As of August 24, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s days in office will total 2,799 (counting his first and second cabinets together). This makes him the second longest-serving prime minister, outstripping his granduncle Eisaku Sato (2,798 days). If things continue this way, Abe will have the longest term of office when he passes Taro Katsura (2,886 days) on November 20. Theoretically, Abe will be in office a total of 3,285 days if he fully utilizes the three terms (nine years) stipulated for the president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Leaders are serving long terms across the globe today. In China, President Xi Jinping has abolished the customary presidential term limit of two terms (10 years) and is increasingly making the country into his own empire. Vladimir Putin became president of Russia in 2000. After two terms (eight years), he temporarily handed over the presidency for just one term to his trusted confidant Dmitry Medvedev, and became prime minister. Putin won the presidential elections in 2012 (when the term of office was extended to six years) and 2018, so he will be president until 2024, bringing his total time in power effectively to 24 years.
If American President Donald J. Trump wins the 2020 election, his presidency will last until 2024. I recently interviewed Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and senior counselor to the president, who said Trump will certainly be re-elected if he can get through his current difficulties. Afterwards, on March 24 it was announced that Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not recognize any clear conspiracy with Russia or obstruction of justice in his investigation. Trump said he was innocent and declared he had won. I believe Trump will definitely be victorious in the coming election and remain in office until 2024.
Abe’s remaining term is just two years and several months according to the LDP regulations (three terms totaling nine years), so it is important for him to act by that deadline. He has talked about reforming the constitution since his first stint as prime minister, and he proposed that the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) be clearly specified in Article 9 of the constitution on May 3, 2017. Lively discussions took place on constitutional change at one point, but the mass media used a tactic of ignoring this topic and allowing it to wither away. The subject of constitutional revision is not brought up at all in the news recently. Even some LDP Diet members are cautioning against haste, and it seems like Abe is also avoiding this topic. However, right now is our last chance for reform. The House of Councillors election will likely take place on July 21, but I believe the LDP should promptly draft a constitutional revision proposal and hold a double election for both houses on that day.
First, the Diet session (which normally ends on June 26) should be drastically extended to July 28, right before House of Councillors members are up for re-election. This would allow us to put off the election until August 25. Then, a reform motion should be submitted in the National Diet, while two thirds of members in both houses are in favor of constitutional change. The House of Representatives should be dissolved in late July and a double election held on August 25, with official notice given on August 13.
Just like Junichiro Koizumi’s postal reform election, Diet members should be asked if they support the LDP’s constitutional reform proposal or not. Those who do not should be denied official recognition right then – no matter who they are – and opposing candidates should be nominated. And even if LDP members in favor of change do not hold two thirds of the seats after the election and motion, proposals that were previously submitted are still valid. After the double election, the consumption tax increase is planned for October. Some are saying the increase should be put off, but three tax-increase postponements will erode public confidence in the Abe administration. Therefore, the increase should be carried out on schedule, no matter how many subsidies must be provided to prevent an economic slump.
A major national movement should be launched to gain consent from a majority of citizens and amend the constitution before the national referendum on constitutional change, which will likely take place in late January (within six months from the motion in late July). If we do not revise the constitution at this time, we will never have another opportunity to do so.
We are standing at a significant crossroads that will determine if Japan becomes a truly independent nation or ends up as a Chinese autonomous region.
South Korea has a remarkably anti-Japanese stance in recent years. The Supreme Court of South Korea made a judicial decision demanding reparations from Japan for conscripted labor, an issue that was resolved by the Agreement Between Japan and the Republic of Korea Concerning the Settlement of Problems in Regard to Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation of 1965. Japan and South Korea actually came to a “final and irrevocable” agreement on the comfort women conflict in 2015, but the South Korean government has continued making claims to overturn it. There was an incident on December 20, 2018 in which a Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) destroyer aimed a fire-control radar at a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) patrol ship. South Korean Speaker of the National Assembly Moon Hee-sang has brought up the comfort woman dispute, and has repeatedly made reckless remarks such as, “Only one word is needed. If the prime minister or Emperor (who will step down soon) apologized while holding the hands of former comfort women, the issue would be fully resolved.” He also called the Emperor the “son of the principal war criminal.”
South Korea was an intermediary for the United States-North Korea summit, but it has earned a bad reputation and weaker presence in the U.S. since the February meeting ended without an agreement, and due to South Korea’s stance of putting emphasis on North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the U.S. from April 10 to 11 and met with Trump, but he was treated indifferently, with nothing coming of his passionate request to have the sanctions on North Korea lifted. Trump met with Moon Jae-in for just two minutes, which is no time at all considering that the communication was done through an interpreter.
Moon Jae-in is rapidly losing trust from the U.S. as well as North Korea and China. On April 5, Gallup Korea reported that his approval rate was 41%, the lowest so far. This shows he is being abandoned inside South Korea as well. The South Korean presidential limit is one term of five years. Most presidents in the past have met tragic ends, including assassination, incarceration, and suicide, and I think Moon Jae-in will experience similar misery by being arrested after leaving office.
The National Assembly speaker’s insolent remarks are backed by the mistaken educational system of South Korea. They claim that Korea was a Japanese “colony,” but Japan annexed Korea with consent from the Korean cabinet, based on an agreement between Prime Minister Ye Wanyong and Japan. Japan invested huge amounts of money to build infrastructure on the Korean Peninsula after the annexation, including roads, railways, and dams. Japan also devoted efforts to education; there were around 100 elementary schools before the annexation, which was increased to 4,000 schools 30 years later. However, South Korea repeatedly censures Japan and denies everything that happened during the era of Japanese rule.
Syngman Rhee, the first president of South Korea, willfully established the “Syngman Rhee Line” in 1952 after World War II with an eye to the Treaty of San Francisco coming into effect. The U.S. told the South Korean government it could not recognize the line, but South Korea ignored this notification by including the Japanese territory of Takeshima inside the line and starting an unlawful military occupation of the islands. According to History of Japan-South Korea Fishing Industry Movements, 328 Japanese fishing boats have been captured and 3,929 sailors have been detained, of which 44 have died.
The April 5 issue of Yukan Fuji included an article entitled, “Giren Ryoudo Presents South Korean National Assembly Members With Decisive Proof That Takeshima is Japanese Territory!” It read:
What basis did the National Assembly members have for occupying and landing on Takeshima, which is Japanese territory? Giren Ryoudo will send materials referring to historical facts and international law to show the South Korean claims are invalid.
Giren Ryoudo Chairman Yoshitaka Shindo (former minister of internal affairs and communications; LDP) said, “The Japan-South Korea relationship is at an historic low due to South Korea’s aberrant behavior, including the National Assembly speaker’s demand for an apology from the Emperor, and the fire-control radar incident between an ROKN destroyer and MSDF boat.”
Giren Ryoudo will send this proof of Japan’s claims in line with historical facts and international law to the 21 National Assembly members who landed on Takeshima last year, based on the statements it expects from the South Korean side.
The same documents will be sent to Professor Seo Kyung-duk of Sungshin Women’s University, a well-known anti-Japanese activist. Shindo said, “South Korea is trying to turn this territorial issue into a historical dispute. Unfortunately, the South Korean citizens are taken in by this. No decent nation would overturn a cross-national promise and force through its emotions. South Korea must come to its senses as soon as possible.”
I have long insisted that Japan should refute any mistaken reporting, statements, or actions about Japan that occur anywhere across the world. This should be done within 24 hours in English and the local language. To that end, we should establish a “Ministry of Information” with a staff of 3,000 and budget of 300 billion yen that is separate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to observe global news and information. The most important thing is to promptly speak out against these statements. If we let falsehoods go unrefuted, people across the world come to believe they are true. I positively evaluate Giren Ryoudo’s efforts for this reason.
Also on April 5, the top page of Yukan Fuji featured a full-page article about the Second Symposium to Consider the Constitution of Japan on March 20. This event was planned by Yukan Fuji with cooperation from APA hotel. The keynote speech in Part 1 was by journalist Yoshiko Sakurai, who spoke as follows:
Part 2 included enthusiastic discussions with Kent Gilbert, an attorney in the State of California, and journalist Kaori Arimoto. Gilbert shared his suspicions, saying, “The U.S. would only protect Japan for the sake of its own interests. Is it truly acceptable for Japan to entrust its interests to another nation?”
It is a bald lie that Japan has existed in a state of peace in the postwar era, considering that we have faced issues such as the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea and unlawful occupation of Takeshima. One thousand years have passed since the Toi Invasion of 1019 (when pirates, mainly believed to be a faction from Jurchen [Manchu people], attacked Iki and Tsushima. They also invaded Chikuzen, abducting more than 1,000 people and killing over 400). At this time, we must make great efforts so we do not repeat the mistakes of our predecessors.
Abe also shared a video message at the symposium. He said:
Now is the time to take on the issue of Japan’s future head-on.
As representatives of the people, we Diet members are responsible for actively discussing and indicating an ideal vision for the nation.
I also shared a message at the end of the symposium, saying, “The Japan-U.S. alliance is insufficient to ensure peace and safety in Asia. Japan must amend its constitution and create a structure to protect our own country.” I believe we should revise the constitution while Abe and Trump are both in office. Abe is currently proposing that a clear statement about the JSDF be added to the constitution, as well as a clause about how to deal with states of emergency. However, this is not enough to make Japan into a country that is capable of independent self-defense. We must remove the second paragraph of Article 9 , and we have to complete two revisions. Even if we are able to add the JSDF to the constitution according to the schedule I described above, this will merely clarify the government’s past interpretation. However, I think it will take at least three or four years to get a majority of the citizens on board with a proposal that passes a national referendum to create a constitution that is suitable for a truly independent nation, such as removing Article 9’s second paragraph. There is definitely not enough time before Abe leaves office in 2021, so I think the LDP regulations should be revised again to allow four terms and enable Abe to be prime minister until 2024. But even then, he could only serve 12 years. This is still short compared to Russia, where Putin was re-elected last year and will be in office until 2024. A democratic example is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who assumed office in 2005 and will serve until 16 continual years until 2021. Before Abe, there was a new prime minister every year, which is bizarre when looking at the world at large. I believe Abe should use his time until 2024 to fully break free from the postwar regime, and to create a Constitution of Japan that is suitable for a country that can independently defend itself.
If things continue this way, Japan will eventually be swallowed up by China and end up as one of its autonomous regions. Abe is a fighter, and I hope he will rouse himself with a strong will to take on constitutional reform. The anti-amendment LDP Diet members must be removed from the party to that end. Somehow we must plan for a double election, fully utilize the right of official recognition to bring the party together, and submit the first reform motion. A large national movement should be implemented by all prefectural and municipal assembly members who support constitutional reform, including distributing tens of millions of copies of an informational pamphlet to increase knowledge about the current constitution. They should work to unite the country and win over more than a majority of citizens. Then, the proposal for reform must be passed in the national referendum.
Japan is truly at a crossroads that will determine its future survival.
April 19 (Friday), 6:00 p.m.