Mr. Shinzo Abe turns out to be a surprisingly interesting guy a very brief review of his history turns up that Mr. Abe is from a very long line of very successful and very well connected Japanese politicians. His grandfather, on his mother’s side, was Mr. Nobusuke Kishi, who served during the Second World War in the Emperor’s Cabinet, was imprisoned for (but never found guilty of) war crimes. The elder Mr. Kishi then became an important post-War political figure, and rose to the Prime Minister’s post in 1957. Mr. Kishi was, by all accounts, the quintessential Japanese post-war Prime Minister: a finder/builder of consensus; a non-maker of new policies. However, its understood that Mr. Kishi’s imprisonment left a very real impression upon his grandson. Prime Minister Abe’s father was Shintaro Abe, one of the most successful of Japanese political figures during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Mr. Abe actually led one of the important factions within the LDP, and held several different cabinet and LDP leadership positions during his career. He became Minister of Agriculture, then the Minister of Trade, and eventually becoming the Minister of Foreign Affairs. At one time, he seemed to be on the clear path toward becoming the Prime Minister, but had his career derailed during an infamous scandal involving the Nakasone government and Recruit. The Prime Minister certainly has a solid political back ground.
What is important to understand about Mr. Abe is that he is, at balance, a nationalist… not a venomous one in the mold of Mr. Le Pen of France for example, but a strong Japanese nationalist nonetheless. He has argued that Japan has been ill served by holding to its pacifist Constitution, and has lobbied hard for a material change. Further, Abe has said that part of his program will also be to change what is known as The Fundamental Law of Education, and to further raise the level of patriotism and traditional Japanese “values” in the nation’s schools. The Left and much of Asia find this disconcerting; the Right, in Japan, however, sees much merit in his positions. As Abe said in his book, Toward a Beautiful Country, which sets the tenor of his Administration but which also raises alarms in East Asia, by entrusting our national security to another country and putting a priority on economic development we were indeed able to make great material gains. But what we lost spiritually… that was also great.
His first major decision then was interesting: he announced a summit meeting to be held next week in Beijing. Obviously, Beijing is disconcerted by Abe’s positions, and equally as obviously, Hu and Wen want to speak directly with Abe about his intentions. Too, Abe has made it very, very clear that he will take a very hard line with N. Korea. When N. Korea tested its missiles recently, even before he became Prime Minister, Mr. Abe made it perfectly clear that such actions by N. Korea in the future shall not be acceptable, and that consequences will be paid. Abe from what can be read and seen is a man driven by “philosophy and conviction.” This sets the tone for some interesting times, although we suspect that Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Burma et al may harbour some concerns (as too, obviously, shall China).