Gilbert Rozman

Abe’s success in securing cabinet approval—a matter much more complicated in Japan than elsewhere—for a statement on revising the constitutional interpretation of the right of collective self-defense is ably explained by Hosoya. He also discusses the fierce opposition to this in the Japanese media and the importance of central newspapers in shaping public opinion. International observers find it difficult to grasp what is driving the negative response to the advisory panel’s report, the Cabinet decision, and Abe’s push for new legislation. What does it mean to stick with Japan’s postwar peaceful or pacifist path in the context of 2014? What does it mean to rule out collective security operations in East Asia as opposed to in Afghanistan and Iraq? Is anything beyond logistical support possible? Or is the third section that gives approval for collective self-defense a justification for much more support, such as in an attack on South Korea or Vietnam? What are the implications for revisions of the defense guidelines with the United States expected later this year? These are questions that readers may raise from reading Hosoya’s first statement.

Reading the Japanese press in 2014 raises additional questions about the debate in progress. Are the newspapers stuck in fixed positions or has the debate continued to evolve to late August? How do critics of the Cabinet Decision propose to meet recent security challenges facing Japan, whether from China or North Korea? What foreign policy attitudes—toward South Korea relations, the abductions talks with North Korea, defiance of the West in diplomacy with Russia, priority for Indian relations, a new security relationship with Australia, etc.—correlate with opposition to the new interpretation of collective self-defense? While the Japanese government’s position is often presented in Washington, DC and other capitals, the opposition’s thinking is a mystery to many. Is it based on a strongly held view of Japanese national identity that many have underestimated as they focused on Nihonjinron in the 1980s and revisionism in the past decade? Is it linked to a different conception of Asianism able to survive the debacle of the DPJ’s “fraternal” overtures to China? Or is it based on a different definition of national interests, which sees an opportunity for Japan to be a bridge or to join an East Asian economic community? Do opponents also stand against TPP? There are lots of questions about the divisions inside Japan that have been brought into the open by the collective self-defense issue at a time of general support for the US alliance, alarm about the China threat, and quest for a new Japan.