Japan Should Use the North Korea Crisis as an Opportunity for Constitutional Change

Seiji Fuji

Abe will win his third election to become the longest-serving prime minister

 The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election is on September 20. Shinzo Abe will be re-elected, and he will serve a total of three terms (nine years) as prime minister until September 2021. It seems likely that he will be in office until November 2019, outstripping Taro Katsura to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. I believe the past six years under Abe have been amazingly fortunate for Japan.
 The situations in Japan’s neighboring countries have rapidly changed during these six years. China abolished its presidential term limit of 10 years, and Xi Jinping is attempting to create a dictatorship that is his personal empire. The United States has done an about-face from the policy underneath the Democratic Barack Obama administration, and is transforming into the kingdom of Donald J. Trump, who espouses the concept of “America First.” Russia is the empire of Vladimir Putin – a secret police nation that assassinates people who oppose the government, even hunting them down when they flee the country. In North Korea, the third hereditary leader is stepping up nuclear armament and developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to safeguard the Kim dynasty from its neighbors. All of these four countries surrounding Japan are nuclear powers. We cannot merely assume we will be safe thanks to Article 9 of the constitution, or that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will protect us. The world is entering an era of new imperialism in which nations openly display their power while sharpening their swords.
 Abe became prime minister for a second time in December 2012 and helped Tokyo win the bid to hold the 2020 Olympics in September 2013. All economic indicators have changed for the better, including rising stock prices, a larger ratio of job openings to employment seekers, and higher average wages, as well as a falling unemployment rate. Abe has visited 65 foreign countries during his second administration, and has earned global trust for his diplomacy with a big picture of the world. He has openly advocated for Japan’s interests to Trump, Putin, and Xi, and he is the most positively evaluated of the postwar Japanese prime ministers. He has announced his intention to reform the constitution by 2020, based on his fear for Japan’s future and timely notice of the changing global circumstances.
 Since then, the left-wing powers have been raising a continual outcry about the Moritomo Academy and Kakei Educational Institution – unproductive issues that involve no illegality – as a way to hinder constitutional change. Many media outlets, including The Asahi Shimbun, other newspapers, and TV stations, have used these allegations for focused bashing of Abe. The Moritomo Academy matter is an allegation of state-owned land fraud by one educational corporation, and has absolutely nothing to do with Abe. I think the Kakei Educational Institution issue should actually draw attention to the Japan Veterinary Medical Association (JVMA), an organization with vested interests in obstructing the establishment of new veterinary medicine faculties for over half a century, which Japan needs badly. More and better veterinarians are essential to handle infectious pandemics that will be the biggest threat to humankind in the future, such as avian influenza and SARS. We should be building and expanding veterinary schools for that reason, but the JVMA has given political contributions to opposition parties to prevent the construction of these schools. Abe created a special zone to break down this structure of vested interests and allow new schools to be built. Abe certainly did not receive compensation in exchange for accommodating his friends. Many citizens understand this, and it is certain that Abe, whose cabinet has a high approval rating, will win the LDP presidential election.

Trump will use North Korea to win re-election in 2020

 I spoke as follows at the 74th Monthly Meeting of the Shoheijuku Kanazawa Branch on June 17:

All newspapers suggested that Trump made excessive concessions regarding the American-North Korean summit, but I think he did a good job. If he had forced North Korea to come to a conclusion during these discussions, it is highly probable that Kim Jong Un would have been greeted with a coup d’état when he returned home or been drawn into domestic conflict. There was no risk of this happening if they decided on a framework only, leaving the content undetermined, and I think Kim must be grateful to Trump. North Korea may have an inconvenient government, but its location is geopolitically advantageous to Japan, the U.S., China, Russia, and South Korea. However, Japan would face greater danger than before if North Korea, in possession of nuclear weapons, integrated South Korea to form the “Korean Federation,” and this federation came under Chinese control. That is why we must insist on North Korea’s denuclearization. Trump’s biggest priority is winning re-election. As I have written many times in my essays, all presidents start thinking about re-election from the moment they are elected. Franklin D. Roosevelt started World War II so he would win another election and avoid repeating the mistakes of Herbert Hoover, who was voted out after one term. Trump can’t win the 2020 presidential election without victory in the midterms this November, and he wants the Republican Party to gain greater majorities in both the House and Senate. Some articles claimed that Trump supporters are a minority in the Republican Party, but today Trump and the GOP are so closely connected that it can be nicknamed the “Trump Party.” Japanese newspapers merely parrot the views of the American Democratic Party and media. Trump actually has an approval rating of over 50% today, which the Japanese mass media mostly ignores. That’s why they make it sound like Trump failed at the summit meeting. He must be aiming to win re-election by declaring an end to the Korean War and re-integrating North and South Korea. A new cold war has begun between the U.S. and China, and the trends of the world will be decided by which side North Korea chooses. There is still time until the November midterms, and it’s quite easy to see that Trump intends to handle the North Korea issue on his own schedule.
Will Kim actually implement phased denuclearization? Even if North Korea completes disarmament on the surface, I think it will conceal some nuclear arms. The U.S. isn’t that scared of these nuclear weapons, but it is threatened by ballistic missiles. That’s why I think North Korea will abandon its ICBMs while hiding its nuclear weapons, which would pose a major threat to Japan, South Korea, and China. The Kim administration must survive so North Korea functions as a buffer area for its neighbors, including Japan, China, and Russia. Today, only five major nations have the right to possess nuclear arms according to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT): the victorious countries from World War II that are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and possess veto rights. The NPT structure will break down because of the North Korea issue. If it collapses, it will be more important than ever to maintain a nuclear balance in this region.
Japan’s survival as an independent nation will be significantly threatened if we simply continue to cherish the constitution that was created by the U.S., which defeated Japan in the war. That’s why we must promptly amend the constitution so we can protect our own country. Japan should obtain nuclear arms and contribute to regional stability for the sake of a nuclear balance. However, the U.S. would put up the strongest opposition to Japan’s nuclear armament. This is why I have repeatedly written in my essays that the only valid solution is concluding a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S., like that with the four North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. The new Sino-American cold war has already started, and its outcome will be majorly affected by whether North Korea chooses the U.S. or China. Due to the continued American economic sanctions, North Korea has promised to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. Trump says no further sanctions are necessary for this reason, but he is definitely not saying he will lift the current ones. Therefore, North Korea has no choice but to draw closer to the U.S. Trump even showed Kim a video suggesting that he will approve the Korean Federation, provide economic aid, and help create a prosperous future for the Korean Peninsula. Trump is attempting to make North Korea declare its support for the American side by the midterm elections this November, with his ultimate goal being victory in 2020. The Japanese mass media only repeats the arguments of the American media, but these are totally contrary to the truth. Trump is making assiduous efforts, has accomplished things, and enjoys a high approval rating. In fact, we can say the Republican Party is now his personal party. The more people read the Japanese newspapers, the less they know about reality.
While watching carefully, Trump actually has the same intentions as Bolton

 To accomplish constitutional reform by 2020, Abe will have to ensure that National Diet members in favor of change occupy two thirds or more of the seats in both the upper and lower houses. Now is the only chance to do so. It will be essential to earn approval from the Komeito, which is part of the coalition, so the only likely option is to add a third clause as it desires. We should leave the first and second clauses as-is, while adding a new third clause that clearly specifies the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). But even with motions in both houses of the Diet, constitutional change can only be accomplished with a majority of votes in the national referendum, so there are high barriers to accomplishing this. After winning his third election in September, I believe Abe must push through constitutional change by the House of Councillors election next July, while North Korea remains a threat.
 As I said at the Shoheijuku, all of Trump’s policies over the 1.5 years since his inauguration have been aimed at winning a second term. He withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Iran nuclear deal to overturn all policies from the Obama era. All of these efforts are with an eye to the November midterms, the first skirmish in the presidential election. He is sure to promote progress in the American-North Korean relationship to that end.
 The second page of Yukan Fuji published an article entitled “God of Death Bolton Gives Serious Warning to North Korea for Not Taking Necessary Measures to Denuclearize” on August 9. It read:

U.S. National Security Advisor John R. Bolton, feared as the “god of death” by North Korea, sent a serious threat to Kim. Bolton has judged North Korea isn’t implementing the denuclearization promised at the June summit. He also revealed Kim’s statement at the April North/South Korean summit that denuclearization would take place within one year. North Korea is being steadily driven into a corner. Bolton appeared on a Fox News program on August 7, where he said that North Korea has “not taken the steps we feel are necessary to denuclearize.” Trump and Kim released a joint statement from the June summit in Singapore that said Kim “commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Since then, North Korea has done nothing specific to start the process and is conversely criticizing the U.S. On June 6, The Rodong Sinmun (the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea) read, “Everything in the future will be decided by how much the U.S. takes a step closer to an attitude of trust and respect while abandoning ‘pressure and sanctions’ which are like the stone ax of the Paleolithic era.” In response to the entreaty from North Korea to lift the sanctions, Bolton said on the TV program that actions, not words, are truly needed. In addition, he emphasized that the U.S. is absolutely not considering relaxing any sanctions at this point.
Trump will put strong pressure on North Korea right before the midterms

 Trump is keeping a careful eye on the situation, and Bolton’s statements suggest that Trump is watching for the right timing. He will start pressuring North Korea right before the midterms in November. Perhaps he will specify a date to attack newly discovered ICBM manufacturing facilities (which violate the summit agreement) and have citizens evacuated before using cruise missiles and B-2 stealth bombers to destroy them, showing how seriously the U.S. takes this issue. His approval rating will soar if he forces North Korea to go along with its promises at the summit, threatening to conduct a decapitation strategy if it does not. I think the Republican Party will definitely win the midterms in that case. Moreover, I suspect Trump will achieve North Korean denuclearization and declare an end to the Korean War before the 2020 presidential election. North Korea must truly desire to draw closer to the U.S. and gain economic prosperity, but China, its neighbor, is trying to obstruct this. I expect Trump will use North Korea to win re-election, maintain the anti-Chinese Kim government, and preserve North Korea as a buffer zone so it does not become a Chinese autonomous region. Complete denuclearization in North Korea is a life-and-death issue for Japan’s interests, and we must reform the constitution in light of this crisis.
 Abe must win the September 20 presidential election, propose constitutional change in both houses before the American midterms in November, and gain a majority in the national referendum held within six months after. To that end, he should dissolve the House of Representatives if necessary and hold a double election (national referendum and general election). To reform the constitution, he must somehow mobilize all major powers in favor of constitutional change, including all National Diet members, prefectural assembly members, and municipal assembly members. If this is not successful, it is highly likely that Japan will end up as a Chinese autonomous region. We must take on this challenge with that awareness.

August 24 (Friday), 2018 22:00