Resolving the Northern Territories Issue and Reforming the Constitution are Challenges for the Abe Administration

Seiji Fuji

Japan must negotiate with Russia during the “blank period” of American authority

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin held a talk in Vladivostok, Russia on September 2, 71 years after the Japanese Instrument of Surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay. According to the article on the front page of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on September 3, the important point of this Japan-Russia summit was that “Abe and Putin directly discussed issues regarding the conclusion of a peace treaty, including the Northern Territories issue.” The article read:

Abe and Putin confirmed that Putin will visit Japan and talk with Abe in Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (Abe’s home region) on December 15.
They agreed to hold a summit meeting timed to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Perú 2016, which will take place in November.
The two also affirmed that they will push forward with an approach based on a “new concept.”
Abe presented details on an eight-point economic cooperation plan.

 The American presidential election is entering its final stage amidst increasing turmoil; the voting will take place on November 8 and the new president will be inaugurated on January 20 of next year. The time around this election and inauguration ceremony is a “blank period” for American authority. This presents a perfect opportunity to carry out discussions between Japan and Russia, which the United States has not necessarily supported in the past; conclude a Japan-Russia peace treaty; and resolve the Northern Territories issue. The U.S. has placed economic sanctions on Russia for annexing the Crimean Peninsula and supporting pro-Russian guerillas in Ukraine. It is definitely not in favor of Japan providing economic assistance to Russia, which is the likely result of these negotiations. To Japan, this period in which Russia is suffering from cheap crude oil prices and economic sanctions is an opportunity. In its discussions with Russia, a tough negotiator, Japan should make sure it doesn’t merely promise to give economic assistance. Instead, it should offer economic assistance of a worthwhile level in exchange for the return of at least three islands (excepting Etorofu Island, which has a military base with a 2,500-meter runway). If we do not resolve this territorial issue all at once, the Northern Territories will never be restored to Japan. One can say that that resolving this territorial issue and reforming the constitution are the two major challenges facing the Abe administration.
 The sense of uncertainty regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is growing due to the election. Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have both declared their opposition to the TPP. President Barack Obama worked hard to somehow come to an accord on this point, so I am sure he wants to obtain Congressional approval during his presidency. If he accomplished that, Clinton (who was not originally against the TPP) and Trump would probably have to accept the TPP in light of policy continuity and the importance of Congress. To that end, Japan must hasten to have the House of Representatives ratify the final TPP agreement document before the end of October. If so, it would naturally be enacted even if it is not adopted in the House of Councillors by the end of November.
The Abe administration was founded in December 2012. According to the current Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) regulations, which state that a party president can serve two terms for a total of six years, Abe has only two years and two months left as prime minister. This means he will not be the prime minister at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, for which he helped put forward a successful bid. Coincidentally, this resembles how Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather, successfully won the bid to have the first Olympics in Tokyo. However, the sitting prime minister when the games were held was Hayato Ikeda. In the current system, an Olympic host country is determined seven years before the actual games are held. That means Abe’s term of office would have to last at least seven years to participate in the opening ceremony. I think the LDP should amend its party regulations and extend the maximum presidential term limit to three terms (nine years), allowing Abe to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

Extending Abe’s term limit is also necessary from the viewpoint of security

 The Olympics are not the sole reason for extending Abe’s term limit – long-term governments are normal across the world because they are in tune with national interests. The American president’s term limit is two terms, totaling eight years. Two terms (eight years) was also the limit in Russia, but the constitution was revised in 2008 to increase the length of one term to six years, allowing for a maximum of two terms (12 years). Putin’s first stint as president was eight years (two terms). He passed the reins to Dmitri Medvedev, a member of his inner circle, for just one term (four years), after which Putin regained his position as president in 2012. If Putin is re-elected, he will be president until the year 2024. However, I suspect he is planning to further extend the term limit and make Russia into the “empire of Putin.” The Chinese president’s term of office is five years, with a maximum of two terms (10 years). This has been maintained by both Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, who were chosen with the endorsement of Deng Xiaoping. However, Xi Jinping, who has no direct connection to Deng Xiaoping, is taking charge of the army and working to purge the Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin factions in a power struggle he calls a “fight against corruption.” Even if he steps down as president after two terms (10 years) in 2022, it is highly probable that he will rule from behind the scenes without giving up his position as party chairman or Central Military Commission chairman, aiming to create the “empire of Xi Jinping.” However, dissatisfaction is rampant due to Xi Jinping’s arrest and punishment of more than 250,000 Communist Party members in the name of “anti-corruption,” and it seems likely that maintaining the actual country of China until that point may be difficult.
 Nations are strongly united against difficulties when all of the citizens are poor, but this solidarity disappears when three to four percent (40 to 50 million people in China’s case) become wealthy. The dissatisfaction of the citizens reaches a critical point, power struggles are rampant, and the possibility of a coup d’état or assassination grows.
 When a dictatorship hosts the Olympics, these games serve as jinx that promises the country will collapse about 10 years later. Germany crumbled nine years after hosting the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and the Soviet Union collapsed 10 years after the Moscow Olympics in 1980. It is highly probable that China will begin collapsing around 2018, 10 years after the Beijing Olympics.
 The Soviet Union lasted for the long period of 73 years before collapsing. Now that 67 years have passed since the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the risk is high that a power struggle will begin when the Xi Jinping administration enters its second term. Just like the Soviet Union, a power struggle could cause China to break apart and fall into civil war around 2022, the country’s 73rd anniversary when Xi Jinping will have been in office for two terms (10 years).
Just like the Soviet Union was divided into Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and many other countries according to ethnicity, it is possible that China will break into several nations like Tibet, Mongolia, and East Turkistan. Japan must be on guard against these movements by its neighbor.
 China, South Korea, and North Korea continually have policies that regard Japan as hostile. China insists on the fiction that Japan massacred 300,000 people at Nanking, while South Korea says Japan forcibly transported 200,000 Korean women into sexual slavery. They press these historical fabrications and argue vehemently in criticism of Japan. North Korea also continues carrying out atomic bomb tests. The top figures in China and South Korea know that these criticisms are false, yet they continue repeating them because they want to achieve national unity and inhibit internal discontent and grumbling by creating an external enemy. However, Japan was not subjected to these false accusations when it maintained the world’s second-largest GDP and solid military strength. Survival of the fittest rules in the international community, and the same logic applies as in a quarrel with the neighborhood bully – the issue is not who is correct, but who is strong and who is weak. A country with weak military force and poor economic strength will be used by its neighboring countries to solidify their own power and national interests, and the weak country will be drawn into information strategy warfare. Today, Japan’s neighbors of China, Russia, and North Korea are all nuclear states. Their movements, based on this nuclear background, seem like a retrogression to the era of imperialism. Due to these circumstances in East Asia, Japan should revise its constitution and reform the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a bilateral and equal treaty of mutual benefit. It should also conclude a peace treaty with Russia, augment its military spending, protect its territorial waters and airspace, and guard its citizens’ lives and assets. To that end, Japan must leverage its advanced sciences and technologies to promptly develop and deploy cutting-edge, scientific weapons such as rail and laser guns.
 The U.S. is cutting its military spending by five trillion yen annually, yet it still accounts for roughly 40% of global war expenditures and the U.S. Forces are conspicuously mighty. Japan should maintain a friendly relationship with the U.S. without depending on the broken “nuclear umbrella.” To renounce the three antinuclear principles and protect itself from a nuclear strike, Japan should maintain a balance of power by implementing a nuclear sharing arrangement that allows for the rental of American nuclear weapons as deterrence against nuclear attacks from its neighboring countries. In this way, it must contribute to peace and stability in East Asia.
I think Abe should immediately embark on constitutional change for this sake as well. After the recent House of Councillors election, powers in favor of constitutional change now possess two thirds of the seats in both the Upper and Lower Houses. One can predict major resistance if he tried to alter the constitution as he wished from the beginning, so I think revisions should take place in two stages. First, amendments should be made to portions that will gain the agreement of many citizens, such as the preamble. Based on these results, Abe should enhance the public opinion’s momentum – based on the backdrop of increasingly urgent military affairs in East Asia – and strive to enact a constitution that will change Japan into a decent country. Abe is the only one who can accomplish this. However, constitutional change will take time, and it would be impossible to complete these two revisions over the next two years. From this viewpoint of creating an independent constitution as well, the LDP regulations should be revised to extend the president’s term limit to three terms (nine years).

Japan should accelerate infrastructure investment to become a major economic power once again

 Revising the constitution would make it possible to transform the Japan Self-Defense Forces into a national defense army and possess offensive weapons that are a good means of deterrence. However, that does not mean Japan would become a country that overpowers others with its military strength. Rather, we should aim to become an overwhelmingly strong country through our economic power. To that end as well, Japan should use the current ultra-low interest rates, which are of an abnormally low level, to issue long-term construction bonds and build large-scale infrastructure that can bring revenue. For instance, we should immediately start construction to bring the Yamanote Line underground by utilizing the Act on Special Measures concerning Public Use of Deep Underground (40 meters or deeper). The source of funds for these construction costs should be long-term construction bonds with a repayment period of 99 years. After the Yamanote Line is brought underground, the aboveground land that is no longer being used should be leased out. The funds from these 99-year land leasehold rights and monthly land rent could be used to repay these national bonds, so the project could be implemented with no tax burden.
 Looking at the global population, the diffusion rate for nuclear bomb shelters is 100% in Switzerland and Israel, 98% in Norway, 82% in the U.S., and 78% in Russia, yet Japan’s rate is just 0.02% (according to a survey by the Japan Nuclear Shelter Association). Moving the Yamanote Line underground is also a way to deal with the threat of a nuclear attack by North Korea, China, or Russia. Of all the cities in the world, Tokyo has the highest risk of a nuclear strike. Nuclear shelters would teach citizens about the true threat of nuclear warfare and may also provide some deterrence against such an attack.
 There is still a great deal of infrastructure that must be built in Japan. Transportation infrastructure is only valuable if its provides sufficient bypass functionality between different points. The Linear Chuo Shinkansen between Tokyo and Nagoya will be opened in 2027, yet the opening of the section between Nagoya and Osaka is scheduled for the significantly later date of 2045. To achieve linear bypass functionality that is strong against disasters through underground construction, the extension to Osaka should be opened much sooner in 2027 when the Shinkansen to Nagoya goes into service. The Hokuriku Shinkansen has been opened to Kanazawa, but it should be promptly extended to Yonehara to serve as a bypass and also boost revenue. Haneda Airport, the entrance to Tokyo by air, could be further expanded through land reclamation and made into a mega airport. The reclaimed area should be a large, special economic zone with tax exemptions. We should build Asia’s largest tax-free shopping mall before the explosively growing Asian adult population starts traveling overseas. In this way, Japan should work to meet its goal of 60 million foreign tourists by 2030. Haneda also can be made into a hub airport for Asia. If we used the Linear Shinkansen to connect Haneda Airport and Narita Airport via Shinagawa Station, making it possible to travel between Haneda and Narita in just 20 minutes, these two airports would function as a single mega airport.
 I have visited 81 different countries, and I feel embarrassed by how many telephone poles and electric cables still exist in Tokyo, which is supposed to be a major metropolis. As Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says, the poles should be removed and Tokyo should be made into a city with beautiful scenery both as a type of disaster planning and also to prevent needless traffic accidents and improve the cityscapes. If the government targets are met with 40 million foreign tourists in 2020 and 60 million in 2030, Tokyo would definitely become the world’s top tourist city in the 21st century. Japan is safe and clean. Its public transportation runs on time and there is a lot of delicious food. The mass media doesn’t report much on this, but earthenware has been discovered in Japan from 16,000 years ago, the time of Japan’s fantastic Jomon Civilization, that is said to be the oldest in the world. Japan has a great deal of history and plenty of potential to become a tourism-focused nation. People in Asian countries with large populations are earning more money, including India, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. When they have the economic ability to vacation abroad, I believe they will want to visit Japan, which many people admire. Based on this, we must make efforts to turn Tokyo into the world’s most appealing city.

Concern about the Tokyo Olympics was vanquished by the athletes’ performance in Rio de Janeiro

 I have attended 10 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies since the Montreal Olympics in 1976, excluding the Moscow Olympics that were boycotted by Japan.
The opening ceremony at the recent Rio Olympics was much simpler than the videos indicated. There were many vacant seats and I didn’t feel as moved as I did by the ceremonies in Beijing or London, but it was still worth viewing. It was thrilling to see the Japanese athletes perform so well, which has driven away any citizen misgivings about the Tokyo Olympics. These doubts were fomented by the mass media that did not favor holding the Olympics, such as the issues of the plagiarized emblem and construction costs for the National Stadium. The economic effects from the Olympics total tens of trillions of yen over the long term. All countries frequently increase their costs by hundreds of billions or even a trillion yen, including London, Beijing, and Sochi. These Olympics are an ideal opportunity for Japan to become a tourism-focused nation. I hope the Abe administration will have a strong spirit to lead the world economy and enact bold policy to stimulate the economy, such as accelerating infrastructure investment using the ultra-low interest rates. That is another reason why Abe must remain LDP president for three terms (nine years). My hope is for Abe, who is still young, to be in charge of the government as long as he is healthy. I also hope that he will resolve the Northern Territories issue and revise the constitution to regain a balance of power in East Asia and enhance Japan’s military strength so it can contribute to regional stability and economy.
 Japanese textbooks and mass media outlets, including TV programs and newspapers, express a masochistic view of history. If you were exposed only to these things, you wouldn’t realize that Japan has a great deal to be proud of, including its myths and legendary tales spanning to World War II. Everyone, from children to adults, should be sufficiently educated in these so they can regain their pride as Japanese people. That is why I have published 308 issues of Apple Town, this magazine, over more than 25 years. I have conveyed the truth to readers via my essays, Big Talk, Wine Tasting and Discussion About Japan, and other articles. I also started the “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest eight years ago. This year is the ninth annual contest, and we are receiving more excellent submissions than ever before. I have held 160 meetings of the Shoheijuku school in Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Osaka for a total of 11,000 participants. APA Japan Revival Foundation, the public interest corporation that manages these projects, is helping many Japanese citizens become awakened. People who learn the truth become more conservative. I will continue working vigorously to help revive Japan as a homeland that is worthy of pride.

September 9 (Friday), 2016 4:00 p.m.