For those who would like to see our allies shoulder a larger share of their own defense burden, Sunday’s election in Japan may have brought some good news. According to an article by John Lee, posted on the Hudson Institute’s website, the rise in the political fortunes of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could signal a willingness on the part of Japan to shoulder a larger portion of the national security burden in east Asia.
The resounding victory by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, led by Shinzo Abe, is more a vote against the incumbent Democratic Party of Japan than it is for the L.D.P. Even so, the perception that Abe’s forthright and confident approach breaks the mold of the consensus-based bureaucratic style of many Japanese leaders will please many voters and Japan’s security partners in the region.
This sentiment will not be replicated in Beijing. There is a groundswell of opinion within Japan that Tokyo should no longer be cowed by Chinese regional assertiveness. For many Japanese, Abe is the one willing to stand up to Japan’s larger neighbor.
Japan’s deep history of rivalry and conflict with China is well known. Part of this is currently being played out in the dispute over the Japanese administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Of major concern is the realization that Beijing is prepared to link political and strategic issues with economic reward and punishment.
Abe’s rise is seen my any experts as part of a “normalization” process on the part of Japan. After World War II the country took a largely pacifist stance in matters relating to defense and left the defense of their country up to the U.S., while they pursued a strictly economic agenda. A growing portion of Japan’s political leadership have come to believe that Japan should start acting like a “normal” country and be responsible for a bigger share of its own defense. Those here in the U.S., who have no interest in us playing the role of the world’s policeman, have been encouraging this process. Now if we could get our allies elsewhere to do the same thing, we might experience our own “normalization” process where we focus on our own defense and let other nations shoulder more of the burden of their own defense.