Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Washington Bureau Chief, Yomiuri Shimbun
Columnist and Associate Editor, Washington Post
Keiko Iizuka, Washington bureau chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun, and Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, join the Washington Post's David Ignatius to discuss the leadership style, personality, and policies of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Iizuka and Smith consider the political context of Abe's rise to political prominence, noting his personal background and his early career within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). As prime minister and leader of Japan's LDP, Abe has pursued a distinct approach to both economic and security policy. The panelists discuss 'Abenomics,' Japan's shifting defense posture, and Abe's role in reshaping Japan's alliance with the United States.
In the Power Profile series, speakers discuss the leadership style, psychology, personality, and policies of well-known leaders from around the world.
IGNATIUS: Good afternoon, everyone. If you could take your seats, please. I'm David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post. It's my pleasure to moderate discussion today of Japanese politics, and in particular, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who as we know, has just been to Washington for an important meeting.
And we're going to be decoding what happened, and the person in Prime Minister Abe who made it happen, with two people who are genuinely experts. I want to introduce them.
First on my far right, Keiko Iizuka, is the Washington Bureau Chief for The Yomiuri Shimbun, which in addition to its many virtues, is The Washington Post's longtime partner paper in Tokyo. She has covered Prime Minister Abe for many years in Tokyo, and here as the bureau chief for The Yomiuri, knows him well.
And in addition, interestingly, is serving on a committee that's going to review the historical statement that the prime minister will issue, coinciding with the anniversary of the end of World War II. So from a number of different perspectives, she could help us understand the Prime Minister Abe and Japan.
And to my immediate right, Sheila Smith, well known to many council members, is a Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council, author of a new book that we have received—I hope not to have to go out and buy it, because it's not a council book—called "Intimate Rivals," about Japan-Chinese relations. And that will help us in our discussion of the most challenging issue that arises, I think, after the Abe visit, which is the way in which the United States will seek going forward to balance its refurbished relationship with Japan, with its longstanding relationship with South Korea, with its complicated emerging relationship with China.
So let me begin. And I'd like to begin with the person who is our subject, Prime Minister Abe, who's just been here. We all had a chance to see him on television, some of us maybe in person. I'd like to ask you, Keiko, to begin, just by telling us a little bit about who he is.
He's a figure who was described to me, when I was in Tokyo a month ago, by his speechwriter, Mr. Taniguchi, as an "accidental progressive," meaning he's a deeply conservative man whose life and family history is wrapped up in the Liberal Democratic Party and its traditions and constraints. But he's a man who decided to break Japan free of its problems, he had to shake things up.
So tell us—tell us about him. Tell us about his policies. Maybe tell us a little bit about his first term as prime minister a decade ago, and why this one has been different.
IIZUKA: Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much for kind introduction. And just let me, before I start, explain my background first a little bit.
I was the chief correspondent, the prime minister's office during the Abe's first term, between 2006 and 2007. And before then, I beat, actually, a political reporter, was within the LDP, was the (inaudible) faction, which that's one of the factions within the LDP, which means a lot to him. So that's why I'm mentioning this.
The faction—out of that faction, Prime Ministers Mori, Koizumi, Fukuda and Abe, they all came from that particular faction. And I was more extensively—I covered more extensively covered Mori and Koizumi before they took offices as prime minister. So from that point of view, my knowledge about Abe as a leader, Japan's leader, one of the leaders, comes from.
So anyway, back to this topic that you've given to me first, in my humble opinion, there are—I think are two major elements or factors that clearly affect Abe, Abe's leadership, or maybe characteristics as a politician. And obviously, everyone knows, and I agree with—I mean, this general understanding is that he's a conservative leader. I mean, his way of thinking things is conservative.
But that's along basic line. But what I would like to point out, as one of the political reporters who have covered—who have covered Abe as a leader, is two things; his grandfather, father, that's one of the major—one of the major elements that affects his way of leadership leading the country, or leadership style. And another is lessons from the first time, which that's the (inaudible).
He has learned from—I think he got a lot of lessons from the first time. Well, it was—most of them were (inaudible) failure for him. So he...
IGNATIUS: And tell us what—specifically, what were the lessons of that disaster? What were the things he learned not to do, or the things that he didn't do, he's trying to do now?
IIZUKA: Yes. And so that's what I was going to get into. So about the first part, about his grandfather and father, I think many of you know that his grandfather was a prime minister, Nobusuke Kishi, who actually revised the Japan-U.S. security treaty in 1960, which was a very controversial one. And because of that, he lost the political capital that—Prime Minister Kishi. And he had to step down because of that.
And his father, Shintaro Abe, was a foreign minister, but Shintaro wanted to pursue. Obviously, he wanted to become prime minister. But he had to—well, actually, he died, passed away, because of the cancer, in the middle of his ambition. But he—because he took office as a foreign minister four times under the Nakasone administration, which had a very—who promoted Japan-U.S. security relations greatly during the 1980s, I think Shintaro Abe is most like widely remembered as a foreign policy person, other than domestic reformist, or something like that.
So I think, you know, those two character, two big role models for Abe—Shinzo Abe, that create—that I think is a great part of Abe's character. One is that both of them, both grandfather and father, had to give—give up their ambitions in the middle. And I think both of them were sort of considered as rather than foreign policy guys, security guy.
And I think they—and especially the grandfather, he had an ambition, ambition of revising Constitution. So if you go to—if you visit his office in Kantei, the prime minister's office, there's—you can see the photograph of Prime Minister Kishi with Ike, President Eisenhower, signing the revising of security treaty.
So I think always in his mind, those two role models in their minds. And I think, in my humble opinion, but though—two of them are very well remembered by the Japanese, especially who watch Japanese politics. They are major figures in Japanese political history. But I think it might be something—I sometimes feel that that might be a burden for him as well.
IGNATIUS: And what about the lessons of his first stint as prime minister?
IIZUKA: Yes, OK. So the first-term lessons, I think three things. He—well, I think he thinks that he could have done better. One is assignment of people, (inaudible), how do you—allocation of personnel (ph) choices.
He picked so-called (inaudible) friends, people who were close to him, around him, in the cabinet, and in the prime minister's office. That was sort of being laughed at. It did not work well. And especially the chief cabinet secretary, that did not work well.
That's a very stark contrast with the current administration. The chief cabinet secretary, his name is Suga. He is the key figure who fixes all the—you know, he's a fixer now in the current second term administration.
And another thing is maybe the crisis management. There was some scandals in the first term, like money or maybe some (inaudible) by the cabinet ministers. And he, I think, tried to—he had it too long. He just waited to go away, sort of.
But this time, in the second term, he moves really quick. It's just a matter of one day or two days, he just (inaudible) all the troubled ministers, in order to get rid of the troubles. That's really fast. He would not give opposition parties to attack in the Diet session.
And sometimes, I think that that's too fast, too quick. But I think he learned from the first term that, you know, you have to deal with the crisis. The time means a lot of things. So his way of handling crisis is very fast and quick.
And another is—another thing, the third thing, I think, is that the ideology he presented in the first term, that old sort of agenda, like ideology (ph), like education bill, well, maybe the Constitution. (Inaudible) Constitution. But this time, from the very beginning of this second term, December 2012, he laid out that his major agenda is economy, not ideology. So that's the major thing, I think, he learned.
IGNATIUS: So let me turn to Sheila, and ask you to speak about Abe and who he is, but in the context of the visit that we just saw. And I'd ask you to focus particularly on the security dimension.
We are entering a very different phase in the U.S.-Japan military security relationship. That's really Abe's doing. There's some question about whether he has the political dexterity to make it work back home. But walk us through Abe as you assess him.
SMITH: OK. I think, picking up where Keiko left off, and I think the question really is about Abe that motivates foreign journalists and domestic ones as well, but mostly foreign journalists. It's really about the ideological Abe versus the pragmatic Abe, or the strategic Abe versus the conservative revisionist.
And I think we bounce back and forth between trying to understand the man through those lenses. And I just wrote a piece for Georgetown that, after you watch him both in the first term and this term, he's both. But I think what Keiko maybe was reaching for at the end, in the first term, he came in with this idea of escaping the post-war.
He really came in with this idea that his time had come as a conservative revisionist. And he was going to put forward at least an ideological vision, what he wanted to accomplish. Part of that was about security, part of it was about Japan's defense role.
And that Mr. Abe is still there. He hasn't gone away. He's just not packaging it the same way, I think as Keiko was saying. He's looking more at broader agenda that includes the economics, as well as strategic changes.
But as you said, when he came in this time, he picked up off where he left off in 2006, 2007. He instituted very quickly a National Security Council. There was very little controversy over that. But accompanying that was a National Secrecy Law, that the United States government actually had wanted Japan to pass for some time. So secrecy protections. That was much more controversial inside Japan.
And so if you watch the polling at the time, that's the first time that his approval rating dipped. And it was specifically over the National Secrecy Law, not the NSC. He instituted, or his issued a new national strategy around the same time. And again, this is all December 2013, so it's a year into this time in office.
He had had a study group look at this question of reinterpreting the right of collective self-defense. He had had a similar study group in 2006, led by a very esteemed diplomat, Mr. Yani (ph). But the second study group, led by (inaudible), went much further, was much broader in scope. And last summer, he announced the results, his decision-making as a result of that study group.
Now, I will argue that the cabinet decision of last July was much narrower than I think the prime minister probably wanted to go. But he had a coalition partner, the Komei Party, who really brought him back off the ledge in some ways, and was very adamant that they wanted a very strict mission-specific identification of exactly when the self-defense forces would be allowed to fight alongside other militaries, including ours.
But what's different this time, from the 2006 version, is it's not just about the U.S.-Japan alliance. So the conversation on relaxing the right to collective self-defense this time is about fighting alongside the United States, also in PKO, in U.N.-sanctioned PKO, with other militaries, but also with potential other national militaries and partners.
And most obviously, given the security agenda, would be Australia, perhaps. Maybe India one day, perhaps. If the relationship with South Korea improved, perhaps. That's an "if" at the moment.
IGNATIUS: Hard to imagine that.
SMITH: Hard to imagine at the moment. But it does open the door to the idea that the Japanese self-defense forces can work now with other partners that not just the United States.
That being said, we are watching the parliament now debate the laws. And there are somewhere between 12 and 14 of these laws that will be revised in accordance with that cabinet decision. And I think that we're going to watch a fairly strong debate on certain missions.
IGNATIUS: But would it be your judgment, Sheila, that he will succeed in getting the basic framework he needs to carry this security policy forward?
SMITH: Sure. Yes, he's done that. The cabinet decision, although it was deeply criticized, and that was the second instance where you saw polling really dip in terms of his approval rating. But he has made the decision. It's now in the Diet. It's interesting to step back from Abe a bit here and remember that the LDP, in coalition with the Komei, has a two-thirds majority in the lower house. So he has a very strong political base by which to move forward legislation, including this legislation.
So there will be critiques by the opposition parties, and most notably I think about sending the self-defense forces, for example, on mine-sweeping operations in the Gulf of Hormuz, which is one of the missions being considered. Anything far from the shores that is not very narrowly seen as being in Japan's own security interests will get a little bit—a little of pushback in the parliament.
But I think the real key here is going to be to watch the Diet navigate who has oversight over the decision-making about the deployment themselves. So I suspect you'll see him come out well in the end with his agenda. But there may be some tussle over who gets to decide finally in the end.
IGNATIUS: Let me ask about one of the real puzzles with Prime Minister Abe. And let me put it first to you, Keiko.
In simple terms, is he a revisionist? Does he believe that it's time to change the image that Japan has of itself, that the world has of it, with the passage of time after World War II, and time to revise the public's understanding of the events of World War II? What do you think? In his—in his deepest part of himself, is he a revisionist?
IIZUKA: Well, my first overall answer is that I don't think that he is a revisionist, in my humble opinion. But I think there are many clues, clues or some small parts, that he makes people think that he could be. So he might be.
And that particular part, especially—there are some things. And some obviously, not well—maybe well received decision, the one of which obviously people can remember is the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine at the end of—on Christmas Day here—2013, I think.
And basic—I think in his mind, he is not going to try—he's not trying to revise history or views of history. But it's that his way of thinking, I presume, that he would not like to judge the old times with this peaceful 21st century view. Maybe I should say—put this out—put this way; there's—it was a wartime, right? And the Japanese—wartime in Japan, actually, did aggression, and difficult time.
I mean, old atrocities took place. I think that in his mind—he's never told me, but I presume, but from what he says on the record, off the record, I think that he—he thinks that he should not judge or evaluate what their leaders did before, and during, and right after the wartime, with a view of 21st or 2015 way of looking at things.
IGNATIUS: What about the historical statement that you're working on? The formula that Abe has chosen, which he expressed in an interview with me in Tokyo in late March, which he repeated when he was here, was to express remorse. That's the word he used again and again, remorse, deep remorse; to reaffirm the existing statements of Japanese responsibility, the Konoe statement, the Koizumi statement, the Moriyama statement, affirm them in their entirety.
And then he added a bit of language dealing with the issue of the Korean comfort women in our conversation, which he repeated in each session here, which was that he was—felt deep remorse and regret for the human trafficking that was involved in procurement of these women, which is, you know, it's not exactly a statement of government responsibility, but it's a statement that the women were forced into this.
In the historical statement that's coming, would you expect that same pattern of, you know, remorse, but not apology? He has not, to my knowledge, said in any version, "I'm sorry." He doesn't want to do that. Do you think he'll stick to that basic formula?
IIZUKA: I think, you know, the first thing that—you know, he says that he carries, he succeeds (ph) all the things; the past statements made by Koizumi and Moriyama, and Konoe. He carries all things. You know, he will not change. But he would not cut the copy—cut—copy and paste into his statement. So that's his basic crime he's repeated a number of times about this.
And so I don't think that, you know, he would change that part. But he—but it would be a political issue, obviously. He knows—he knows that. He understands that if he does not cut and paste that part into his new seventh (ph) year anniversary statement, it will be problematic, especially with China and South Korea.
But I think that part is his conviction, I think. And then he would not perhaps—yes, it's quite unlikely, I think, that he would make an apology in a statement. But I notice that the term, repentance, the deep repentance in his speech at the Congress, before the Congress, that was quite—it wasn't (ph) quite as impressive word that I thought.
Repentance, I think perhaps it was translated into Japanese as kaigo (ph), which is not a little bit too familiar with all the basics. I mean, the general public, (inaudible) is a little bit far. I mean, it's quite a deep—has a deep term, but not widely used among the general public.
But repentance itself is—I think in an English—the Christian community, has a connotation that has sort of a—change your attitude.
IGNATIUS: Yes. There's a component of regret. Sheila, let me ask you if you would address the last issue that Keiko mentioned, which is the effect of these historical statements in Asia, and specifically, ask you to start with the question of South Korea. I can't remember a time when relations between Japan-South Korea, were as bad as they are now.
And I have asked people in our government, and in the Japanese government, how are you going to find a pathway towards some more workable arrangement? This really oughtn't to continue. I'd be curious about whether you think there's a (inaudible) to walk this back that might be something Abe would consider. And just what the—as we head toward the 70th anniversary moment, what your feeling is about the balance in Asia, and whether it's sustainable for Abe in the way he obviously wants?
SMITH: It's a tall order. Let me start with Japan-South Korea. I think you're right. It has not—the relationship has not been this bad in anytime in the past since they signed the peace treaty in 1965.
This is also not only the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, this year is the 50th anniversary of that bilateral peace treaty. So it should be a time for (inaudible) Tokyo to be commemorating the progress that they've made in the post-war period. I don't think that's going to be in the cards, obviously, this year.
You know, I think that we could spend a whole session talking about the complexity of Japan-South Korea relations. I don't think it's just about Mr. Abe and his speech, although I think that the South Korean, not only the press, but the government, was watching very closely his congressional speech. There was a desire to see a more direct apology, or a mention of the comfort women.
I am, myself, happy that we've moved to a 21st century language to talk about this, because I don't like the word "comfort women" for all it connotates.
IGNATIUS: Meaning the trafficking phrase?
SMITH: The trafficking phrase. Because it includes the implication of coercion. And I think that's really what we're talking about.
But when he stood up next to the president the day before the congressional speech, the prime minister made a very clear statement, and I think this is a statement that many people had asked for, which was the he upheld the Konoe statement, and that he had no intention of revising it.
And I think the politics inside Japan last year, there was a policy review of the Konoe statement at the request of the Diet. There was Asahi Shimbun's retraction of previous reporting, that then occasioned a very unpleasant, to say the least, outburst of very conservative commentary against Asahi.
So the politics in Japan last year over this issue of Japan-South Korea, and over the issue of the comfort women specifically, got very nasty, frankly. The politics on both sides are highly sensitive. It's not just on one side or the other.
But there's a lot of questions about the way the Konoe statement was investigated. There were a lot of questions from the conservative right in Japan about what Mr. Konoe was basing his assertion on. So there was internal politics at that time in Japan that were also under question in Japan.
In the end, Suga, the cabinet secretary, created a policy review commission that included the head of the Asia Women's Fund, which was created after the Konoe statement, that was an effort to compensate and to reach out to the victims. And so there was an attempt to balance ideologically the participants in that committee. And then you've got a published review of what was the basis of the Konoe statement's conclusions, what was the basis of this use of the word "coercion" or "systemic coercion" in the Konoe statement.
So it clarified a lot of ambiguity that still existed in Japan about whether the statement was just at the behest of Seoul.
IGNATIUS: So before I turn to the audience, I just want to ask you to focus on the question of how Tokyo and Seoul can walk this back?
SMITH: So the governments have been trying quietly to find a way to walk it back. I think the South Korean government has been very sensitive to Mr. Abe's statements themselves. And they've looked for some clear indications that he is not going to step back, especially from the Konoe statement. And that's been given both personally and now in public.
But I think there's the other side of it, of course, is that we are in the 70th anniversary year. I think that until the Abe statement of August is issued, I think the South Korean government will be very sensitive to what Mr. Abe is going to say, and that the summitry, if there's going to be summitry, I expect it's not going to happen this year, perhaps. It may happen next spring.
But the diplomats and the professionals on both sides have been talking, and they have been talking to both. Both have been talking to our government as well. But I think the political moment for a summit, for a political resolution, is not yet upon us.
IGNATIUS: That is helpful. I want to turn to the audience, and just note the usual council protocol. Please wait for the microphone, state your name and affiliation, keep your questions questions. And I'll remind our panel, which I didn't say at the outset, this is on the record. So be frank and judicious.
QUESTION: Thank you. Barbara Matthews, BCM (ph) International Regulatory Analytics. Following on that theme, the bilateral relationship is certainly not the best, to say the least. But the frequency with which Japan and South Korea have been meeting trilaterally, mediated in theory by China, captures my attention in two ways: The first of which is that China is serving as a bridge, in a way, between these two countries, even as they throw barbs at each other.
And the second is I would love to hear both of your views on Japan's relationship with China. I'm actually very surprised that we've gotten to this part of the session and not discussed the very complex relationship with China, which is, you know, very antagonistic on the military side, but surprisingly cooperative when it comes particularly to automobiles and industry.
And I struggle to understand that dichotomy. I'd love your views.
IGNATIUS: This happens, we have somebody who's just written a book on the subject. So let's start with Sheila.
SMITH: Such a coincidence. Thank you very much. Let me respond quickly to your first point about Japan-South Korea.
I would disagree with your idea that China has mediated the trilateral diplomacy that's happened. And this is a trilat between Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo that began 2008. And it was interrupted after the islands dispute erupted in 2010.
That has very much been a South Korea initiative with a lot of pushing from Japan. South Korea was a little hesitant when China-Japan relations were at their worst. But there's been a foreign ministerial meeting between the three foreign ministers, as you pointed out, in March, right?
So I think that we're on track. Perhaps in the fall we may see a leaders' meeting. That would be a great accomplishment if that happens. That would be Abe, Xi and Park.
I think the trilateral has been very effective, and I think credit is due here to the Obama Administration on this, as the president himself has gotten engaged, in this, or last year at the Hague, that he meet with President Park and Prime Minister Abe. And so the trilateral that I think was most important there, in terms of helping along the bilateral negotiations, was really the U.S., Japan, ROK. So that's my sense of it.
On the Japan-China, of course we could have a whole conversation. I'll try and just be very brief and keep it focused on Mr. Abe. You know, Abe came in. Remember when Prime Minister Abe took office in 2006, you were coming off another period of a freeze—they use the language of freeze—between Japan and China when Mr. Koizumi was in office, right?
And the Yasukuni Shrine visits by the prime minister, which I do cover in my book, had really halted high-level diplomacy at multilateral meetings, and there was nothing going on for a couple years. So Mr. Abe was really the agent of reconciliation when he came in in 2006, into 2007. In fact, for a Japanese prime minister, he made the first trip to Seoul and Beijing before coming to Washington.
So you have to appreciate the fact that I think in 2012, he inherited somewhat a much more distressed relationship than he had experienced in 2006, 2007, when the Chinese were quite willing to work with Abe, to work on the blueprint of reconciliation, post-Koizumi.
But he came in, remember, in December 2012 when we had the election. A small surveillance plane—Chinese had just gone over the airspace of the Senkaku/Diaoyu, right? That was a first, right, for the Chinese. Then you've got fighter jets in the air, then you've got—in January, you had this firelock, this fire control incident with a Chinese ship locking its radar, targeting radar, onto a Japanese ship.
So you got yourself very close to some very nervous military encounters. Before that, we were looking at coast guards. So Abe, when he first came in, was really, I think, tested and somewhat, to see how he'd respond. I think to be fair to him, when he came to D.C. in February of 2013, one of the messages was about TPP, but the other quiet message to our government was very much about, "Don't worry. We will be calm. We will be resolute. We are not going to initiate. We are very aware of the potential for miscalculation."
So despite his changes in Japan's strategic thinking, or Japan's security planning process, is what I would say, he's been very careful not to encourage his military to take advantage of the situation, or to do anything overtly challenging to the Chinese.
I thought it was interesting, we're now in this phase where we're all kind of watching the body language of Abe and Xi. But we had the meeting last November at APEC, and Mr. Xi was kind of holding his nose. And we had the Bandung meeting last month, and they at least looked at each other and solicited each other's opinions.
The government wheels, though, have begun to turn again. So we now have at least the nominal government-to-government relationship between and Japan and China back, back on track. But I think there's a deep skepticism in Tokyo ultimately about what the future of China is going to look like for them.
You noted the depth of their economic interdependence. And I think that's true. It's somewhere in the order of $345 billion in trade.
But note, too, the Japanese foreign direct investment has been going down. It's still there. It's still a very important piece with Japanese business interests, especially established businesses who've been working in China. It's new investors, or people who have alternative options that may be a little bit less subject to political risk.
But I think overall, both leaders probably understand that their own economic futures depend on each other. But I think the pace of getting back to normal has slowed considerably, especially if you compare it with 2008, 2006 to 2008. So I suspect it'll be a slow-go test. What is it, the Ronald Reagan thing? Trust, but verify at each step of the way.
IGNATIUS: Keiko, how would you describe Mr. Abe's strategic goal in his relationship with China?
IIZUKA: I think like Sheila just described, it might be nominal, maybe, as of now. But I think it's both leaders I think that have realized, and to—have come to a similar conclusion that it's to both for—it's benefit to both of them to make friends, rather than on that relationship.
I mean, their last meeting between Abe and Xi was such a change. I mean, we felt this might bring shift, some kind of a seed change; although so many issues are there, and we are still expecting this summer a statement by Abe. But Abe knows this is going to be—going to take place.
But at the same time, in September, Mr. Xi is coming to the United States. And I feel that the United States government, U.S. government, a little bit concerned, and maybe feeling a little bit relieved to look at the current situation now.
I think the problem for—more for Abe is about the relationship with Korea, South Korea. So—because it's more. It involves more emotions on the side of South Korea. In the case of China and Japan, China and Japan relationship, I think there are more strategic and more practical calculations on both sides.
So perhaps it will get a little bit better, even compared to now, I think.
IGNATIUS: Yes, in the front row, please. And the mike.
QUESTION: I'm Glen Fushima (ph) with the Center for American Progress. In looking at the recent visit by Prime Minister Abe to the United States, it appears that on the official side, the reception, U.S. was very positive, and especially with developments on the security relationship, and also some progress on TPP, not enough, perhaps.
But so the official website (ph) reception I think was quite positive. The unofficial reception, in the sense of the letter by the 187 scholars that was sent soon after the visit, I think was in response to the fact that among these 187—mainly American, but some European and Australian scholars—they felt that Mr. Abe had not adequately addressed these (inaudible) in his speech, or in other places, not only in Washington.
Some would argue that there's a rift developing between, on the one hand, the economic and security interests that the U.S. and Japan have in common, versus the issues of history and values and democracy. And this involves things like the allegation of suppression of speech and academic freedom in Japan.
I'd like to ask Keiko, do you think that the Abe government, or Mr. Abe himself, considers this issue of history and values and democracy to be significant issues with the United States, or do you think that he's confident that the security relationship and the economic relationship between U.S, Japan, are so strong that they will overwrite any of these concerns on the history issues?
History issues used to be an East-Asia issue, but now it's become more and more of a U.S.-Japan issue as well. And so I'd like your views on this issue.
IIZUKA: Yes. That's—you know, it's quite an interesting, intriguing question, I think. You know, I hear sometimes from the U.S. people that, "Good Abe, bad Abe."
And good Abe is, of course, a security, economic Abe. And, you know, why does he do such a mischievous movement with regard to history? You know, especially the Yasukuni visit. There's a bad Abe, but two faces.
And I think, you know, yes, it's true that there's—it has become a U.S.-Japan issue, history is, in a sense that it would create tension in East Asia, where the U.S. hopes that it should be more stable and calm. And so it has become already a U.S.-Japan issue.
But in terms of value and democracy, like suppression (ph) speech, or the media, or maybe textbook, (inaudible) textbooks to change, the textbook company to change, U.S. textbooks company. Yes, I think there needs to be more subtlety, or more restraint, attitude. In fact, that is my opinion.
I mean, if this Abe cabinet, or Abe's office, prime minister's office, are more cautious about making a statement, or expressing opinions on this, particularly about opinions of others, making statements on others, I think they should be more cautious, so that, you know, Abe has become more adult, rather than...
I mean, I remember during the 2006 and '07, he was more childish. I mean, I really—that was my impression. He got aggravated quite easily, and he gets sort of irritated, just responding to Diet, you know, during the Diet session. And so making—well, almost a gaffe frequently. But I think he's learned from the first time.
So it's less frequent. But still, sometimes it comes up. So yes, it's my hope that, you know, that he should be more—his age should be more cautious about this.
IGNATIUS: So do you have something you want to jump in with?
SMITH: Actually, I would just briefly like to say that the letter that Glen referred to, you know, contains most of our—I mean, largely the most respected East-Asian scholars in the United States; historians largely, but some political scientists, and anthropologists, and sociologists as well.
So I think we should take the message seriously. I'm not sure that we should take it seriously in Washington as much as it should be taken seriously in Tokyo. Because I think it does sort of suggest that there's always a tension between academia and policy. Always, right?
But I do think it suggests this sort of question about whether or not academic freedom in Japan is still possible if you have views that are different from the government, or there's been a little censorship, or self-censorship, perhaps. I don't know how Keiko would characterize it. But there's a nervousness among the—some media, right? So we should note that.
And I think it's important in the U.S.-Japan relationship that we continue to talk about things like democratic values and concerns that we may have, whether they're lodged at criticisms or not. But the rest of our society should have free voice to talk about these things.
The one thing I will say about our policy, though, is that I think the post-war settlement in Asia is being challenged. And you asked the question earlier to Keiko about whether Mr. Abe was a revisionist. And I think the answer's clearly yes.
But I would point you not only in the direction of thinking about how Japan reflects on its past, and I think there'll be a lot of questions on the August statement about what he says there. But I think it's also he's clearly wanting to revise the Japanese Constitution. He's been very overt about it.
And I would suggest in many ways that for the Japanese people, the Constitution is in some ways the internalized post-war settlement. And today, across this political spectrum in Japan, you don't have to be far out on the right. You can be moderate conservative, sometimes even not so conservative.
And the questions are being asked about the Constitution that have not been asked.
IGNATIUS: Do you think, Sheila, is he unwise to be seeking these revisions?
SMITH: I don't know if it's wise or unwise. But I think a lot of people outside the country are unaware of the fact that the constitutional revision question has been on the political agenda for over a decade. So you've got political parties cross in the Diet discussing this in the 1990s, right? They have very different views, very different views about what might or might not be revised, right? And we can talk about that if you'd like.
But the questions—the questions about the Constitutions are no longer taboo. I think we are also in the moment where, you know, if you look at Article 96 (ph) of the Japanese Constitution, that's where you—outlines how you would actually revise it; two-third lower house, two-thirds upper house, and then a national referendum.
Clearly, the conservative, the LDP, they have a draft on their website. Under Mr. Abe's tenure during the first Abe cabinet, they began to work on a national referendum of law; in other words, how procedurally would this happen? They did it in cooperation with opposition parties, by the way. This was not just done by the conservatives alone.
You now have a bill that's not only been passed in the Japanese Diet, but it was revised last year. You've just changed the voting age in Japan to 18, largely so that 18-year-olds can participate, I think, in a constitutional referendum. So you're seeing these changes in Japan that are not necessarily driven by revisionist ideology. But I think there's a broader demand here for a conversation about this Constitution.
That being said—one last point, and I'll stop talking. I promise. In the Diet, about a month or so ago, there was the conversation about this. And the prime minister said, "You know, look. This Constitution was drafted by amateurs in a week."
And it's true, rather, it is not wrong. But the origins of the document, I think, in some ways now, are being questioned in ways that I think—and Keiko may disagree—but they haven't been in the past. We should be aware this conversation is coming. It's not all about Article 9.
IGNATIUS: Let's take a few more questions. Mike Mosetic (ph) and then the gentleman here, and then you, sir.
QUESTION: Mike Mosetic (ph), PBS (ph) Online News Hour. Mr. Abe's invested a lot of political capital, particularly within LDP constituencies on the TPP. What happens to him politically if the U.S. Congress continues on the path it now seems to be going on regarding TPA and TPP?
IGNATIUS: Keiko, start out. You have to report on this every day as a bureau chief. What do you think?
IIZUKA: Well, yes. I think it's agonizing (ph) period for him, especially yesterday's development. And he said it, it's going to be—that the process will be delayed furthermore. It's already delayed.
So—but I think in terms of the U.S.-Japan that's being (inaudible) bilaterally (inaudible) discussed, alongside with the 12-nation discussion, I think he's quite optimistic about the U.S.-Japan agreement. But the question is about if he does not make it within his term, or if he missed the opportunity of making a deal. It will be a great blow for him, I think.
He's staked so much political capital, as you said, within the LDP. (Inaudible), agricultural, member of parties, member of Congress, Diet members who have—who has their (inaudible) based on agriculture groups. But I think there's still some more time for him to judge.
And just time-wise, there's going to be a presidential election of the LDP. He's currently the president of the LDP. And that's the ruling party in this September. And it's now being said that there might be—no one else will stand up and contest, you know, apart from him, because he's too strong. I mean, you know.
But anyway, if he—I don't know how the negotiation of this TPP goes after the summer vacation. You know, Japan hopes that it will not go beyond that summer vacation. But this election of president of the LDP, the TPP negotiation, comes—sort of erupt (ph). The timing is really important, what I would like to say.
I mean, it remains unsettled that TPP negotiation remains unsettled in September, perhaps it would—a little bit of danger for him politically. But perhaps I'm not quite sure about how the recess of the Congress would take place. But I think it's going to be a long summer vacation, right, in July.
It's a concern, great concern. But it's not going to be a big—a very, very huge blow for him, just right at the moment.
IGNATIUS: Let's collect the last two questions and then come back to our speakers for their final comments. Gentleman in the third row first, please.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. V.J. Patanabe (ph), NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.
Closely-related question of the previous question. I would like a little bit more context on the role the TPP plays in Abe's economic vision. Why is it important to him, and how does it fit into everything else he's doing economically in Japan?
IGNATIUS: Good. And you, sir, in the front row, please?
QUESTION: My name is Jim Keith (ph). I'm a full-time American diplomat now with McLarty (ph) Associates. (Inaudible) looking back, in terms of the relationship with Korea versus China's relationship with Japan is more difficult to manage. But (inaudible) ultimately this will force the governments to look forward.
In looking forward, I think you see that Japan and China have a much more difficult time, both in terms of (inaudible) to extend long-term objectives, Japan and Korea. In that context, would you comment on the upcoming Chinese president's visit in September, and (inaudible) objectives that could help Japan and its long-term management of its relationship with China?
IGNATIUS: Any other urgent question that I, if I knew was out there, I'd kick myself for not—all right. So (inaudible) turn back to the panel. We have a question about the role of TPP trade plays in Abe-nomics, and a question about Japan, China, U.S. triangle, if you will, and in particular, focusing on the visit of Prime Minister Xi.
I'm going to tag on one additional thing I would like you to address, because it's in the news. At a time when the Japan-South Korea relationship is so bad, how would you assess the recent news from North Korea suggesting, you know, with this killing of the (PHONE RINGS)—very naughty. This person's going to be thrown out of CFR second-floor window. We'll correct that. Restart.
At a time when it's alleged that the North Korean defense minister's been shot with antiaircraft guns—I don't know about that—you have a prospect of a more unstable North Korea in ways that I think pose really interesting questions for Japan, China and the U.S., all three. So we pose three questions. Let's conclude. Sheila, you want to start?
SMITH: I'll start very quickly, because we don't have a lot of time. So I will leave TPP to Keiko, because she understands that better than I.
I think you're right. The long-term Japan-China relationship is really going to be the structural question of the shift in power balance, right? And so I think you can sense in Tokyo, both among elites, but increasingly among the public, some really close attention to the way the United States engages with China.
So Japan's strategic bargain with the United States, of course, is deep integration, right? We are the offensive strike capability that would be crucial to defending the country, right? We're deeply integrated militarily with Japan, but we've also just assumed that we'd always be there together. That assumption is being shaken a little bit.
And the day before Mr. Abe came to Washington, the foreign minister and defense minister met with Secretaries Kerry and Ash Carter basically to reconfirm that the defense guidelines between the two countries are still solid, but they've also been updated to incorporate this new situation with this new China. We're going to have to keep working at this. And I think crisis management, which is one of the underlying pieces of the guideline, not just deterrence, but crisis management is going to be one of our biggest challenges in the alliance going forward.
That being said, I think the United States also has a very important role with Beijing in making sure that we encourage, pull, cajole—whatever the right verb is—China into understanding that risk reduction in the Asia-Pacific is really in China's interest. And that was one of the positive pieces I thought about the Abe-Xi meeting, is that the accommodation before that allowed that meeting to happen, of course, talked about history, but it also was the first time that you saw overt statement by the Chinese that risk reduction in the East China Sea was a value to them.
So I think there's a lot the United States can do not only for the alliance in ensuring that the Japanese understand that we are there, and we are there to help with crisis management, as well as deterrence, but that we also actively confront, if necessary, but persuade and cajole and pull the Chinese military and its leadership into a much bigger conversation about stability in the Asia-Pacific.
So it's going to be tough. It's going to require a lot of our policymakers. It's going to require an awful lot of regional expertise in whatever cabinet, whatever administration comes next. So...
IGNATIUS: Excellent. Keiko?
IIZUKA: TPP, yes. I think there are two meanings, significance for this Abe Administration. First, is obviously the trade itself, free trade. That's, as you say, that's part of having a mix, the whole package, Abe-nomics. That's one of the agenda, which is part of a third arrow.
So first one is mandatory (ph) easing (ph), and the second one was big budget, big spending. So but the third one, everyone knows that this is not going too fast. I think this is our issue.
And so TPP, both, the third arrow, which involves deregulation of the system, and agricultural reform. And Abe actually did this earlier this year, that agriculture cooperation—cooperation in the big organization. Huge agricultural organization. He actually—he made a deal with organization.
So agriculture, agricultural business is really important in Japan. So I think he wanted to cut in some of—I mean, reform, make a reform in the name of TPP, I think. So that's political, important. And another thing is also the—it's a trade agreement, vis-a-vis China, as of now.
So I mean, of course everyone says, including Abe, that it's open to China, eventually. But basically now it's understood that it's trade agreement without China. So it's important for him to at least make a deal at this moment to show that—present to the international community that agreement is possible. So that's my understanding.
And to your question, agenda, about North Korea, I think it's a great question, because I think Japanese should understand more of the importance of South Korea. I mean, the security-wise, strategically. I mean, it's there on the Korean Peninsula.
And we usually have a discussion, hold a discussion that sometimes when South Korean people get very angry at us, history issue, I mean, you don't understand. The South Korean people don't understand how important Japan is. We have a security treaty with the U.S., and we have a base, U.S. bases all around our country.
So whenever it happens, something happens in contingency with North Korea, it's Japan who offers—apart from Army. But Marine Corps and Navy, you know, it's Japan which offers the U.S. bases to help out the situation.
But I think it's the other way. If we think the other—around, I mean, Japanese should appreciate more about ROK and the presence of South Korea in terms of security and our strategic—I mean, geographically, it's important. So I think, you know, perhaps Abe should mention, become more aware of the strategic importance of South Korea to Japan's security.
IGNATIUS: So join me in thanking our speakers for a very interesting discussion.