Joseph Nye: Japan’s Nationalism is a Sign of Weakness





The writer is a professor at Harvard and author of The Future of Power.

On December 16 Japan will hold an election and if the polls are correct, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will be replaced by Shinzo Abe, the opposition leader and former PM. If so, he would become Japan’s seventh prime minister in the past six years.
 
Japanese public opinion is shifting to the right and in a more nationalistic direction. Not only has Mr Abe recently visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial second world war memorial, but politicians to his right have formed new parties and staked out nationalistic positions. Shintaro Ishihara, the former Tokyo mayor who helped spur the dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, speaks of Japan acquiring nuclear weapons. As once did Toru Hasihmoto, the 43 year-old mayor of Osaka and founder of the “restoration association” party.
 
All this has caused alarm in Beijing. I recently met leaders there as part of a delegation of four former US officials charged with explaining the American position on the Senkaku Islands. I was struck by the way Chinese officials expressed concern about the rise of Japan’s rightwing militarism. They charged that its government’s purchase of the islands from a private owner was designed to undercut the Cairo and Potsdam declarations that were part of the post-second world war settlement.
 
One should be wary of such alarmism...


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