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In his article, ‘’Enrich the Country, Strengthen the Armed Forces’’ 1, Hasan Kösebalaban opens
up the discussion of Shinzo Abe’s legacy by mentioning his grandfather, Kishi who came to
power by the support of the USA in order to counter the Yoshida’s doctrine; anti-military stance
while building the economy. He then mentions what happened in the cold war briefly then jumps
to Abe’s one the biggest dreams that are building a strong military power and use of force by
interpreting the article 9 of the constitution, which declares that the Japanese people renounce
war as a sovereign right of the nation and to accomplish this Japan will never maintain land, sea
or air forces. While Yoshida’s doctrine worked during the Cold War, the consensus among the
Japanese elite has begun to change by raising security threats, such as the North Korea's long-range
missile and nuclear testing, China’s military and economic rise, and the fact that the peace accord
with Russia has not been signed were factors that added to the feeling of insecurity of the
Japanese political elite.
The idea that the country should move out of its shadowed position and become a respectable
economic and military power has gradually ceased to be a taboo and became the dominant view
within the LDP. One of the first acts of Shinzo Abe, one of the keenest representatives of this
trend of thought, in his post of prime minister was to increase his country's defense budget at a
record level which is about 5.31 trillion yen. But Abe could not find the popular support needed
for sweeping constitutional change. Instead, as in 2014, the Japanese cabinet prefers to
circumvent legal obstacles, explaining how it interprets the constitution.
He then concludes the article by writing that Abe hands over the unfinished mission on
constitutional change to the new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. If Suga can persuade the
Japanese people, he can take action to ensure that the country has a military power
commensurate with its economic strength. This means a new era in which new alliance lines will
shape not only in Asia but also in world politics.
I think from this point Suga can benefit from the changes Abe made. First of which is The
National Security Council which established in 2013 by the initiation of Shinzo Abe. The institution coordinates the security policy of Japan with the Prime Minister. Parallel to the establishment, Japan also adopted a National Security Strategy in December 2013 to outline Japan’s security and defense policies. By using the National Security Strategy, Yoshihide Suga can
understand and follow the legacy of Shinzo Abe and implement it by using the National Security Council.
The second one is FOIP – Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’’. 2 This is a strategy
created by Japan and supported by QUAD members (India, the USA and Australia) to contain
China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific region. The strategy plays a crucial role in shaping Japan’s
engagement with other actors in the region and specifically China. Yoshihide Suga can follow
this strategy to shape Japan’s international relations with actors within the region.
But he also should traverse carefully. Where Abe failed to make progression, he must be
cautious. Abe failed to amend the constitution because of the reluctance of Komeito 3, LDP’s
coalition ally, and support from the public. He also failed to resolve the North Korean abduction of
Japanese citizens 4, peace treaty with Russia 5, and resolve the WW2-era comfort women 6 problem
that damages relations with South Korea to this day.
Can Suga convince the people of Japan and its coalition ally Komeito to amend the constitution?
Can he carry the legacy of Abe and success where he has failed? For now, it remains to be seen.
This article is written by Taha Acar