Uniformed Self-Defense Forces officers are currently demanding a larger role in setting military policies, which will for the first time utilize the security legislation forced through the Diet by the ruling coalition last September. Civilian defense bureaucrats have so far rejected the demands of the uniformed officers, fearing that acquiescing will decisively tilt the power balance between the two sides within the ministry.
The various dramas occurring today near Henoko beach, Okinawa, and the city of Ferguson, Missouri, undoubtedly have many points of difference, but it is worth reflecting briefly on some issues that unite these two cases.
The determination of the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party to get tough on the Henoko base construction issue is becoming apparent to close observers. It has long been a question whether or not Tokyo was really willing to repress the popular will in Okinawa, which clearly opposes the construction of a new US Marine base, but the message is now coming through more openly: Let Okinawan opinions be damned! The base will be built!
“Joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is a far-sighted policy,” declared Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his Cabinet and journalists on Friday, “Japan should play a leading role toward a year-end deal.” The prime minister may be exactly right, but the fact is that very few independent observers have any firm basis for making a judgment. Not only are the TPP talks highly complex, they are also secret and moving very quickly.
Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister-cum-Minister of Financial Services Taro Aso, who is a former prime minister, grandson of the legendary Shigeru Yoshida, and related by his sister’s marriage to the imperial family, is increasingly becoming an international laughingstock and a political embarrassment to the Abe administration. After his latest gaffe, there is widespread speculation that Abe will simply dump him from the cabinet in the reshuffle expected next month.
Female executives and government ministers in Japan probably always have a higher bar to cross to really be accepted in their positions. When she was Japan’s first foreign minister, the volatile and sharp-tongued Makiko Tanaka faced unprecedented open defiance from top bureaucrat Yoshiji Nogami. And if that seemed peculiar to the case of the changeable Tanaka, not many years later a quite similar thing happened to the first, and so far only, female defense minister, Yuriko Koike.
Some of the shine has come off Abenomics in the last month or so, perhaps representing little more than a hiccup on the way to greater success, or perhaps representing the vast turning of the tide.