The tepid and unpopular Yasuo Fukuda, who showed signs of softening Japan’s policies toward North Korea, is out, and Foreign Minister Taro Aso looks like the front-runner to replace him.
Fukuda recently installed former Foreign Minister as secretary-general of the ruling party. Aso has kept a low profile during nearly all of Fukuda’s term and could be seen as offering a fresh start for the party. [AP]
Is this good news or bad news? The answer is “yes!”
On the positive side, Aso is one of the hardest of hard-liners on North Korea policy in Japan’s mainstream, a term whose meaning Aso may have single-handedly expanded. He’s been a critic of Chinese and South Korean aid to the North, commenting in 2006 to the Budget Committee of his country’s House of Councillors, “South Korea and China are helping North Korea. I can’t understand why they do so?”
Following the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 in 2006, following North Korea’s technically semi-successful but diplomatically successful nuclear test, Aso offered Japan’s help to the U.S. Navy to inspect and search North Korean ships for banned cargoes. He has been a proponent of Japan’s new war contingency legislation, which steps away from Japan’s post-war constitutional pacificism.
Also on the bright side, Robert can now hope that that knish he’s been longing for may be just a 2-hour flight away:
He also drew criticism in 2001 when, as economics minister, he said he hoped to make Japan the kind of country where “rich Jews” would want to live.
Aso said then he had not intended to be discriminatory. [The Standard, Hong Kong]
I wish Foreign Minister Aso zol zayn mit mazel recruiting any Jewish person on this earth who’d want to deplete his retirement paying $30 a knish, but let’s view this as a step in the right direction from seeing Japan as “one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race*,” which is itself just a step away from … me, flagrantly violating Godwin’s Law:
Upper house speaker Satsuki Eda of the opposition Democratic Party told Aso in a meeting that the electorate was shifting away from the LDP, the Nikkei financial daily and other papers said.
Apparently irritated, Aso told Eda: “If you look at history, you will see that as a result of the people moving away from the party of government, regimes like the Nazis have come into power,” the Nikkei reported.
Yukio Hatoyama, Democratic Party secretary-general, called for an apology. [Reuters]
Aso made this comment was less than 30 days ago, which doesn’t suggest that he’s outgrown his gift of gaffe.
It may or may not be significant that Aso is the heir to a mining company that employed POW’s and Koreans as slave laborers, but Aso isn’t exactly known for angst-ridden reflection on Japan’s past.
In May 2003, Aso caused an uproar in South Korea after he made comments that were interpreted as an attempt to justify some of the actions Japan imposed on the Koreans during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula. Japan forced Koreans to change their names to Japanese ones during the time, but Aso said that the measure initially began when some Koreans had asked for Japanese names. [China Post]
Aso later apologized to South Koreans “for having hurt their feelings.” I predict he’ll set the Chinese and Korean netizens off more than one, and more than twice.
There’s plenty more where that came from, such as this gem:
“Japan is doing what Americans can’t do,” local media quoted Mr Aso as saying in a speech about Japan-sponsored investment in the Middle East. “Japanese are trusted. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and blond hair. Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces.” [The Guardian]
By that logic, was it really such a good idea for Japan to participate in the six-party talks at all?
Curzon Curzon at Coming Anarchy isn’t much of a fan, either. But keep it in perspective, fellow bloggers. As long as Taro Aso remains in office, you’ll have a lot fewer days of wondering what to write.
Now for the downside: if Lee Myung Bak’s popularity dives under 20% again, can the Tokdo War be far behind?
* Note that the Roman Catholic Aso left out religion.