Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reiterated his hope that relations between Japan and its neighbours China and South Korea will improve, despite the current strained relations over separate territorial rows over the Senkaku/Diaoyu and Takeshima/Dokdo islands respectively.
The Prime Minister, 58, believes that since he is of the same generation as the new leaders of the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping, 59, and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, 61, they will be more open to discuss steps to improve bilateral relations. He believes it is essential for the good of the region that the three countries have a mutual understanding. He emphasized that Japan’s door is “always open toward China.”
But in his speech at the graduation of the National Defence Academy, Abe urged the new graduates to guard the country against “provocations”, in a veiled reference to ongoing altercations between the Japanese Coast Guard and Chinese vessels in the waters surrounding the Senkakus. He told the graduates that the situation now is different than when they started studying four years ago and that they should be prepared for the harsh reality awaiting them, as they prepare to guard the country’s territorial land, sea and air.
The Liberal Democratic Party has also pledged to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, which might threaten both China and South Korea, who both suffered from Tokyo’s 20th century militarism. Part of the plan is to create an “independent constitution” to replace the current one that forbids the Self Defense Forces from using force to settle international disputes. The SDF currently only has a defensive role and is banned from taking aggressive action. Abe believes the government has to revise its rules of engagement amidst the looming military threat of North Korea and China. He also has plans to modify an article in the constitution that says they need two-thirds majority to approve an amendment. Even though the LDP and its junior coalition partner New Komeito have more than two-thirds control of the lower house, some of them are cautious about the proposed amendments. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan has the most number of seats in the Upper House, but Abe believes his party will win the July elections and this will pave the way to “reestablish a proud Japan.”
[ via AFP ]