The assassination of Shinzo Abe and Japan’s military expansion

Shinzo Abe promoted the racist, ultra-nationalist organization Zaitokukai. Above, Zaitokukai members wave imperialist “rising sun” flags (a red ball with 16 red rays) during a rally in Tokyo. This is similar to waving Confederate battle flags in the U.S. The placard says ‘Koreans should be massacred.’

The assassination of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, on July 8 maybe stirred some memories of the period of government by assassination in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. It was a time when a pandemic and a severe capitalist depression led to a reign of terror from ruling class reactionary groups – the rise of fascism.

Shinzo Abe was described by Donald Trump adviser Steven Bannon as “Trump before Trump.”

Abe had some similarities to Trump. He was a right-wing “Make Japan Great Again” nationalist who stirred up racism to rouse his supporters.

Abe was allied with anti-Korean and other racist groups. He drummed up anti-Korean sentiment against both the Korean residents of Japan and the people of South and North Korea, former colonies of Japan. He appointed Eriko Yamatani, a politician closely associated with the ultra-nationalist, extremist anti-Korean group Zaitokukai, to be the head of the National Public Safety Commission that oversees the National Police Agency.

Abe was a “special adviser” in the Nippon Kaigi, Japan’s largest ultra-conservative, far-right non-governmental organization and lobby. Nippon Kaigi, the Asia Times reports, is “comparable to movements in the Southern U.S. which, to this day, glorify the Confederacy.”

A war criminal

Abe was for many years at the head of Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP was founded in 1955 by Abe’s grandfather Nobusuke Kishi. It was funded by the CIA.

China has a museum in the city where the Japanese occupation of China began in 1931 that showcases the atrocities committed by the invading forces, including the “Rape of Nanking,” a massacre of more than 300,000 people. The museum describes Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather, who was a top official of the Japanese occupation regime, as a “Class-A war criminal.”

Even while out of power, Abe was “advising” the LDP’s plan for a new Imperial Constitution for Japan. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the occupying forces, shaped the writing of Japan’s postwar constitution. This is generally known as a U.S.-dictated constitution, one that ultra-nationalists like Abe have long sought to tear up.

Occupied by U.S. military

Japan has been occupied and dominated by the United States since 1945. Japan has the highest number of U.S. military bases in the world at 120, followed by Germany with 119, and then South Korea with 73. The U.S. occupation forces in Japan exceed 55,000 troops.

Some 75% of all U.S. armed forces and military bases in Japan are on the island of Okinawa, Japan’s only remaining colony. The Kadena Air Base in Okinawa is the largest U.S. Air Force base in the Asia-Pacific Region. A strong and popular anti-base movement in Okinawa regularly stages mass protests against the U.S. military occupation.

The assassination of Abe comes at a time when Japan’s economy is in crisis. For example, the Japan Times reported June 30, “Japan’s worst factory output slump in two years heaps pressure on the economy.”

Japan’s economy is contracting. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, yet its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is almost the lowest of the Group of Seven (G7) imperialist countries – the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy (with the lowest GDP per capita). Japan’s poverty rate is the second-highest among the G7, behind Italy.

Income inequality in Japan accelerated during Abe’s rule. Abenomics, as it was known, meant austerity and cutbacks for the working class while huge monetary “stimulus” support boosted stocks and corporate profits. Wages have not gone up since 2012, with household income falling an average of 3.5%, while the top 10% saw big increases.

Japan’s current prime minister, banker Fumio Kishida, took office in October 2021 on a promise to revive Japan’s economy with what he calls “new capitalism,” which is popularly believed to be a rejection of Abenomics.

Doubling military spending

Kishida’s “new capitalism” will mean a doubling of military spending and increased military involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the policy guidelines adopted on June 7. The guidelines call for doubling Tokyo’s military spending “within five years.” If that happens, Japan would be the third-largest military spender in the world, surpassed only by the U.S. and China.

Kishida announced the planned military expansion at the opening of the G7 summit on June 27 in Germany, just after drills with the U.S. and Australia leading up to the massive Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) war exercises in early July. Kishida denounced China and North Korea in order to justify future Japanese aggression in the Asia-Pacific region.

Next was the NATO summit in Madrid. Kishida, the first Japanese leader to attend a NATO summit, said that Japan would work with the NATO military alliance to “realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. announced at the NATO summit the formation of a new “coordination mechanism” in the Pacific in preparation for war. The so-called “Partners in the Blue Pacific” are the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Japan – an imperialist front.

Economics drives politics. And military spending and expansion are frequently touted as economic stimuli that will turn around a capitalist crisis, even though it never does.

Shinzo Abe’s alleged assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, reportedly told police that he targeted the former prime minister because of Abe’s affiliation with the Unification Church, a religious cult rooted in anti-communism. Abe’s war-criminal grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was one of the founders of the Unification Church. The church had bankrupted the family of the alleged assassin.

That could be the end of the story.

While Abe was a militarist and proponent of Japan’s military expansion, he had said that Japan would be a partner to NATO, not a member, which would put the Japanese military under direct U.S. military command. He considered NATO a diversion from a focus on North Korea and China, which were the primary targets throughout his career.

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