Abe Unleashed? Hardly

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his LDP chalked up a third consecutive election victory and extended their hold on the Diet for two more years with a convincing win in the snap Lower House election held in late December. While the victory consolidates the LDP’s grip on power and confirms that Abe is the real leader of the party—for now—, it is hard to call the results a mandate for him, his party, or his policies. Of course, Abe and his colleagues consider the outcome a vote of confidence and they will try to seize the moment to press ahead with their preferred agenda items, but close scrutiny of the election results suggests that will be a difficult task.

The headline numbers look good for the LDP. The party won 291 seats; combined with the 35 seats held by its lay Buddhist coalition partner, the Komeito, the government has a 326-seat super-majority that gives it control of all committee chairs, boasts a majority in every legislative committee, and allows the Lower House to override Upper House vetoes of legislation. The LDP has nearly four times the number of seats of the closest opposition party, the DPJ, and there is no sign of an organized or even coherent opposition. The leader of the DPJ lost his seat, the first time the head of a party has not been reelected since 1949.

Dig a little deeper, though, and the LDP victory quickly looks problematic. The LDP lost three seats in the election and while the coalition gained one seat in total, the gains went to Komeito.1 The DPJ may be a shadow of its former self—it had 230 seats going into the December 2012 election, when it lost power—, but it has rebounded and looks set to become the core of a revitalized opposition. The defeat of party head Kaeida Banri is for many a good thing, as he was a lackluster leader who failed to inspire voters or win their confidence.

Equally important is the evisceration of the right side of the political spectrum. Ishihara Shintaro’s Party for Future Generations, a focal point for conservative nationalists, was decimated. This ends talk heard last year of the LDP jettisoning Komeito to establish a more right-oriented government. Komeito’s new strength within the coalition gives it more weight in government deliberations. For all the emphasis on the conservative tendencies of the Abe government, the LDP is an agglomeration of views spanning the political spectrum and many members are more comfortable with Komeito’s pacifism than with Abe’s assertive nationalism.

Finally, the LDP was closed out in Okinawa, losing all four of its seats. That means that all important government posts on the island—the governor, Diet representatives, and the mayor of the town of Henoko, the site of the anticipated Futenma Replacement Facility (the FRF, which will host marines currently stationed at Ginowan)—are held by opponents of the FRF move. Tokyo can force the relocation down the throat of the local opposition, but no government has done so yet, and it will require the expenditure of significant political capital. This sort of fight would sharpen opposition to the government throughout Japan and distract from other political priorities. Other contributors in this issue take up the election’s impact on the alliance, but it is worth highlighting here as it could prove to be a drain on the government’s time and energy in foreign policy.

This analysis undercuts the claim that the election is a mandate for the Abe government and its priorities. Indeed, the basis for calling for the vote is suspect. Typically, a snap election occurs when a government has lost its majority in the Diet and seeks a renewed note of confidence from the public. In this case, however, Abe called an election because his and his government’s popularity had fallen and there was no chance that his party would lose control of the government. The election was intended to underscore the lack of alternatives that the Japanese public had.2 The lowest level of turnout in the postwar era suggests that voters were not pleased with their choices and are increasingly turned off by politics.

Full Speed Ahead?

Nevertheless, Abe sees the outcome as a vote of confidence with economic rejuvenation his first priority. “We were able to gain strong support from the people of Japan.” “The message we heard from the Japanese people yesterday was to move forward with Abenomics,”3 But the prime minister believes that economics and security are inextricably linked, as he explained in a news conference after his victory: “A strong economy will allow us to build strong diplomacy, which is closely linked with security. That’s the very reason I have promised to place the utmost priority on the economy.”4

Still, the prime minister remains committed to his longstanding ambition to revise Japan’s Constitution and rehabilitate Japanese thinking to allow it to play a more prominent regional and global security role. In the aftermath of the election, Abe was circumspect when addressing this issue, noting that his government would continue efforts on the reinterpretation of the exercise of the right of collective self-defense—implementing legislation is required—and other reforms that would allow it to modernize its alliance with the United States. Most observers expect a stronger push for constitutional reform, perhaps even putting up a referendum on the question, but while basking in the afterglow of his election win, Abe was only ready to discuss making stronger efforts to bring the public around to his way of thinking.

This sense of continuity is evident in the prime minister’s new cabinet, which, with one exception, is the same as the previous cabinet. The one change is the selection of Nakatani Gen as minister of defense, a replacement for Eto Akinori, who had been ensnared in a political funds scandal. Nakatani, a graduate of the National Defense Academy and a former member of the Self-Defense Forces who served as head of the Defense Agency (before it was upgraded to a ministry), is a respected security analyst who is widely seen as realistic and practical in his thinking.

There is one more element of the Abe government that deserves mention here: the strategic thinking that drives it. A core component of the Abe national security agenda has been the development of expertise and institutions within the Prime Minister’s Office (Kantei) to drive policy. Abe finally realized the goal of creating a National Security Council in the Kantei and has staffed it with some of the country’s top strategists. This gives the government more control over foreign policy. His administration has produced the country’s first National Security Strategy and passed other legislation, a secrets law in particular, that both strengthens and streamlines national security decision making.

Abe’s Vision

Abe seeks to create “a beautiful country.” His Japan is, as he explained in a speech to the Diet during his first term as prime minister, “A country which is full of vitality, opportunity, and compassion; a country which cherishes the spirit of self-discipline; a country which is open to the world; so that it is admired and respected by people all over the world, and our children’s generation can possess self-confidence and pride.”5 This demands, as a first step, economic revitalization, but that is also, as already noted, a means to an end: “a country that contributes to peace in Asia and the world.” The cornerstone of his vision is a strong US-Japan alliance, and it is important to recognize that all the security initiatives that the Abe governments have embraced have been intended to strengthen Japan’s ability to partner with its ally. Some analysts see a hedging strategy at work—Tokyo preparing for a rupture in relations with the United States—but it takes a dark reading of Japanese intentions and the disregard of every statement by its officials to make this assessment more than just plausible. The alliance serves two vital purposes for Tokyo: it ensures the security of Japan itself and validates efforts to do more on the security front and to some degree insulates Tokyo from questions about its intentions. Actions that might raise questions in the region are much less threatening when they are undertaken within an alliance framework.

Abe’s desire to make a greater security contribution and raise Tokyo’s profile for doing so has made him a tireless diplomat. During his first year in office, Abe visited all 10 ASEAN member states; by September 2014, he had visited 49 countries, averaging two foreign trips per month. His travels serve several purposes. First, they are intended to put to rest the idea that Japan is burnt out and is turning its back on the world, a concern that steadily grew as the Japanese economy stumbled through two “lost decades” and its political system seemed unable to respond. This worry reached a near fever pitch after the triple catastrophe of March 11, 2011. His travels are also a response to China’s more aggressive diplomacy of the last decade, and a reminder to both Beijing and other capitals that Tokyo too is a diplomatic force to be reckoned with. For a decade after 1989, Japan took pride in being the world’s top provider of ODA. Yet the aid budget has been cut in half over the last 17 years, dropping from JPY 1.16 trillion in 1997 to JPY 550 billion in 2014.6 In 2012, Japan’s foreign ministry listed the country as fifth in ODA, trailing the United States, Britain, Germany, and France. China is not on that list, but you would not know that from the buzz generated by Beijing’s aggressive diplomacy. Abe wants to change that perception.

A third driving force is the desire to drum up business for Japanese companies. Japanese long assumed that they would lead the region’s economy and developed a theory—the “flying geese model” of economic development—to validate their position. The geese have flown the coop during the lost decades, and China has emerged as the center of regional and global production chains. Japan continues to play a key role in that process, providing capital, technology, and knowhow, but its pre-eminence is no longer a given, and Japanese contributions are frequently overlooked. Abe wants to fix that. A prominent example is nuclear power technology. Cognizant of the growing demand for nuclear energy and Japan’s position as possessor of one of the world’s most advanced nuclear industries, the prime minister has been the salesman-in-chief, reaching out to the United Arab Emirates, France, Turkey, India, and the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) to promote Japan’s nuclear industry. Those efforts will continue but competition will be fierce from countries such as South Korea and Russia that are eager to promote their own nuclear industries. Japan must also address safety concerns generated by the March 11 nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear facility.

ODA can support this broad effort. Historically, Japanese ODA has been restricted to economic development and social infrastructure. If there was a chance that ODA funds could be used for projects with military implications, such as building ports where warships might dock, or that might be used to aggravate international conflicts, the use of Japanese money has been prohibited. Japan began to test this constraint during the first Abe government in 2006-2007, when it sold patrol boats to Indonesia but stipulated that they could only be used to fight piracy. Other regional governments, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, have received surplus vessels and trainers have been dispatched elsewhere to help build capacity. To stay within the confines of the ODA principles, the boats are limited to use in local law enforcement, and the training is in search and rescue techniques.

The second Abe government has begun efforts to revise the ODA charter to be able to use aid more strategically and to make a more “proactive contribution” to international security, a policy articulated in the Abe government’s National Security Strategy. Ensuring that regional governments are better able to combat local security threats is a key concern, but so too is priming the pump for Japanese business interests that follow the aid flows. Tokyo is also counting on regional governments being receptive to its aid and assistance given Chinese assertiveness in Southeast Asia. An advisory panel has forwarded its recommendations to the foreign ministry, but the government missed an end of the year deadline to present the revisions. That document should be released early in 2015, and the government will press for adoption of the changes and quick follow up. One anticipated change is permitting aid for foreign military forces that is not used for combat operations.

A related reform is revision of the three principles for arms exports. Since 1976, Japan has banned arms exports in keeping with the “pacifist” orientation of the Constitution and to ensure that Japan in no way fanned the flames of conflict. That policy was revised by the DPJ government in 2011 to respond to a changing international environment, to facilitate cooperation with allies and security partners, and hopefully, to create new opportunities for Japanese defense industries. The Abe government is following up. One of the most high visibility efforts in this field is a proposal for Japan to provide Australia with up to one dozen of its Soryu-class submarines as Canberra readies to deploy its next generation of subs. This would be Japan’s biggest arms sale since World War II, but it is by no means a done deal. There are political, technical, and strategic obstacles to be surmounted, but Tokyo’s readiness to move forward is a sign of the new mentality and an indication of the ways in which the Abe government promotes a higher profile international security role.

The Trilateral Twist

The Australian submarine deal is part of a security relationship with Canberra that has been maturing for over a decade. This emerging partnership reflects a distinctive thread of Japanese foreign policy and security thinking, one that Abe has pursued since his first term in the Kantei and one that aligns well with US policy. Washington has been promoting trilateral cooperation in the region for decades: a US-Japan-ROK trilateral has long topped Washington’s priorities. A core component of the Obama administration’s approach to Asia is a desire to create new linkages between allies and partners, the “spokes” in the US alliance wheel.7 The US-Japan-Australia Trilateral Security Dialogue (TSD) has become the exemplar of this sort of cooperation. This multilateralism has found support in Tokyo, which sees larger arrangements as part of a “hedging strategy” that embeds the United States in a thicker web of relations in the region (to keep it from disengaging) and strengthens Japanese ties to other security partners.8 Tokyo will continue to work closely with Canberra both bilaterally and as a preferred partner for multilateral cooperation.

Another foreign policy focus of the Abe government will be India. During his first term, Abe reached out to Delhi, identifying it as a core element of the “values based” diplomacy that Abe was then pushing. Delhi was seen as a ready ally in efforts to promote democracy, human rights, individual dignity, and a respect for the rule of law and to use them as the foundation for aggressive diplomacy. At one point, there was talk of institutionalizing a quadrilateral with Australia and the United States that would rest upon an “Asian arc of democracy,” but it failed to gain traction, amid fears that it would be seen as anti-China.

Despite that failure, Abe continues to see India as a vital partner, both bilaterally and trilaterally. As with Canberra, Tokyo and Washington have initiated trilateral foreign policy dialogues with Delhi. But it is the bilateral relationship that is most important to Abe. For him, India is a kindred spirit, a country with which Japan has a long history, one that joined Japan in efforts to throw off the yoke of the West and its imperialism in the first half of the 20th century. That may be a selective reading of history, but Abe has a high regard for both Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian nationalist who sided with imperial Japan during World World II, and Radhabinod Pal, the sole dissenting justice during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal that followed the Pacific War. Abe has met descendants of both men during trips to India. India is also a business opportunity as it opens its doors to foreign investment in efforts to realize its economic potential. The two countries signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement in 2011, and Japan has become one of the leading investors in India, even though two-way trade is only about USD 16 billion annually. And, like Australia, India will benefit from the easing of restrictions on Japanese arms exports. Delhi is moving ahead with the acquisition of 12 US-2i aircraft in 2015 for USD 1.65 billion.9

Perhaps the most important bond for Abe and India is the outlook he shares with the new prime minister, Narendra Modi. Both are nationalists who seek more space internationally for their countries. Both are impatient activists who believe that they can shape history and geopolitics in their favor. Both understand that economic rejuvenation is the key to the realization of that goal. And, while Modi is loath to say it out loud, both are suspicious of China, and worry about its growing power and its potential to limit their own country’s ambitions. Of course, both also acknowledge that China is a geographical fact of life and they must therefore walk a line between cooperation and competition. This meeting of the minds is central to the budding “bromance” between Abe and Modi; while leaders of both countries will share national objectives, the convergence of interests between these two men will give the bilateral relationship an extra boost.

The Most Pressing Challenges

Abe faces real foreign policy challenges closer to home. The relationship with China will continue to top his agenda. China is a threat and an opportunity; in fact, the China threat is an opportunity insofar as a palpable sense of insecurity helps the prime minister rustle up support for his national security agenda. That is not to say that the threat is manufactured: the territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and the political confrontation that it has triggered genuinely disturb the Japanese people. The results of the most recent Genron NPO/China Daily annual survey are illustrative: in 2014, 93 percent of Japanese respondents said their impression of China was “unfavorable,” worsening from 90.1 percent the year before and the highest level since the survey began in 2005.10

Still, the two governments understand that they need a working relationship for both countries’ economies and because long-term Asian prosperity and security is not possible if the region’s two largest powers have a fundamentally hostile view of each other. The Japanese business community in particular would like a diminution in tension and a return at least to “hot economics, cold politics,” the previous status quo for the relationship. The two countries managed to find diplomatic common ground in the run-up to the November 2014 APEC Leaders Meeting so that Abe and President (and host) Xi Jinping could hold their long anticipated meeting, although the photos suggest the encounter was not very relaxed. That common ground is tenuous, and the relationship very likely depends on Abe’s readiness to forego visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, an agreement he says he did not make. Still, Abe did not visit the shrine in December 2014, despite having done so a year earlier and despite a December election victory that could have justified a visit. Abe will exercise restraint as long as China reciprocates; if Beijing steps up efforts to validate its claim to the disputed islands or otherwise publicly embarrasses or humiliates Japan, then Abe will act on his impulses. But a positive and productive relationship—even if it does not realize its full economic potential—helps Abe: it validates his claim that Japan can be strong without upsetting the regional status quo, and that he can stand up for Japanese national interests without destabilizing the region.

The DPRK poses a particular challenge for Abe. No politician has more fervently backed the families of Japanese citizens allegedly abducted by North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s or used that issue as a political platform. Abe got Pyongyang to agree to reopen the investigation into the fate of those citizens, and he insists that he will get answers that previous Japanese administrations could not. Thus far, the record is not encouraging. A “secret visit” by a Japanese envoy in May 2013 was promptly exposed to the media, evincing surprise among US and Korean diplomats, who were apparently caught flat-footed by the initiative. A preliminary report by North Korea was due in September 2014, but it has been delayed. Since Japan has lifted some of its unilateral sanctions as inducement for Pyongyang to move forward, there is concern that the North is trying to bide its time and drive a wedge between Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington in dealing with the DPRK. If this initiative fails, then Abe will look especially foolish.

At the same time, Pyongyang occupies a special place in the Japanese security mindset. Many Japanese believe that they are the actual target of its nuclear weapons program and an increasingly capable DPRK requires a Japanese response.11 In security dialogues with Japanese experts and officials, North Korea’s nuclear and missile modernization programs compete with and sometimes overshadow the “China threat.” The prospect of a Korean Peninsula contingency drives important changes in Japanese security policy, in particular the reinterpretation of the exercise of the right of collective self-defense.12 The North Korea threat also animates the debate over the need to acquire a pre-emptive strike capability. Abe will continue to attempt to balance the call to engage the North over the abductions issue—hoping he can engineer a breakthrough that eluded his predecessors—while using the North Korean threat to advance his national security agenda. This balance will become increasingly difficult if the North continues to stiff arm Washington and Seoul. Of course, if either makes progress in its relationship with Pyongyang, the North may well abandon the attempt to woo Tokyo and return Japan to its position as public enemy No.1.

A similar logic is at work in Abe’s thinking about Russia, with which a territorial dispute, has long poisoned relations. Abe seems to think that he can engineer a deal that will yield the return of territory seized by Russia at the end of World War II. Others believe that is a fantasy: As has become clear in recent months, President Vladimir Putin is intent on taking territory, not giving it up. One reason for Japanese optimism is a belief that Moscow is uncomfortable relying too heavily on China. A burgeoning economic relationship is important as well: Russia supplies about 10 percent of Japan’s gas imports (especially valuable in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident), and total trade rose more than six times from 2003 to 2013, reaching USD 37 billion, making Japan Russia’s sixth largest trade partner, rising from 12th.13 Abe has invested considerable personal effort in outreach to Putin, meeting with him on ten occasions since taking office, and attended the Opening Ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, reportedly making the case against isolating Putin or forcing him into Chinese arms after his moves against Ukraine. As a strategic move, fixing relations with Russia would be a masterstroke, transforming Asia-Pacific geopolitics and facilitating a reorientation of Japan’s security forces from the northwest to the southwest. It seems highly unlikely. Still, Abe will not be deterred.

The final foreign policy challenge is South Korea. Abe understands the importance of a positive, productive, and cooperative relationship with Seoul. It is highlighted in the National Security Strategy, and is one of the forces behind the drive to reinterpret the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. (Korean objections to a reform designed to benefit the ROK is especially galling to many Japanese.) If that was not enough, US officials and observers have repeatedly emphasized the need for a better relationship between Tokyo and Seoul, and the Obama administration has invested significant effort to facilitate relations between the two, at least within a trilateral setting. Abe and his colleagues get it.

The problem is a growing fatigue toward Seoul, a feeling that nothing Japan does will satisfy a nation that prefers to look back to history than ahead to the future. Koreans are accused of moving the goalposts, preferring the moral high ground to a productive relationship. The Abe government insists that it has not undermined the key documents that define its relationship with Seoul (and East Asia), the Kono statement in 1993 and the Murayama declaration of 1995, and will continue to honor them. At the end of 2014, there were some promising signs, e.g., the signing of a trilateral information sharing agreement with Washington—, but additional progress will be difficult. The domestic political fight in Japan about how to describe past dealings with “comfort women” will have international ramifications, and this government seems ill-equipped to deal with them. Ultimately, relations with South Korea may depend on Tokyo’s relationship with Beijing. This is ironic as Tokyo has insisted that Seoul maintain its independence from China when discussing historical issues, yet some expect that President Park Geun-hye will have to moderate her hard line toward Japan if Abe manages to create a working relationship with Xi Jinping.

Abe’s defining moment in 2015, one that will have a profound impact on relations with South Korea, China, and the world, will be his commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Abe has promised a “forward-looking declaration,” and will “write a new statement to show to the world, including our remorse over the last war, our path as a democratic nation of peace and how we will contribute even more in future to Asia and to the world.”14 Scrutiny will be intense, and Abe (and his speechwriters) knows well the bar he must surmount. In those remarks, Abe faces a choice that will define his legacy: will he be a nationalist or a great national leader? There are not mutually exclusive choices, but Abe must choose which comes first. Thus far, his nationalism has prevented reconciliation with Japan’s neighbors that would redefine Asian politics and establish him as a genuine historical figure.

Abe’s Two Audiences

Abe invariably speaks to two audiences: one domestic and one foreign. His “mission” to create a new Japan demands a transformation of Japanese thinking and the steps that he takes and the rhetoric that he uses to justify or legitimate those actions are aimed as much at a reluctant home audience as those overseas. One indicator of the size of that task is opinion polling concerning revision of the Constitution. Annual polls by the Yomiuri Shimbun, which would be expected to show support for change given that paper’s editorial inclination, instead reveal dwindling public approval for revision of Article 9, dropping from 44.4 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2014; those who do not want to amend the Constitution increased to 60 percent in 2014 from 46.7 percent a decade ago.15 The problem is much greater than constitutional reform. The majority of Japanese do not share Abe’s ambitions and do not hunger for great power status. They are uncomfortable with the changes that are required to reanimate the country, doubting the benefits of deeper international engagement. By many measures, Japanese are becoming more inward looking, complacent, and resigned to a diminished status.16

After his election win, Abe conceded that his goal of revising the Constitution is “a historical challenge…it will not be easy,”17 requiring public understanding about the provisions to change and why reform is needed. He takes heart from the election, “which gave us a strong push in the back.” At the same time, the new strength of Komeito in the ruling coalition, along with divisions inside the LDP, mean that Abe’s challenges are even more immediate.


1. The Diet itself was reduced by five seats in an attempt to cut vote disparities; some commentators blame this for the LDP loss of seats.

2. Practitioners of genuine power politics challenge this assessment, arguing that a prime minister can call an election anytime he or she chooses and exploiting a disorganized opposition is smart strategy. Perhaps, but it also looks contemptuous of the public.

3. Isabel Reynolds and Maika Takahashi, “Abe claims mandate to stoke economy after sweeping election win,” Bloomberg News, December 14, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-14/abe-faces-policy-balancing-act-after-commanding-election-victory.html.

4. Elaine Lies and Tetsushi Kajimoto, “Japanese PM unveils new government, defense pick may rile China,” Reuters, December 24, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/24/us-japan-politics-idUSKBN0K205520141224.

5. “Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 166th Session of the Diet,” January 26, 2007, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/abespeech/2007/01/26speech_e.html.

6. Mizuho Aoki, “Abe looks to put his stamp on foreign aid,” The Japan Times, June 24, 2014.

7. Brad Glosserman, “The US rebalance and the US-Japan alliance,” ISPI Analysis, No. 189, July 2013.

8. Brad Glosserman, “The US rebalance and the US-Japan alliance,” ISPI Analysis, No. 189, July 2013.

9. Huma Siddiqi, “Navy expedites plan to buy 12 US-2i amphibious planes from Japan,” The Financial Express, January 6, 2015, http://www.financialexpress.com/article/economy/navy-expedites-plan-to-buy-12-us-2i-amphibious-planes-from-japan/26391/.

10. Yuichi Masumitsu, “Survey: Japanese sentiment toward China at worst level,” The Asahi Shimbun, September 10, 2014, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201409100035. Chinese views are not much better: 86.8 percent have an unfavorable impression of Japan, an improvement of 6 percentage points from 2013 but still the second highest number since 2005.

11. Brad Glosserman, “Respond and Restrain: Deterrence and Reassurance in Northeast Asia,” Pacific Forum CSIS Issues & Insights 14, no. 16 (2014).

12. Brad Glosserman and David Santoro, “Changes in Japan push the alliance forward,” Pacific Forum CSIS Issues & Insights 14, no. 14 (2014).

13. “Abe and Putin vow to repair ties frayed over Ukraine,” Bloomberg News, November 9, 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-09/abe-and-putin-to-hold-first-summit-since-crimea-move-dented-ties.html.

14. Isabel Reynolds and Takashi Hirokawa, “Abe says he’ll express remorse in war anniversary statement,” Bloomberg News, January 5, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-05/abe-says-he-will-express-remorse-in-war-anniversary-statement.html.

15. Mizuho Aoki and Reiji Yoshida, “Abe’s goal of constitutional reform faces many challenges,” The Japan Times, December 31, 2014.

16. Brad Glosserman, “Japan: from muddle to model?” The Washington Quarterly, 37:2, Summer 2014.

17. “Abe strives to meet ‘historical challenge’ of revising Constitution,” The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2014, at http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201412250042.