Big Talk

Forces for Constitutional Change Are Aiming to Win Two-thirds of the Seats in the House of Councilors Election

Mr. Yasuhide Nakayama is a member of the House of Representatives. He was instrumental in settling the situation when Mr. Yukawa and Mr. Goto were abducted by the Islamic State in 2015 as the Chief of the Local Response Headquarters in Jordan. He is known for being experienced in diplomacy (e.g. he has served as the Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs) and as a politician who is genuinely conservative in his ideology. The representative spoke with this Mr. Yasuhide Nakayama about the future of Japan which will be affected by the House of Councilors election this summer and the United States Presidential Election.

Now, When Cabinet Support Rate Is High, Is the Time for the General Election

Motoya Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today. I have known you for a long time, so I was surprised to hear the other day that we had yet to have a dialogue and looked to set one up immediately.

Nakayama It is an honor. We were first introduced to each other by Mr. Yoshiro Mori, the former prime minister. The thing that I will never forget about you is what you wrote on that monument when opening the APA Hotel at Kyoto Station. The word “heart” is still inscribed on that monument to this day. That is truly the passion, heart, found in the APA service in the center of Japan. Thank you.

Motoya Today is the final day of the National Diet. Prime Minister Abe announced that the consumption tax hike would be postponed until October 2019 and that the House of Representatives election would not be held in conjunction with the House of Councilors election. Putting aside the consumption tax hike, I was surprised about this announcement because I thought the elections would be held for both houses at the same time. As you are involved in this, do you think it is best not to hold a simultaneous election?

Nakayama I predicted the same as you. I was a little disappointed about the announcement because I was all ready to go. However, there will be a House of Councilors election. I intend to try my hardest to get the Liberal Democratic Party candidates in the Osaka electoral district elected to ensure that helping our allies is considered self-defense in the same way as with the right to collective defense. Prime Minister Abe came to the General Meeting of the Seiwaken and explained his reasons for postponing the House of Representatives election. He said that it had still only been a year and a half since the last election. He also talked about the massive earthquake that struck Kumamoto Prefecture and Oita Prefecture in April. He argued that it was impossible for there to be an election of all the House of Representatives and half the House of Councilors at the same time in this area now.

Motoya Those are the official reasons, of course. There is no need to tell the truth about the dissolution of the House of Representatives. I thought that the House of Representatives would be dissolved up until the end. That is what I would have done. The latest opinion poll shows that support for the Cabinet stands at 55%. There are rarely opportunities like that. This House of Councilors election is one that will be extremely important for the Abe administration that is looking to amend the constitution because it will be possible to obtain two thirds of the seats in the house. If that happens, surely a double election for which there is a high possibility of a great victory in both houses should be held now when support for the Cabinet is high? If the LDP won big, it would be possible to amend the party platform as its reward and also extend the term of office of the leader from the current six years in two terms to nine years in three terms. Top leaders around the world all have long-term administrations. For example, it is ten years in China and eight years in the United States. I would like this term of office to be extended and for Prime Minister Abe to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. Moreover, October 2019, when the consumption tax hike has been postponed to, will be after the term of Prime Minister Abe as it currently stands. This is also difficult to accept.

Nakayama There is the world of real intentions and official stances in society. It is only natural that you would also feel that. Another reason is that the lowering of the voting age from 20 to 18 took place at the same time as the postponement in the consumption tax hike. This contains the significance that we would like young people to think sincerely about the future of Japan. There are many challenges facing future generations. These include the falling population, the decreasing birthrate and aging population, and the social security problems involved with that, such as pensions and medical expenses. That is in addition to the national defense and security problems facing the world in Northeast Asia.

Motoya The world is at a turning point. The fact that Mr. Trump has become the Republican Party candidate to be President of the United States is no coincidence. The position of democracy as the political system that faced off against socialism in the past has been shaken by the end of the Cold War. It is not necessarily the case that democracy is absolutely the supreme political system. For example, President Vladimir Putin of Russia seems to have built an empire with himself as the emperor. China has a one-party political system that is a long way distant from the essence of socialism. In addition, far right forces have been winning lots of support in places like Germany, France and Austria. Putting your own country first is the underlying principle behind this trend. Mr. Trump has won a lot of support with his clear all-out America first principles. Now, when there is a growing likelihood that Mr. Trump will win the presidency, I think Japan needs to consider how it will deal with such an administration.

Nakayama If the House of Representatives were to be dissolved before the end of the year, it would be necessary to consider this in conjunction with the presidential election in the United States. Whether to dissolve the House of Representatives before or after the presidential election in November is a very important decision in that context. It is very important to once again show the world that the relationship between the United States and Japan is one of a stable and unshaking alliance.

Motoya Nonetheless, I think that the most important thing is of course the Cabinet support rate. No matter when you think of dissolving the House of Representatives, if support for the Cabinet is low, it will be difficult not to hesitate about making such a decision. The support for the Cabinet is at its highest now after the success of the Ise Shima Summit. In addition, although the economic and monetary policies of Prime Minister Abe have come under a lot of criticism, they are going well from my perspective. APA Hotel has also increased salaries three times since Prime Minister Abe took power. Prime Minister Abe is personally working like the executive committee chairman of a labor union with respect to wage increases! Now, when Prime Minister Abe is pursuing correct policies that could not be taken by past administrations and with his support high, it is a little pathetic to say that it would be unfair on members of the Diet to dissolve it because it is still only a year and a half since the last election.

Nakayama I don’t think the reason the Diet isn’t being dissolved is because it would be unfair on its members! My fellow members of the Diet were trembling with excitement under the feeling of being battle-ready at all times in the House of Representatives. They were not lacking in preparation even though they would only have had a short time in office if a double election had been called. On the other hand, as you point out, the Nikkei average-linked Cabinet support rate is high when viewed objectively. It is better to have higher stock prices than low ones. No one loses out when stock prices rise. It is very important to calmly work on reform in all areas in order to advance our economic growth strategy and to regain trust in Japan.

The Steadily Advancing Mr. Trump Will Bring Deals to the Political World

Nakayama I am in agreement that the world is at a turning point. However, I am very sad at the fact that disparities in income have become firmly entrenched.

Motoya I believe one of the causes of this disparity is the development of IT. Conventional rules, in addition to communications, have been changed by the development of IT. Services that allow you to quickly find the cheapest products or shops like have led to a society that allows “one strong, many weak” with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The government dealt with this originally, but is currently failing to rectify this. There are a great many poor people and few rich people; there are a great many non-elites and few elites. However, everyone has only one vote. It is the strategy of Mr. Trump to win the hearts of this layer of people who form the majority, starting with the so-called “poor whites.”

Nakayama That’s right. In addition, Mr. Trump, an elite businessman, likes to make deals. He has said that he would like to speak with both Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping. He means that he would like to make deals with them. He has also said that he will remove the U.S. troops based in Japan if we don’t bear the full cost of stationing them here. That is Mr. Trump presenting his conditions in a deal. Therefore, if he were to become president, it is very important to understand what kind of conditions he would present to people to make them feel the benefits of taking such a deal and to also gain advantages on our side as well.

Motoya Absolutely. However, he is tough and tenacious. That is because he has been married three times, made bankrupt four times and this is also his third time to run for president. That experience made him realize that he could not become the candidate for the Republican Party with respectable methods. Therefore, he first repeated a number of eccentric statements to win over the non-elites who form the majority. Nevertheless, after formally becoming the candidate for the Republican Party, the election becomes a battle between organizations. This means that he will surely revise his claims in order to also win the support of the Republican mainstream. He will no doubt select someone to be his vice-presidential running mate who is the complete opposite of himself – for example a young woman who has political experience at the state governorship level. The Republican Party no doubt desires a respectable person to be the candidate for vice-president. There is a threat to Mr. Trump that he will end up like Mr. Kennedy if he keeps on making strange statements. President Kennedy opposed the expansion of the Vietnam War. There is a theory that this led the military-industrial complex, which favored this, to move against him and then have him assassinated so that Vice-President Johnson, who favored an expansion in the war, could take the seat of power. Considering this, I am sure that Mr. Trump will change what he is saying.v

Nakayama I think so too. Nonetheless, if Mr. Trump actually becomes president and it becomes likely that the U.S. will remove their troops, I think that would be a good opportunity to revise the constitution in Japan.

Motoya Although Mr. Trump says he will remove the U.S. troops based in Japan, there is no way he would do that. That is because it would mean losing the Pacific Ocean. The original meaning to the presence of U.S. troops based in Japan is to continue America’s hegemony of the Pacific Ocean – not to protect our nation. It is logical to assume that Mr. Trump is deliberately making such provocative remarks in order to win the nomination to be president even though he understands the truth to this. He has also said that he would approve Japan and South Korea becoming nuclear powers, but there is no way he really thinks that. It is the United States that has consistently opposed Japan having nuclear arms. If he allowed Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons, it would mean such weapons spreading around the world. This would greatly increase the possibility of a sudden nuclear war. If the United States were willing to allow this, I think it should be kept firmly controlled and it should be a case of the nuclear sharing agreement that is signed up to by four NATO countries applying to Japan. This nuclear sharing system is one in which nuclear weapons would be controlled jointly by Japan and the United States in times of peace and then the right to command these would be given in times of emergency. This would deter an attack by nuclear weapons while preventing their spread.

Nakayama Your novel idea of introducing nuclear sharing is one that is worth studying. It sounds very interesting. I believe that bringing the Asia Pacific Ocean Headquarters of the United Nations to the atomic bombed Hiroshima will act as another soft power deterrent. Building a United Nations facility at the old site of the Hiroshima Municipal Stadium will bring diplomats from around the world there. General MacArthur said that “Japan should become the Switzerland of Asia.” However, in order to put a check on the expansion in hegemony of China, Japan must become a pro-American Switzerland. The United Nations Headquarters in Hiroshima would help with that.

Motoya There are big differences between the image many Japanese people have of Switzerland and the reality. Switzerland is a military state with universal conscription – and has been since long ago. It is an “armed” neutral power with stockpiles of weapons, such as rifles and ammunition, all over the country. This is completely different to Japan that continues to declare itself peaceful because of our pacifist constitution. Peace is kept through a balance of power – not through ideals. Considering this point, Mr. Trump’s statement that he would allow divide and rule together with China in the Pacific Ocean is complete nonsense. He will stop saying such things one he officially becomes the candidate of the Republican Party.

Nakayama I would like that to happen from the fact it would bring peace, stability and prosperity for Japan in the Northeast Asia region. China always says that “we are not a threat,” but to my mind there is no doubt it is a threat. The runways and artificial islands constructed by landfilling atolls in the South China Sea in defiance of international law and the deployment of fighters and missiles could also happen at any time in the East China Sea. There is no limit to what we can say about the soaring military budget in China. If there is an opening, they soon jump in. Each and every citizen in this nation must keep in mind the need to protect people’s lives, property and our territorial waters.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): The Most Important Technology in the Future – Where Japan Is at the Cutting Edge:

Motoya I think it is a good idea to bring the United Nations to Hiroshima. Hiroshima has become a city that is more well-known than ever due to the visit of President Obama. I predicted that President Obama would visit Hiroshima the year before last and so we have been constructing a large 727-room hotel there since last year. I was on the mark this time. President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with a speech in Prague aimed at the abolition of nuclear weapons. However, even though he held a nuclear security summit afterward, he did not produce any noticeable reduction in such weapons. Nevertheless, he was able to be the first serving President of the United States to visit Hiroshima this time.

Nakayama I also felt that this completed the development of President Obama as a politician. The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now highly regarded in international conferences. This is because he gives great speeches and has a liberal impression with his Labour Party connections. I think President Obama will also become popular in international conventions – even more so than Mr. Tony Blair – after his term in office ends. He also gives great speeches. In addition, he is the first black president and is a Nobel Peace Prize winner for advocating nuclear disarmament. He is the complete package.

Motoya However, the cause of the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the civil war in Ukraine, the rampancy of the Islamic State and the building of military bases with the landfilling of atolls by China in the South China Sea is all down to President Obama’s statement that the United States is not the world’s policeman. There is a clear difference in the military might between the United States and China. Therefore, if the United States were to exert pressure in the South China Sea now, China would no doubt withdraw. Despite this, the United States does nothing. It will be too late once China has developed its base facilities, such as its runways.

Nakayama The United States drafted War Plan Orange – a plan for war against Japan – 50 years prior to the Pacific War. Therefore, I would assume that there is now a War Plan China. China has already broken through the first and second island chain lines. The Pacific Ocean is gradually becoming a risky sea with land and sea forces mixed up in the region. Under such circumstances, it is necessary for Japan to also think about how to minimize our own risks.

Motoya I agree.

Nakayama In addition, the most important thing to seize the initiative ahead of the rest of the world in the future is to independently develop and take possession of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. There is an AI researcher and supercomputer architect called Motoaki Saito who monopolized places one to three in the global supercomputer rankings last year in Japan. This means the future can still be bright depending on how we develop this field. However, we must not lose out to neighboring China. China will rapidly develop this field with a budget of around 1.5 trillion yen – approximately ten times the budget of Japan. What is their purpose? I think we all know the answer to this already.

Motoya Of course, the key is our technical capabilities. While Japan possesses many cutting edge technologies, we are responsible for only a part of products using this technology. We have to buy completed products at a high price. This structure is also the same for smartphones and fighter aircraft. Nevertheless, in the field of aircraft, the development of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) is approaching its final stage and development is also progressing on a stealth fighter called the X-2 Shinshin. The United States will also have no choice but to rely on these technical capabilities of Japan in order to keep China in check. In fact, I suspect that the sharp and able Mr. Trump understands this in truth.

Nakayama It may be necessary to bring Japanese super businessmen like yourself together and form a team in order to deal with such an American super businessman.

Motoya I think so. We will need a Japanese politician at Prime Minister Abe’s level to be able to square off against Mr. Trump. Prime Minister Abe is becoming stronger every passing day by clearing various challenges, such as development of the US-Japan Security Treaty legislation, the discourse on 70 years after the end of the war and the Ise Shima Summit. It is also Prime Minister Abe who is able to negotiate with President Putin of Russia.

Nakayama It is necessary to proceed carefully with diplomacy between Japan and Russia that also attracts the attention of the United States. Russia is also a stubborn opponent, so difficult negotiations will continue for the time being over the four northern islands it holds.

Motoya The country that China is really on bad terms with is Russia – the country with which it shares the longest national border. The cooperation of Russia is essential to encircle China. In fact, the United States fuels the flames over the return of the four northern islands Russia holds. The purpose of this is to ensure that Japan continues to have a confrontational approach to Russia due to our fixation on those four islands. The return of Etorofu-to is already impossible practically speaking because it has been turned into a military base. Politics is about compromise. We should compromise somewhere – accept two islands or half of the territory for example – and sign a peace treaty in order to draw Russia into encircling China.

Nakayama I agree completely. In fact, a settlement has been reached between China and Russia over the division of Ussuriysky Island and Bolshoi Island that had been subject to a border dispute.

Various Reforms Are Necessary to Guarantee the Security of Japan

Motoya The next target of China – a nation that has fought wars against all its neighboring countries by land – is the Pacific Ocean. The sea lanes ensuring the maritime transportation that enables large quantities to be transported at very low costs must be protected from China under close cooperation between Japan and the United States. To that end as well, we need to amend our constitution and change the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan from a unilateral to a mutual treaty so that we can deal with a changing world.

Nakayama With the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States, the only place on earth where a heavily Cold War structure remains in place is on the Korean Peninsula. It seems that what will become of North Korea in the future will have an impact on the fate of Japan.

Motoya North Korea is a kind of buffer area. The reason that Thailand did not end up becoming a colony was that no country made moves to do so to keep it as a buffer zone between the United Kingdom and France. The balance of power will surely collapse if any of Russia, China or South Korea annexes North Korea now. It is sad for the people of North Korea, but it appears that keeping that country in its current state is the best way of contributing to peace.

Nakayama Realistically speaking, what you say is correct. It is truly an unbalanced balance. Nevertheless, those that suffer the most are the people of that country who live in fear of their dictator. The truth is that there are many problems requiring an early solution, including the abduction issue, with regards to North Korea.

Motoya The world will not necessarily turn out ideally. The Soviet Union and China are countries where tens of millions of people were killed by the creation of dictators such as Stalin and Mao Tse-Tsung who went to extraordinary lengths to achieve their ideals through socialism. Politicians must thoroughly study such history. The media must break free from the Press Code that is protected by voluntary restraints even 71 years after the end of the war and history books should also switch to telling what is correct. In addition, we must set up an information ministry with 3,000 workers and a budget of 300 billion yen in order to win the information war. This is something that I am always saying.

Nakayama I am also keenly aware of the importance of our information strategy as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission on Public Safety and Counter-Terrorism. Frankly speaking, the current national defense budget of 5 trillion yen cannot protect the lives and properties of our citizens. Given the situation that surrounds us, we must not deny the possibility of increasing this budget and we should not leave any gaps open.

Motoya It is an unwritten rule that defense costs are 1% of GDP. Therefore, if we achieve our target of a GDP of 600 trillion yen with everyone in society working, then this will be 6 trillion yen. How will we use this increase of 1 trillion yen? I think we should develop offensive weapons, such as laser guns and laser cannons, instead of spending all our money on defensive weapons like missile defense. We should then export our oldest generation weapons to our neighboring countries and develop new weapons with those funds to create this kind of cycle.

Nakayama I agree with what you say. It is also necessary to improve our information-gathering capabilities. However, secrets in democratic countries should basically be made open in principle. This is the contract between the people and state in a certain sense. We must also publish information to gather information. The United States has established the Freedom of Information Act. The principle is to publish all state information excluding permanent secrets with a deadline. Japan should make a similar law and establish a system to publish information at the same level as in the United States. I believe this will further deepen information gathering for the first time.

Motoya Speaking of information, I am reminded about the fact that analysis of Google Maps revealed that China had built military facilities similar to those of Japan in the desert as target practice for missiles. That is something that you identified in your speech the other day at Shoheijuku. I find that extremely worrying. That is the same as when the United States built wooden structures in the desert to practice dropping fire bombs prior to the Great Tokyo Air Raid.

Nakayama I think it is easy to see the necessity of the 2015 Japanese military legislation once you know that. This kind of information gathering will be every more important in the future.

Motoya Absolutely. Well then. Prime Minister Abe has set the victory line in the stand-alone House of Councilors election to be 61 seats – the majority of the seats up for election – by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito. However, in order for the forces for constitutional change to win two thirds of the seats in the House of Councilors, it will be necessary for political parties in favor of constitutional change to take 78 seats. That is a very high barrier.

Nakayama In particular, fierce battles are expected in single-seat constituencies where the Democratic Party and the Communist Party have come together to put forward a unified opposition party candidate.

Motoya The Communist Party have recently started attending ceremonies participated in by the Emperor of Japan. However, if you look at their party principles and their past assertions, it is clear that the Communist Party is a party with different ideas to any other. I wonder if the Democratic Party, which was once in government, will lose their traditional support by teaming up with such a political party. The collaboration between the Democratic Party and Communist Party seemed to be a positive for them in the by-election in the Hokkaido 5th District that was held in April, but I am not sure that is really the case.

Nakayama I think that was because there was a unique political climate in Hokkaido at that time.

Motoya There is certainly a strong left-wing color to the region there. I sincerely hope that the forces for constitutional change, such as the Liberal Democratic Party, safely win two thirds of the seats in the House of Councilors election through your efforts. Finally, I would like to ask as always for your words for young people.

Nakayama The Cline formula makes it possible to calculate the amount of national power: Amount of weighted national power = ((Basic indicators: Population + Territory) + Economic strength + Military might) × (Strategic objectives + Intentions). Strategic objectives and intentions are very important in this formula. No matter how much economic strength and military might you may have, your weighted national power will be zero if these two factors are zero for example. I would like young people to forge strategic objectives together with the intentions of the state and people to achieve those.

Motoya What we talked about today was extremely interesting. Thank you very much.


Mr. Yasuhide Nakayama
Mr. Yasuhide Nakayama was born in Kita Ward in Osaka City in 1970. He completed a master’s course at Waseda University Graduate School. He then worked for Dentsu before first winning election to the House of Representatives in 2003. He has served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission on Public Safety and Counter-Terrorism. He is the Chairman of LDP Osaka.