The term ‘backlash’ couldn’t be more accurate to describe Japan’s recent anti-pacifist agenda – a foreign policy course set by pro-American Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which has taken its toll with the recent Islamic State (IS) beheading of two Japanese citizens.
The beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and defense contractor Haruna Yukawa has been described in the accompanying IS video as a form of personal retaliation against Shinzo Abe’s pledge to combat IS through the announcement of a $200 million non-military aid to countries fighting IS.
For his part, Abe condemned the killings, but also pledged that Japan would “resolutely fulfill its responsibility to the international community in the fight against terrorism.” Such statement sounds very much like what is spewing out of Washington’s propaganda machine (international community – US, John Kerry).
And very much like how the West takes advantage of such ‘despicable acts’, Mr. Abe also declared a need for a legislation “aimed at protecting the lives and well-being of the people…if Japanese abroad come under harm’s way, as in the recent case (IS beheading), the (Japanese military) Self-Defense Forces (SDF) aren’t able to fully utilize their abilities.”
As regrettable as it is for the families of those murdered by IS as a result of Abe’s militaristic policies, the backfiring of his new strategy to ‘engage’ the world and tackle ‘terrorism’ has been swift and brutal. Following his pronouncements, his critics charged “no doubt the government will argue that this is all the more reason why Japan needs to rid of its constitutional ban on military and take on a fuller role in the ‘war on terror’” and that the beheading is a result of the Tokyo’s antagonistic foreign policy, which has its roots in Japan’s most uneasy neighbor: China.
Roots in China
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described Japan’s new foreign policy as ‘proactive pacifism’ which under no guise is aimed at China. But many see it as Tokyo’s renewed interests in expanding the nation’s military which, as historians would point out, should be a worrying direction the country must not take.
Since being in office, Mr. Abe has caused discomfort to his neighbors, particularly China and South Korea. So far, he has had close-call skirmishes with Beijing concerning disputed islands, Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine (a tribute to Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes), as well as his attempts to normalize relations with the breakaway island of Taiwan – an issue that is particularly sensitive for Beijing.
As his foreign policy have expanded not just beyond East and South East Asia, Abe’s policies elsewhere (especially in the Middle East) have made new enemies, all in the name of rearmament and global engagement to please Washington. And this policy did not come out of nowhere: the US is keen on rearming a country that has attacked it during World War II all in the name of containing China. Clearly the toxic relationship with Washington has taken its toll on its allies and lessons will always be learned the hard way as long as you are in Uncle Sam’s camp.