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volume 17, number 4, october 2006 nbr analysis Informing and Strengthening Policy in the Asia-Pacific Foreword. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Richard J. Ellings Abe Shinzo and Japan’s Change of Course . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Kenneth B. Pyle [This page intentionally left blank.] 101 Foreword The election of Japan’s new Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on September 26, 2006 has renewed attention to the country. Overshadowed for over a decade by China’s economic and military rise, Japan is self-confident again, its long economic stagnation seemingly over and its foreign policy strengthening. Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to be born after World War II, turning 52 a day after his landslide election win as the Liberal Democratic Party candidate. He represents a new generation of Japanese policymakers dedicated to engaging the nation more actively in international affairs and taking stronger positions on national defense. He supports the revision of Article 9, the hallmark of Japan’s heretofore postwar identity, and is outspoken on issues pertaining to neighboring Asian countries, in particular on security disputes with China and North Korea. Critics argue that Abe’s conservatism and mere thirteen years of parliamentary experience do not equip him well for the position of Prime Minister. According to a recent poll conducted by Asahi Newspaper published on September 21, 2006, however, overall public support (57%) and party support (85%) for Abe are strong, although a much smaller percentage of respondents (29%) have confidence in his leadership abilities. In this NBR Analysis, Professor Kenneth B. Pyle explores the developments and ideas leading to the emergence of the Abe administration. More broadly, he assesses Japan’s adaptation to the new post-cold war world. Professor Pyle argues that Japan is responding pragmatically, adapting to the salient changes in its international environment that include increasing economic competition with neighboring Asian countries, especially China; the growing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea; and China’s extraordinary military modernization. Abe’s popularity comes at a time when an increasing number of Japanese see the need for a new direction in the country’s foreign policy. Professor Pyle points out the emergence of the “Heisei generation”—the new generation that is not tied down by the 102 traumas of World War II—and their strong backing of the Abe administration in this moment of historic transition. There are clear and significant implications of Abe’s accession for the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. While world economic, military, and political power are concentrating in the region, Abe is determined to strengthen Japan’s military alliance with the United States and will likely take major steps to promote defense modernization and other policies to bolster Japan’s security and other vital interests. He should be expected to take a tough stand with regard to North Korea and urge his counterpart in South Korea to stand firm as well. At the same time, because Japanese and U.S. interests overlap imperfectly, the two nations will not always agree on some issues. As Japan this year marked the 55th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan alliance, as well as the 61st anniversary of the end of World War II, that alliance was serving emerging, new purposes in a region undergoing profound transformation and uncertainty. This essay is essential reading. Richard J. Ellings President The National Bureau of Asian Research 103 Abe Shinzo and Japan’s Change of Course Kenneth B. Pyle Kenneth B. Pyle is the Henry M. Jackson Professor of History and Asian Studies at the University of Washington and Founding President of The National Bureau of Asian Research. He is the author and editor of numerous books on modern Japan and its history. Dr. Pyle’s forthcoming book, written for the Century Foundation, is entitled Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose. 104 Executive Summary Through the lens of Abe Shinzo’s September 26, 2006 election as Japan’s new prime minister, this report examines the fundamental changes that are redefining Japan’s foreign policy strategy. Main Argument: Japan is on the verge of a sea change in its foreign policy strategy. The September 26, 2006 election of Abe Shinzo as Japan’s new prime minister dramatically symbolizes three forces impelling Japan on a new course. • Japan’s external environment is changing. The end of the cold war undermined Japan’s grand strategy of concentrating exclusively on building economic power while maintaining a minimal defense. The belligerence of North Korea, the rise of China, and increased American expectations...


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