Welcome Back to Political Office, Japan’s Abe

0722_japan_630x420After a landslide victory December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe {pronounced ah BAY} gets a second chance to restore Japan’s economic eminence among industrialized nations to post-war Economic Miracle levels.  Abe’s first term as Prime Minister (from September 2006 to September 2007) was marked with chronic health problems and unsaintly behavior among his agricultural ministers.

Abe returns to political office only to confront stifling economic numbers, monumental natural disasters, US-ally tensions and Chinese and North Korean aggression.

With Japan’s economy being the worst among industrialized nations with debt more than twice as big as the country’s economy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been chastening Japan to “adopt a credible strategy that includes raising sales taxes to boost government revenue.”  Prime Minister Abe responds in kind with his own style of economic stimulus – Abenomics.

Abenomics policy consists of spending cuts, government deregulation and private investment.  Abe proposes to enact $83 billion in spending cuts, which amounts to 4 percent of current annual spending.  The results?  The stock market has subsequently risen by 55 percent, consumer spending has pushed first quarter economic growth up 3.5 percent annually, and Shinzo Abe’s approval rating has ticked up to 70 percent.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe faces long-standing tensions over US Forces Japan (USFJ) bases in Okinawa.  After WWII the US demilitarized Japan and enacted the Japan-America Security Alliance and Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.  By signing this treaty, the US agreed to be legally responsible for the defense of Japan. In return, the Japanese government offered their military bases while maintaining its national sovereignty.

For decades Okinawa residents have been calling for the removal of the US bases calling them noisy while citing incidents of drunken rowdiness and potential violent behavior.  In the 60-year history of US occupation, there have been few incidents of felonious criminal activity.  However the cries for Okinawa military base removal became louder over the recent 2012 incident that involved the robbery and rape of Okinawa local by two Navy servicemen (both of whom were charged, tried, convicted and swiftly sentenced in 2013).  In fact from 1952 to 2004, there were approximately 200,000 accidents and crimes involving U.S. troops.  Over 90% of the incidents were vehicle or traffic related.  Given the violent nature of the crime, the incident was widely publicized and used by those who have a bent for demoralizing and tarnishing image of US military portraying them as testosterone-crazed savages.

In an effort to balance national security interests with the interests of his Okinawa constituents, Prime Minister Abe proposed to minimize US military presence by relocating part of the base to a less populated area on the island.  Abe’s proposal was met with constituency protests arguing environmental concerns over the island’s fragile ecosystem.

Therefore Prime Minister Abe must reconvene and strategize another bilateral policy that pleases the Okinawan people without kicking the US military entirely off the archipelago.

Another famous Abe once said, “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

I wonder how that translates in Japanese?

Leslie Deinhammer

Illinois PolitiChick Leslie Anne Deinhammer, writer, chaplain and proud wife of a Marine Corps veteran, writes on topics of politics, human rights and faith. Follow her at @lesliedhammer on Twitter.

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