LDP leader’s campaign pledges irk neighbors
On Wednesday, Japan’s main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) unveiled its campaign platform for the Dec. 16 lower house election that could cause serious friction and conflict with neighboring countries including South Korea.
Among other things, the right-wing party’s pledges for security and diplomacy are anachronistic enough to arouse our concern regarding the future road of the island nation. This is all the more so, given that the long-dominant LDP is almost certain to retake power under Shinzo Abe, the far-right former prime minister.
To our great disappointment, the campaign platform, entitled ''We’ll restore Japan,’’ calls upgrading the status of Takeshima Day in what appears to be the LDP’s move to make our easternmost islets of Dokdo a disputed area. Specifically, the party envisions having the government host a commemorative event instead of Shimane Prefecture, which designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day in 2005.
The LDP clarified its intention to deny the existence of the coercion of Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II, saying it will come up with ''precise arguments and counterevidence’’ to address the so-called “comfort women” issue.
The LDP, which ruled Japan for nearly 50 years before it was ousted in 2009 by the Democratic Party of Japan, also vowed to create a research institute to study territorial issues including Dokdo and the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.
It’s quite surprising for the LDP to bluntly reveal its intention to revise the ''Peace Constitution,’’ saying the party ''will clarify the rights of self-defense, including collective self-defense, and then will legislate basic laws on national security.’’ This raises fears that Japan will embark on a path to be a military power, shying away from its hitherto pacifist stance.
What’s most worrisome is that the conflict between China and Japan will be more intense if an LDP-led government becomes a reality. The document said it would ''study the stationing of public servants on the Senkakus,” an uninhabited Japan-controlled archipelago called the Diaoyus in China ― an argument that will never be accepted by China’s new leadership.
True, the LDP could soften its campaign platform once it takes power, but we are deeply worried about the dark cloud that could loom over East Asia from the emergence of an unrepentant Japan. Our concern deepens, considering that Abe, the LDP leader, is known to be an ultra-right hardliner.
The most serious problem is that ''reasonable voices’’ are hardly heard in Japan, which has been grappling with deflation for nearly two decades. We have strong suspicion that the three nations in East Asia ― South Korea, China and Japan ― will be unable to hold their trilateral summit meeting if Japan is represented by Abe.
It would be best for the LDP to withdraw its campaign platform voluntarily. If not, the international community should join forces to put the brakes on Japan’s race toward the extreme right.