SNA (Tokyo) — During his recent visit to Canada and the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a number of interesting visits and public statements, once again demonstrating that he tends to give rather different messages to international audiences as compared to what he says at home.
For the sake of clarity and brevity, we will introduce here the Abe speech that we find to be the most significant, for the reason that it best reveals what we consider to be the “real Abe.” In others words, we will consider the speech Abe gave upon receiving the Hudson Institute’s 2013 Herman Kahn Award, an honor never before bestowed upon a non-American.
The Hudson Institute is an organization of the national security focused American hard right. Indeed, Abe’s speech was introduced by none other than I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former Chief of Staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney and a key figure in the corruption of the US intelligence system in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War. (He is also a convicted felon for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, and had there been any serious consequences for those who launched the illegal Iraq War, probably would have been convicted as a war criminal as well.) None of this, however, seems to have prevented his appointment as Senior Vice-President of the Hudson Institute and, indeed, it probably serves as a sort of recommendation in such hardline conservative circles.
This is the group that honored Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York.
Turning to Abe’s award speech, which is presented in full below, allow us to highlight some points of interest.
Abe’s language about an “Indo-Pacific Century… with the TPP as its backbone” hints strongly at the direction that the Japanese prime minister wants to take his nation’s diplomacy, and this has hardly changed since his first term in 2006-2007. It is essentially the polar opposite of Yukio Hatoyama’s short-lived, if vague “East Asian Community” initiative. Essentially, Abe seems to be saying that Japan should turn its back on East Asia and build its future with the United States, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia. These are views he has certainly expressed before.
Second, no one could read this speech without understanding that Prime Minister Abe is determined to change his government’s policy on the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. This stands in contrast with what the administration is saying at home to its allies in the New Komeito Party. In Tokyo, the message is that everyone’s point of view will fully be taken into consideration before any decisions are made. But speaking to a sympathetic audience of national security conservatives in the United States, Prime Minister Abe doesn’t leave much doubt about what the ultimate conclusion of those serious discussions will be.
Finally, Abe’s jabs at Beijing are rather transparent. For those who agree with him that China is Japan’s “necessary enemy” in East Asia, his words will seem like a clear-eyed view of reality. But for those who see no inevitability in how Japan-China relations develop in the future, his words will appear as unnecessarily provocative and part of a self-fulfilling prophecy of continuing trouble between the two nations.
As for the rest, let Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak for himself.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Speech upon Receiving the Hudson Institute’s 2013 Herman Kahn Award
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The Pierre Hotel, New York City
Thank you, Scooter. Ken, my friends, Chairman Stern, I am flattered. Thank you so much.
President Reagan received this award. So did Vice President Cheney, Secretaries Kissinger and Shultz, and the list goes on, and on. And today, you have made me its first non-American awardee. I cannot thank you more.
Herman Kahn predicted Japan’s rise early in the 1960s. If he were still alive, and saw Japan today, what would he say? Would he say that the Japanese have again become like sunflowers, always looking toward the sun? I do hope so. Because by reinvigorating the Japanese economy, I am also hoping to bring back a sense of optimism for the future to the people of Japan. This is why we all rejoiced so much at the decision that the Olympics in 2020 should come to Tokyo.
Ladies and gentlemen, a prolonged slump has downsized the Japanese economy. The amount lost is even bigger than the economy of Argentina. More and more young people were starting to give up hope. A majority of the Japanese had begun to expect that tomorrow they would be worse off than today.
Were Japan a small country, it would not have mattered much. But it is not. The Japanese economy is still larger than Germany and the UK combined.
In Japan, very few have served as Prime Minister twice. But the economic straits were so dire that the voters chose me once again. So, my first and foremost priority is to restore the economy. In order to drastically change the inward-looking mindset of the Japanese, and to encourage them to be bold, taking risks, my so-called first arrow called for a monetary policy untested until now.
Second, to strike a right balance between fiscal consolidation and enhancing growth, my second arrow was about flexible fiscal policy.
And the third arrow, which we are shooting now, wants you, Uncle Sam. Because it will make Japan more open to foreign investment. I now have to deliver, with your investment, with your expertise, and with your commitment to the future of Japan, a country that will be like a city, shining upon a hill, with free ports humming with commerce and creativity… to go on sounding Reaganesque.
It is my belief that Japan and the US together should lead the Indo-Pacific Century to make it one that cherishes freedom, democracy, human rights, and rules-based order, with the TPP as its backbone. That is why, I have decided that Japan must enter into the negotiations for the trade framework.
And today, I am pleased to be telling you that my three arrows are bringing concrete results. Last year, in the third quarter, Japan’s economy shrank by 3.6%. But under my new policies, this year, in the first quarter, Japan’s economy grew by 4.1%. In the second quarter, 3.8% per cent.
Now, let me turn to the issues of national security. The question is this. Is Japan up to its task in this world where threats see no borders?
Let me give you a picture. First, at the site of a UN peace keeping operation. Japanese troops are operating alongside another military from a country X. Suddenly, the X force is under attack. They ask for help to the Japanese, stationed nearby. But, the Japanese troops cannot help. Because it is unconstitutional to do so under the current interpretation of the Japanese Constitution.
Take another example, this one on the high seas. The US Aegis ships are deployed around Japan in cooperation with Japanese Aegis ships against a potential missile launch. They are concentrating their capabilities on the missile defense, leaving themselves vulnerable to air-to-sea attacks. Now, all of a sudden, one of the US ships is attacked by an airplane. Again, the Japanese ships, no matter how capable, cannot help the US ship. Because to do so will constitute an act of collective defense, which is unconstitutional under the current interpretation of the Japanese Constitution.
Those are the questions, we are seriously considering how to address.
In this age, everything is connected. Nothing lies outside a network. Outer space has no borders. Chemical weapons transcend borders. My country cannot be the weak link in the chain.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am working hard to rebuild Japan’s economy, while at the same time, working hard to reinvent our national security structure. For the first time ever, Japan will establish its National Security Council. For the first time ever, we will publish a national security strategy in which we will state what Japan is committed to, and what our aims are.
Also, for the first time in eleven years, my government has increased its defense budget this year. By how much, you may want to know.
Before that, we have an immediate neighbor whose military expenditure is at least twice as large as Japan’s and second only to the US defense budget. The country has increased its military expenditures, hardly transparent, by more than 10%, annually, for more than twenty years since 1989.
And then, my government has increased its defense budget only by 0.8%.
So call me, if you want, a right-wing militarist.
Now to sum up, Japan should not be the weak link in the regional and global security framework where the US plays a leading role. Japan is one of the world’s most mature democracies. Thus, we must be a net contributor to the provision of the world’s welfare and security. And we will. Japan will contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world even more proactively than before.
I am determined, ladies and gentlemen, to make my beloved country a “Proactive Contributor to Peace.” I am now aware, that my historical role should be to revitalize the nation and encourage the people to be more forthcoming, thereby leading them to become a proud bearer of the banner, the banner for a Proactive Contributor to Peace.
I now know why you gave me this award. It is quintessentially Khanesque, isn’t it, to encourage the receiver by predicting his future on his behalf?
Thank you very much.