Challenges Facing Abe's Reorganized Cabinet

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

Challenges Facing Abe's Reorganized Cabinet


The reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been inaugurated, the third to be formed under his third administration. How should we evaluate the lineup? Can it improve the approval rating of the Cabinet, which has plummeted? How should it tackle economic, diplomatic and security issues? We posed these questions to three specialists.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2017)

Trilateral unity important to face N. Korea

Satoru Mori / Professor at Hosei University

The most severe threat to Japanese security right now is North Korea. North Korea is making moves to deploy for combat intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, Japan is also being confronted with difficult security and economic issues with China.

Furthermore, there are unstable, risky aspects to Japan's security partners: the United States and South Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump is in a political pinch, and it is unclear how this will affect his country's foreign policy. Under the Moon Jae In administration, South Korea's relationship with Japan may also be harmed by the comfort women issue. The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming more intense and more unreliable.

In this context, the country's diplomacy and defense stance needs to be airtight, with experienced politicians as Cabinet members in charge. Foreign Minister Taro Kono has served as chairman of the House of Representative's Foreign Affairs Committee. Kono is knowledgeable about the United States, and has been active in Japanese-American exchange efforts. I hope he will manage Japanese-American relations well.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is on his second term. He has continued to be involved with defense policymaking in the Diet and the LDP, even after his first term finished, and is a defense policy expert. Onodera's appointment was a move that was meant to give people a sense of security.Another task for Onodera is to reconstruct the Defense Ministry, which was thrown into confusion by the issue of the daily activity logs of Ground Self-Defense Force units that were dispatched to South Sudan for U.N. peacekeeping operations. Hopefully he will implement solid document management policies to prevent a recurrence of similar problems.

If North Korea deploys nuclear ICBMs for combat, there are two miscalculations the country could make. The first would be to assume it can keep the United States in check. The second would be to assume that Japan and South Korea will doubt the U.S. involvement in the defense effort and therefore give in to Pyongyang's intimidation. If North Korea makes such incorrect assumptions, it may amp up its military provocations to demand South Korea and Japan lift their sanctions against it. That could immediately increase the likelihood of the United States taking military action in retribution, leading to an armed conflict.

In addition to imposing thorough sanctions, it is important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to strengthen their resolve not to be intimidated -- even if North Korea has nuclear ICBMs -- and to display their defensive strength by putting up a unified front in all situations, from joint military exercises to summit diplomacy. The missile defense system must also be expanded, and Japan introduces measures such as adoption of counterattack capability aimed at minimizing damage.

It is important for the Abe administration to encourage Trump to broaden his interest in Asia. Through opportunities, including meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled for this autumn and the East Asia Summit, Japan should join hands with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and make diplomatic efforts to encourage the United States to establish comprehensive policies on Asia.

--Mori is an expert on international politics and contemporary U.S. diplomacy and national defense. He is a former foreign affairs bureaucrat, and took up his current position in 2010. …

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