Friday, December 15, 2006
A One-Two Punch?
It's probably only coincidence. It's gotta be coincidence. Surely it's only coincidence, right?
Japan's new government, sort of like "Canada's new goverment" has taken a certain hard turn to the right, toward nationalism, not like the old kind that brought us all together sixty years ago but in the same direction.
Part of this effort has been to upgrade Japan's self-defence force from a department into a full-blown ministry. That was done today.
Slipped in alongside the military's upgrade was legislation requiring Japanese schools to boost students' patriotism.
"The new education law will allow children to acquire a good understanding of their heritage and become intelligent and dignified Japanese,'' ruling party lawmaker Hiroo Nakashima said during the upper house debate.
"Critics, however, attacked the move as harkening back to Japan's war-era education system, in which children were instructed to support the country's imperialist military and sacrifice themselves for the emperor and nation.
"The government is putting the future of Japanese children at risk and turning Japan into a country that wages war abroad,'' said Ikuko Ishii, a Communist Party lawmaker.
"The upgrading of the Defense Agency under the Cabinet Office to a full ministry passed Parliament without significant opposition, propelled by deep concern in Japan over North Korean missile and nuclear weapons development.
"The upgrade, to be effected early next year, gives Japan's generals greater budgetary powers and prestige - a reversal for a military establishment that has kept a low profile since being discredited by Japan's disastrous wartime defeat.
The call for more patriotism in the schools coincides with a push by some local governments to crack down on teachers and students who refuse to stand for the national flag or sing an anthem to the emperor at school ceremonies.
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The move by Japan towards remilitarization is not a 'hard turn' but rather a result of progressive changes made throughout Japan's post-war history.
Japanese textbooks make no mention of Japanese atrocities on POWs, Chinese, Koreans and others. Japan's Supreme Court recently ruled against providing compensation to Korean women who were used as prostitutes. Japan has mused a few years ago about purchasing 'assault carriers', and some members of Japan's ruling party, the Liberal Democrats (LDP) have openly mused about Japan developing nuclear weapons. In the meantime Japan has been active in the US Missile Defence Shield. Japan even sent troops to Iraq.
But some of this is fairly understandable when placed in the context of Japan. With a neighbour like North Korea you can hardly blame them for wishing they had a stronger military.
Others, like the textbook issue and the compensation, are symptomatic of a nation that wishes to deny the facts of history.
The major difference between Abe and former PM Koizumi (both LDP) is one of style. Abe is very serious minded, while Koizumi was known for his.. shall we say.. eccentricities (like karaoke).
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