Abe is a familiar name to Americans referring to the famous American President Abraham Lincoln who was assassnated on April 14th, 1865 at the Ford's Theater in Washington DC by John Wilkes Booth, a South sympathizer. Abe Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd were watching the play, Our American Cousin. Abe died next morning and his assassination right after the American civil war (April 12, 1861 - April 9, 1856) increased the North’s hate for the South and slowed the reconstruction of the divided nation.
In this article, the author wishes to introduce Abe Shinzo to Americans (Abe is family name addressed first in Asian custom). Abe Shinzo was assassinated on July 8th, 2022 in Nara, Yamaguchi, Japan while he was giving a campaign speech. Although Abe Shinzo was not a well known name like Abe Lincoln, but his assassination may have more impact on future politics in Japan, in the U.S. and in the international politics since our world is obviously under security stress as Russian-Ukraine war is raging on and NATO is continuing expansion into Asia inviting Japan and South Korea to get involved. Abe Shinzo, as the longest serving two-time prime minister in Japan since 1948, had a significant influence on Japanese national politics. He served as a faithful U.S. military partner and acted diligently to transform Japan to a ‘normal nation’ by seeking constitutional revision to rearm Japan allowing first attack rights as well as trying to play a prominent role in the international arena. Abe’s death at age 67 may have cut short a decade of his influential political life as revealed by his wife’s saddened words expressed while rushing to Nara: “Abe can no longer work in politics!”
While we are sorry for any violent act taking any politician’s life, we must also be calm and rational to examine Abe Shinzo’s assassination from a political point of view. While the official and mass media are focusing on assassination facts and mourning, not yet highlighting the motive and impact of this assassination, this column chooses to make an analysis on Abe’s assassination based on known facts, historical and current events, and causality principle, and more importantly to discuss how Abe’s assassination may impact the international politics.
Abe Shinzo (9-21-1954 to 7-8-2022) was born post WW II in a political family. His maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi was the monster of shaohao (昭和）, a controller of Manchuguo and occupied northeast China pre-WW II. During the war, he was the vice minister of Munition (served in Tojo government, a co-signer of declaration of war against the U.S.) and post war, he was in prison three years as a class A war criminal but was never tried, later released and ‘de-purged’ with the U.S. blessing. Kishi found the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and became prime minister from 1957-1960. An ambitious man attempted to break the tradition seeking for third term as prime minister. He resigned after cancelling Eisenhower’s visit due to a strong Japanese protest over the unpopular U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty Kishi accepted from the U.S. (Concern of US protection may bring war to Japan) Kishi later survived a stabbing assassination. Abe’s paternal grandfather, Kan Abe (Western way of addressing), was a landlord in Yamaguchi, a house representative during WW II, opposed to Tojo government. Abe’s father, Shintaro Abe, served as a long-time House Representative (1958-1991), as chief cabinet Secretary, minister of trade and industry and minister of Foreign Affairs.
Despite of his strong political family background, Abe was an average student graduated from Seikei university (1977) with a political science degree in public administration. He went to the University of Southern California for graduate studies where he took a few courses and studied English but left in 1979 with no degree. He started his first employment with Kobe Steel but soon began his political career by working for the LDP party his maternal grandfather founded. In 1982, he became the Secretary of his father, Shintaro Abe, then Foreign Minister. Abe had a good opportunity to be groomed in the Japanese political system, in 1993, he won a House seat in the Diet (parliament) and rose to be the Secretary General of the party. In 2005, he was appointed as Chief Cabinet Secretary by PM Junichiro Koizumi who had to resign due to term limit in 2006. Abe succeeded Koiizumi as PM and President of LDP, but next year LDP lost in the House of Councillor election and Abe resigned due to ulcerative colitis. In 2012, Abe came back to be the President of LDP again and became PM second time after LDP had a landslide victory in the general election. Abe served two terms (2012 - 2020) and resigned for health reason again during which the U.S. transitioned from Obama to Trump Administration. It was these eight years that gave Abe the opportunity to pursue his political destiny, a family goal, to restore Japan’s previous glory (WW II power) and to try to walk out of the shadow of his family's war criminal act (class A war criminal). Abe’s effort in this regard might be his legacy far more pronounced than his Abenomics of first three and second three arrows which did nothing very significant in helping Japan’s faltering economy.
Many political scientists have wondered that why the U.S. would restore Japanese war criminals to political power after WW II, the most logical answer this author accepts is that after the atomic bomb, Japan was devastated needing quick restoration and the U.S. felt sorry and thought that by constructing a water-proof constitution (pacifist constitution) for Japan to stay away from imperialism (militarization), it would not matter who would be put in power. Besides, with criminal evidence in the hands of the U.S., it would be easy to control the puppet criminal to follow the wishes of the U.S. (This political logic was deeply ingrained in the U.S. foreign policy as history had shown that it was largely applied to U.S. allies, Japan, S. Korea, S. Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, … and South America states).
However, one of the Japanese traits is extreme patience and tenacity, that is the reason the LDP party would forever pursue its party goal (restoration of Japan's honor): 1. revision of the constitution (to permit re-militarization), 2. building a strong defense force and participating in international arena (as a normal country) and 3. Entering UN Security Council (as a powerful nation member). During Abe’s tenure, he had sought or created every opportunity to please the U.S. for the purpose of the above deep-rooted goal. Abe was an eager player of Obama era’s ‘pivot to Asia’ and ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) excluding China and a diligent promoter of the ‘China Threat’ idea (Japan suggested the QUAD in 2007 now pursued by Biden and Blinken) and welcomed NATO to Asia to worsen the U.S.-China relations to give Japan the opportunities to achieve the above goal. Japan has been consistently seeking any opportunity to militarize itself and tying tighter the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty.
The Abe assassination event not only gained sympathy for Shinzo but the biggest impact was making the LDP the big winner in July 10’s general election making it controlling 2/3 seats of the Senate (179 of 245) over the 2/3 vote requirement for passing the constitution revision in the Senate. Chances are the House may tilt over a 2/3 mark as well at the scheduled general election on October 31, 2025. The present PM Fumio Kishida certainly benefitted politically with a control of 179 LDP seats. Whether or not the House opposition parties will fight back, and the Japanese citizens will be clear-headed to oppose the constitution revision towards militarization (possible revival of fascism and imperialism) are yet uncertain. What is hanging in the balance may be outside of Japan. If the U.S. and China would reach a sincere understanding that a sharp rivalry between the two countries are not really beneficial to both or the world (but being used by others); it is likely, before 2025, the world will see the real advantage of a collaborative world than a rivalry polarized world forcing each nation to take an oppossing side. A rational U.S.-China relation for sure will quench Japan’s restoration effort as well as resolve many international conflicts!