminals. Should he lead Japan again, the situation in Northeast Asia will grow noisy.

The liberal party`s announcement Friday to drastically revise standards about Asian neighbors used in school textbook screening is also historical regression. It wants consideration of Asian neighbors from the perspective of international understanding and cooperation when describing historical facts that occurred between Japan and those countries. Its announcement to scrap the standards created in reflection of the 1982 history textbook controversy show the party`s intent to distort history outright when it gains power.

The U.S. seems perplexed over Japan’s shift toward staunch statism. Tokyo will also likely have to confront Beijing, which will be led by new leader Xi Jinping. Xi is expected to engage in a diplomacy of power based on China`s stronger power and self-confidence. Japan’s territorial disputes with China and Russia will also likely intensify, and the Japanese government will probably provoke Korean sovereignty over Korea`s easternmost islets of Dokdo.

Germany will expand compensation for victims of Nazi crimes who has never received compensation. This is in stark contrast to what Japan’s right-wing groups do in recognizing their country`s past crimes, as they openly speak of retracting Tokyo’s previous acknowledgement of forcing women into sex slavery for the imperial Japanese army. If Korea, China and Japan are to strike true harmony and become forward-looking partners, Japan should reflect on its wartime atrocities. Attempts by Japanese right-wing parties to reverse the wheels of history will undermine Japan`s relations with its Northeast Asian neighbors.