China, Trump and domestic policy: the reasons for Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor
The Japanese prime minister wants to strengthen the ''alliance of hope " with Washington in anticipation of the next American president’s moves. China urges Abe to apologize for the Nanjing Massacre. Premier’s approval rating at 60%.
Honolulu (AsiaNews) - We must never "repeat the horrors of war, this is the solemn oath that Japan has taken”, stated the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday concluding the visit to the military base at Pearl Harbor, where on December 7, 1941 a Japanese air force attack caused 2400US casualties. Abe, who has not apologized for the incident, is the first Japanese leader to visit the memorial of the USS Arizona, one of the battleships sunk in the attack.
Accompanied by Obama, the prime minister prayed for the dead and renewed the ''hope alliance" with Washington. Abe also thanked the United States for its efforts in re-establishing diplomatic relations after the end of World War II. The Prime Minister had the opportunity to shake hands and talk with some survivors of the attack.
According to analysts, the objective of Abe's visit is threefold: strengthening relations ahead of the new president Donald Trump taking power; strengthening the alliance with the United States to counter China; win support in his country for the forthcoming elections.
The next occupant of the White House is a source of disquiet in Tokyo for several reasons. During the election campaign the tycoon has questioned the value of the US military presence in Japan (which aids Tokyo especially against North Korea’s threat of nuclear weapons) and the overall structure of regional security, which according Trump would rely too heavily on Washington. The new president also suggested that Japan's produce its own nuclear weaponry.
The second aspect that worries Abe is an economic one. Trump, in fact, promised to abandon the TTP (Trans Pacific Partnership), a free trade agreement that the Japanese Prime Minister strongly supported, approved by parliament in early December. Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief economist at Credit Suisse Securities in Tokyo, said that the Trump decision "would significantly worsen trade relations between the two countries." Shinzo Abe was the first international leader to meet with the newly elected American president, in an 90 minute talk after which he described him as "a leader in which I can have full confidence."
Relations with Washington are considered fundamental by Tokyo to limit the influence of China in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing aims for economic and military dominance in the region, assuming an increasingly decisive attitude in disputed waters and East China Sea. Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor was not well received by China, which claims that Japan needs to do as much with China to mend the tears caused by the war. Quansheng Zhao, a professor at American University, suggested that Abe also visit Nanjing, where in 1937 Japanese troops massacred Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers.
The Japanese prime minister is in the fourth year of his second term. According to opinion polls his approval rate at home is at 60%. His entourage believe that the historic visit to Pearl Harbor could give Abe a sufficient advantage to win hypothetical early elections in 2017.