Country Report: Japan (August 2014)

On May 25, Yomiuri shimbun carried an article by Kitaoka Shinichi, who had chaired the advisory panel that had debated national security and defense capabilities. With the aim of identifying where the legal system for security relations was inadequate, his panel had found many barriers in the interpretation of the Constitution to acting in collective self-defense. Respecting the Constitution was accompanied in this effort by respecting international law, while prioritizing the security of the nation. It is extremely difficult to amend the Constitution, yet reinterpretation has occurred in the past. Even as some say that the only solution is an amendment, Kitaoka makes the case that for national security there is no alternative to revising the interpretation.

On July 2, Yomiuri shimbun followed the announcement of the cabinet decision the day before with an interview with Kitaoka, Nakatani Gen, and Saito Takashi, all of whom praised and explained the decision, which needs legislative approval after broad public discussion. Kitaoka noted that even after approval Japan would still be the most peaceful, non-militarized country without substantial change. He added that the United Nations recognizes the right of self-defense, indicating that this would not be a break from abiding by its strictures. Opposition to it signifies lack of trust in Japanese democracy, while its passage sends a strong signal to China, these formerly major officials in Japan’s defense and security conveyed in their remarks.

There are many aspects to the ongoing debate in Japan on collective self-defense. On the list is ittaika (integration) or the impact on Japan becoming more united with the international community led by the United States. Opponents include remnants of the pacifist or isolationist adherents of Cold War days and others who fear that Abe and his ilk could abuse the new powers. Supporters are not only realists ready to respond to a more dangerous security environment, but also internationalists in support of a balance of more overtures to reduce regional tensions and increased cooperation with allies and partners to win their trust as well as prepare for more contingencies. In Yomiuri shimbun on June 12 Tanaka Hitoshi recalls his time in the Foreign Ministry when the theme of ittaika was debated after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, leading to the Gulf War. While the outcome of that debate enabled Japan to take small steps, Tanaka notes that the security environment has greatly changed, especially by the danger from North Korea. US troops are poised to use their bases in Japan to meet this threat, and ittaika is now about contributing to this response. While Tanaka supports the moves for collective self-defense, he prefers to make every effort to amend the Constitution, by raising public consciousness of security.

Yomiuri shimbun repeatedly called attention to the internationalist character of collective self-defense, observing that ASEAN states and Australia support it and that it complements the US “rebalance” to Asia. Thus, it helps to keep the United States engaged in Asia, strengthens forces restraining China, and serves to stabilize the region. A July 2 article in the newspaper explained that this move buttresses Abe’s “seikyokuteki heiwashugi” (proactive contribution to peace, which employs the term long used for “pacifism” for peace) in Southeast Asia, and is a signal of a strong Japanese commitment to Southeast Asia. Asianism was earlier appropriated by pacifists to distance Japan from the two superpowers’ policies in the region. Now it is treated as overlapping with US policy and as requiring an active military role. Similarly, past claims by the political left to be the champions of internationalism are disputed by insistence that international responsibility requires an armed role. Japan’s defensive role is to help unify most of Asia and the international community. In doing so, it sustains the trust of Americans in Japan, readers are also reminded.

Asahi shimbun takes exception to the idea that the danger to international society is greater now. On July 1 it recalled that Richard Armitage had come to Japan about a year after the 9/11 attack on the United States urging collective defense actions. The suffering of the Iraqi people continues today, it added, while pointing to the decision of France to reject the US argument on Iraq. Casting doubt on the story of a happy ending that satisfies the self-respect of a “normal country,” danger is continuing in various places within international society, the article notes. This is but one of many articles in the progressive newspapers that question the way international society is being used as well as the level of threat faced by Japanese society. While earlier in the year these sources embraced international society and the United States as out of step with Abe’s revisionism, now they suspect it as a ploy for military overreach.

In contrast, Sankei shimbun on July 10 cited Australian Prime Minister Abbott that all through the postwar period Japan has been a model international citizen, sharply at odds with Xi Jinping’s comment on July 7—a day earlier—that Japan persists in ignoring the reality of history, defying international standards. This paper insists that the world welcomes Japan, leaving only China and South Korea isolated in their reactions. As is Sankei shimbun’s wont, the realist-revisionist divide stays blurred. Indeed, in the June 14 Yomiuri shimbun too the propaganda war that is resulting in the spread of misperceptions of Japan is a mixture of security and history and is led by China and South Korea both. Failing to make finer distinctions, its call to urgently intensify advocacy of Japan’s position is unlikely to succeed in winning this “war.”

A frequent theme in Japanese publications over the past year is how Washington is responding to Xi Jinping’s call for a “new type of great power relations.” Is it gullible, letting Japan down, or is it skeptical, rejecting China’s notion of respect for its core interests? Whereas in the winter many saw Washington as gullible, the tone shifted over the spring. On June 27 Asahi shimbun commented on Danny Russel’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he was not afraid to emphasize a different view of a “new type of great power relations,” as he criticized China for increasing tensions in the region due to its unilateral actions. Even the progressive press in Japan pays close attention to such criticism, seen as reassurance in Tokyo.

The July issue of Toa focused on the “power game” in East Asia. The lead article by Takagi Seiichiro is on China’s new security concept on Asia, as set forth in late May at the CICA summit, and on US relations. First, Takagi compares the contents of this new document with that of the prior 1996 security concept, pointing to similarities in rejecting alliances as a vestige of the “Cold War” and as not making a contribution to regional security, while newly stressing that Asian problems should be managed by Asians and the United States should not interfere. Second, Takagi analyzes both the circumstances that led to the 1996 document, as China pursued multilaterism with ASEAN and the Shanghai-5 as well as a strategic partnership with Russia, while striving to counter growing talk of a “China threat” and to undermine US unipolarity, but not at the expense of improving Sino-US relations, and the growing tensions that led to the 2014 document. While Chinese officials claim to respect the traditional US presence and real interests in Asia, China’s actions cast doubt on this. Since the US tone toward China and support for Japan changed from the end of January, giving priority to Japan as first among Asian great powers with shared interests and values and refusing to accept China’s “core interests” as such, followed by Obama’s trip to Asia in April, affirming support for allies, Takagi sees rough sailing ahead for the new document, which is unlikely to achieve the same success as China’s prior one.

Commenting on the Shangri-La Dialogue, Kawashima Shin in the June 12 Yomiuri shimbun wrote that China’s position on territorial disputes is putting more stress on history than on law. At China’s October 24, 2013 leadership gathering on peripheral diplomacy, good neighborly relations and joint prosperity were showcased, but its policy on sovereignty took precedence. Economic power is a useful resource on sovereignty questions. This thinking applies to Japan, but China views it as the neighbor most antagonistic to it and most able to stand up to it, owing to Japan’s economic power and alliance with the United States. Within its periphery China demands that the United States respect its position even as its proposes globally to build a “new type of great power relations,” Having extended the principle of mutual “non-interference” to East Asia as a region, China finds its economic and sovereignty goals in contradiction—the issue with Japan is not simply historical consciousness.

Another article in the July Toa focuses on Vietnam’s great economic dependence on China and discussions beginning in Vietnam on how to reduce it. After all, 28 percent of Vietnam’s imports come from China, as exports to China are rapidly rising to 10 percent. Of the imports, raw materials and parts play a large role in textile production and in electronics. Vietnam also depends heavily on Chinese steel. It would be a nightmare for Vietnam, we are told, if its exports to China were curtailed in areas which have just received a lot of investment in fixed capital, whether industry or agriculture. The impact of reduced Chinese tourism has delivered a more immediate blow.

A July article by former vice-minister for foreign affairs Yabunaka Mitoji in Bungei shunju sees an opening for Japan to play a leadership role with Obama stopping the United States from being the world’s policeman and China’s economic and military rise alienating other states. With international opinion an ally and stable leadership as well as an economy boosted by Abenomics, Japan can exert leadership for peace in Asia, he concludes. Citing his own experience in office when under Obuchi Shinzo Tokyo reached an agreement with Seoul on fishing areas despite their territorial dispute and under Fukuda Yasuo there was an agreement with China for the joint development of gas fields in a similarly sensitive area, Yabunaka has no proposal for a new deal. Instead, he prioritizes ASEAN as the target of Japanese diplomacy. Yet, he acknowledges that it is impossible to contain China: due to Washington’s 2 Ws (Walmart to Wall Street); Europe’s obsession with exports to the Chinese market, and ASEAN states’ thinking that despite the fact their heart is with Japan, military fears and economic dependence leave them opposed to trouble between Japan and China. Charging that the United States left its citizens war weary from the wasted efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and faulting Obama in his first year in office for prioritizing China above Japan and agreeing to respect for China’s core interests, Yabunaka doubts that his reliance on diplomacy suffices to lead international society. Despite arguing that the United States is still the world’s only superpower, Yabunaka argues that Japan cannot rely only on its US alliance, that there are high hopes in ASEAN for Japan’s leadership, and that ASEAN leaders have a very high opinion of Abe. In this way, he distances Japan from following US leadership in Southeast Asia, but he has nothing to say about what Japan would do differently or what it really has to offer.

The safety of Chinese food products, including supplies for McDonalds and other firms with a broad presence in the Japanese market, drew scrutiny from Japanese media, as in the July 25 Yomiuri shimbun’s charge that trust was badly damaged. Yet, it was necessary to add that Japan could no longer get along without the cheap prices and foodstuffs from China. Sankei shimbun was quick on July 24 to charge that the case in question is only the tip of the iceberg. This was a secondary theme, which gave Japanese a chance to vent their frustrations at a time when there was no doubt that of all the troubled bilateral relations in the region Sino-Japanese relations were in the worst shape. On July 20, even Nihon keizai shimbun questioned liberal theory that mutual economic dependence smooths the way for bilateral relations, as food scares brought home the message that even close economic ties raise deep concerns. Yet, Asahi shimbun on July 18 argued that since China wants to avoid conflict and Japan is leaving the door open for dialogue, a path to dialogue can be found.

On July 28, Yomiuri shimbun pointed to rising interest in China in the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War, in which the stain of humiliation remains today for China. Linking “face,” security, and history, Chinese are painting a picture of Japan (and the United States as the force blocking reunification with Taiwan, which is seen as having been seized in that war) as steeped throughout modern history in behavior that Chinese cannot forgive. This level of demonization has no parallel since normalization of relations in 1972. It is difficult to imagine any backtracking by China toward mutual respect as happened after other downturns, notably in the 2006-2008 thaw after the 2005 freeze.

In July’s Chuo koron, Kawashima Shin wrote that Chinese academics and diplomats are now debating “great power” diplomacy with a view that in peripheral diplomacy China is the driving force, no longer concentrating on economic relations, delaying action on sovereignty issues, or deferring to ASEAN to drive regional cooperation. They are discussing how to use economics as a weapon to pursue sovereignty goals, refusing to make concessions on them or on security matters. Xi’s diplomacy has raised the theme for neighboring countries of a “community of common destiny,” adding another dimension to policy. Kawashima observes that this approach also is applied to Japan. In the following article by Yoshizaki Tatsuhiko readers learn that the impression that Japanese firms are starting to leave China is difficult to confirm. Trade is growing, and its contents are being upgraded, as China rapidly expands its exports of smart phones and tablets and Japan shifts from China as manufacturer to China as market. While some look back to the 1980s wistfully, personal interactions have risen markedly since then, e.g., international marriages have climbed five to six times. Combining the two articles gives the impression that economic interdependence is not likely to diminish in a manner that would deprive China of its strategic tool.

The June 7 Yomiuri shimbun reported on survey data showing a sharp drop in the image of South Korea, as 18 percent more Japanese indicated that they could not trust it than a year earlier, raising the level to 73 percent approaching the 83 percent level of South Koreans who cannot trust Japan (a 8 percent rise but not to the 90 percent level of 2005). The foremost reason given is Park Geun-hye’s criticism of Japan aimed at international society. Also noted is the sharp difference in Japanese and South Korea attitudes toward China and expectations about the future importance of it versus the United States for one’s own country. 90 percent of Japanese report that they cannot trust China compared to 64 percent of South Korean respondents, and whereas 14 percent of Japanese see China as more important compared with 74 percent choosing the United States, South Koreans are evenly divided at 46 percent vs. 47 percent. Moreover, the two nations have different threat perceptions: 36 percent of the Koreans see China as a threat versus 82 percent of Japanese, 20 percent of the Koreans see Russia as a threat versus 61 percent of Japanese, and 41 percent of Koreans view Japan as a threat in contrast to 25 percent of Japanese who view South Korea as such. Former ambassador to Seoul Okura Kazuo explains that at the bottom of the decline in Japan-ROK relations is the regional power shift and the thinking in South Korea that it can influence China and the United States in this new environment. He finds it needing to think less emotionally and more about national interests, instead of its response to the collective self-defense debate with the theory of a Japanese threat.

Kimura Kan in the July Toa explains South Korea’s policy toward China as rational. In contrast to numerous Japanese publications that dismiss the policy as a product of emotional attitudes that have trumped strategic reasoning, Kimura points to both Park Geun-hye’s calculations that Lee Myung-bak’s policy toward North Korea had failed due to lack of coordination with China, which increased economic ties with it, and Park’s awareness that Barack Obama has a two-faced approach to China, which places Japan and South Korea in very different security contexts. The former is the anchor of US resistance to China’s assertive maritime strategy, while the latter is a partner with China in controlling North Korea’s dangerous challenges to regional and global security. Japanese should recognize these different contexts in evaluating how to manage relations with South Korea and the US role in them, Kimura argues.

Kimura also discusses how Park has proceeded in stressing improved ties to China. This involves explaining the value of this relationship and what it can accomplish. It also means avoiding new sparks that could unsettle relations, even the issues that arise in ROK-US relations, such as the timing of the transfer of operational control over the South Korean military. Finally, it requires emphasis on common historical and cultural themes, including that the two nations belong to the same traditional Asian civilizational sphere. This contrasts sharply with Japanese thinking about how greatly at variance are Chinese and Japanese values. Rather than attribute such cultural divergence to South Korea’s lack of identity with the democratic and human rights values embraced by Japan, Kimura highlights the compelling strategic context that operates in the background of South Korean cultural discussions. Yet, he notes too that Park’s personal closeness to Chinese culture helps to make this possible.

Coverage of the Xi-Park summit stressed Xi’s goal of splitting the US-Japan-ROK triangle and putting South Korea and China on the same page with regard to Asian security linked to excluding the United States. Yomiuri shimbun on July 5 argued that he seeks cooperation in forging a regional order led by China, but Park is resisting and is also not committing South Korea to an Asian infrastructure investment bank in opposition to the Asian Development Bank led by Japan and the United States. Yet, what alarmed Japan, readers are told, is the agreement on joint research into materials concerning the “comfort women.” This expands their use of the “history card” as part of a “public opinion war” in international society against Japan. In his talk at Seoul National University Xi had called for the Korean nation to participate in a joint battle against Japanese militarism. Park responded cautiously on security, but she was positive about cooperation on history, perhaps thinking this was help to raise lower support numbers following the Sewol sinking, Yomiuri intimated.

While many articles suggested that there was little Japan could do about tightening relations between Seoul and Beijing, a July 6 piece in Nihon keizai shimbun called on Japan to act before this goes further. Even Yomiuri shimbun on July 5 recognized that it was not in the interest of Japanese firms (automobile, electronics, etc.) for the fiercely competitive Korean exporters to gain the edge in the Chinese market with an FTA, which JETRO has calculated would increase South Korean exports by USD 27.7 billion, some USD 5.3 billion of which would come at the expense of Japanese exports. The answer, Yomiuri proposes, is to speed the conclusion of TPP to create a rule-based system for the Asia-Pacific that Beijing and Seoul will not be able to ignore.

The June 11 Yomiuri shimbun reported that the propaganda war waged by China and South Korea is intensifying year by year. Through cultural activity they raise their own state’s image, and with this “soft power strategy” they win international support and sympathy. China particularly stresses Chinese language studies with more than 20 Confucius Institutes at Waseda University and other places in Japan and 1,091 in all in 117 countries and territories. The article notes that South Korea also values language and cultural education with 120 outposts in 52 countries or territories. This is contrasted with Japan’s paltry efforts at establishing cultural centers—22 in 21 countries, a source of concern for the future gap in Chinese and Japanese international influence. The article also points to Kanryu (Korean dramas) and K-pop backing up the government’s soft power, spreading all over the world. Now South Korea is using its soft power to criticize Japan, e.g., turning the “comfort women” issue into a universal question and movie festivals into one link in the propaganda war. The article regrets that, in contrast, Japan’s actions are too late.

In the July issue of Bungei shunju, a linkage is made between irresponsibility in South Korea in the Sewol sinking tragedy and its irresponsibility as a great power in relations with Japan. Kato Tatsuya, on June 16 Yomiuri shimbun reported on the views of Okura Kijo, who draws a sharp contrast between Japanese and Korean society, which explains not only the moralistic response to the accident but also attitudes toward Japan. Although Japan had settled the “comfort women” issue with the normalization treaty and added the Asian Women’s Fund, Koreans took an extremely unproductive attitude. He concludes that for “adult” relations, Koreans need not like the other country or see manners as one extreme or the other. This is one example of emphasizing the weight of Korean emotions.

Despite the upbeat mood in US-Japan relations of late, Sankei shimbun continues to find fault with Korean Americans for the way they keep showcasing “comfort women” and other issues, especially in Glendale, California, as on July 6. It lumps Koreans, Chinese, The New York Times, and Asahi shimbun together as anti-Japanese, using the new report on how the Kono statement arose as the occasion for new critiques. Insisting that Japan is in favor of improved relations with South Korea but that Koreans are using the “comfort women” as an “anti-Japan tool,” Sankei shimbun, as on June 23, kept up a drumbeat of accusations about the “history war” and “known lies.” Yomiuri shimbun similarly wrote, as on June 7, of the “propaganda war” against Japan joining China and South Korea, also making the “comfort women” issue the test of respect for Japan and gullibility in serving China’s aims in splitting Japan’s alliance with the United States and US-ROK relations. It too, as on June 4, dwelt on anti-Japanese activity by those of Korean descent influencing US opinion and even Congress, as Koreans are serving China’s ends with Japan-bashing.

Japanese tourists to South Korea are dwindling, according to Sankei shimbun on June 2. In 2012 there were over 3.5 million, but in 2013 the number fell by 22 percent, even more than the drop of 18 percent in travel to China. In the first quarter of 2014, the figure for Japanese visitors to South Korea was 21 percent below the same quarter in 2013. Some attribute these changes to a cheaper yen, just as the spike from 2008 was linked to a rise in the yen’s value, but this article argues that the decline is mostly due to Korean criticisms of Japan, especially by Park, such as her refusal to make eye contact with Abe in The Hague when they met in late March. The article concludes that this is changing the way Japanese look at their neighbor, while also suggesting that this exacts a price on Korea’s economy.

Responding to the Japan-North Korea agreement on steps to resolve the abductee question, Park Cheol Hee wrote in Tokyo shimbun that this is a bold decision, which not involves those abducted and others who are missing, but extends also to the remains and graves of Japanese who died around 1945, Japanese left behind, and spouses who went to North Korea with their husbands. He says that it would be no exaggeration to view this as a link to settling the historical score between the two states. China has been taking steps in line with the international community in sanctioning North Korea, and Xi was to visit Seoul before any possible visit to Pyongyang; so North Korea is improving relations with Japan to show its dissatisfaction. Aware that Abe will be in his post for a long time, it aims to find some breathing space with him. In turn, Abe seeks to boost his popularity by fundamentally resolving the abductee issue while demonstrating, at a time of no progress with South Korea, that Japan can play the North Korean card by itself. Finding it natural that Japan would want to resolve the abductee issue, Park sees opposition to its decision because it is disregarding the nuclear and missile issues among others. It should be aware that more than anything else cash is what makes possible upgrading the North’s military capabilities and that Japan is weakening the US-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperative system toward the North. Finding a ray of hope, nonetheless, Park concludes that if North Korea could take such a bold decision this time, then it may possibly decide to improve relations with South Korea and China. He urges Japan to coordinate closely with South Korean, which is at the center of the peninsula question and to not consider improved relations with North Korea a substitute for restoring prior relations with China and South Korea.

A different tone can be detected in the July 5 evening edition of Fuji, applauding Abe’s moves with North Korea on the eve of the Xi-Park summit as playing the “North Korea card,” the biggest step of which would be normalization of relations with the North. It considers China to be isolated, striving not only to improve relations with South Korea but now also obliged to take a softer line toward Japan for reasons of the environment, investment, etc. Xi Jinping had failed to split Japan and the United States. With its North Korea agreement and other moves Japan has put China and South Korea on the defensive as it is also winning support in Asia for collective self-defense, readers are told. No less than the external enemies, the internal opposition to collective self-defense and historical revisionism, especially Asahi shimbun, is squarely in the sights of this right wing tabloid. Under the heading, “history war,” Sankei shimbun on May 24 also continued its volley of attacks on its rival as stirring up trouble over the “comfort women” issue after the collapse of the Soviet Union and still doing the work of North Korea and South Korea

As Russia became more of an outcaste internationally for its annexation of Crimea and growing pressure on southeastern Ukraine, those in Japan who had long been wary of negotiations with it over the territorial dispute reminded readers of its real voracious appetite for land. In Sankei shimbun on June 27, Kimura Hiroshi depicted Crimea as a little fish, as Russia looks to devour bigger ones. He regards the Crimea move as shock therapy, which has awakened others, especially Ukraine, which now can thank Putin for bringing people together around state formation. Unmentioned is that Japanese should be under no illusions that Putin will return the four islands that Japan has long been demanding. His aim is to expand the Eurasian Economic Union, but Putin has frightened away other states—Japan, too, Kimura may hope.

On May 26, Yomiuri shimbun presented an overview of writings on how the world order is being shaken with the resurgence of geopolitics with the examples of China in Vietnam and Russia in Ukraine. It cited Hakamada Shigeki in Gaiko No. 25 on Putin’s ambitions for a new world order with a Eurasian alliance, seizing the land of others as optimists believed would not happen in the twenty-first century. He calls this the “Putin shock.” Shimotomai Nobuo in Ushio describes Russia leaving Europe and entering Asia (datsuo nyua), as on matters such as homosexuality it opts for traditional values over Euro-American ones, taking advantage of the fact that the divide between the two Ukraines reflects a clash of civilizations. The article goes on to argue that Chinese imperialist consciousness is being spread as Chinese migrate around the world. It concludes by reporting on an exchange between Kitaoka and Funabashi Yoichi in Gaiko, where Kitaoka welcomes Abe’s proactive contribution to peace by Japan as a long-term strategic response to resolving disputes spreading over the globe peacefully under the rule of law. In contrast, Funabashi warns against overreacting to China’s strategic moves, in which its response is planned, appealing instead for strengthening quiet resistance. Russia has entered the picture with China as a force threatening the world order, but opinions vary on how to respond to both.

Iwashita Akihiro in the July issue of Gendai shiso assesses the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Japan-Russia relations, arguing that they are at a crossroads. Over a long period the Japanese government and media have shown little interest in Russian human rights and internal problems, as they kept the focus on one main topic of negotiations—the Northern Territories. Whereas the West sees Putin as a dictator and found Medvedev more liberal, Japan has been more critical of Medvedev as the leader who twice visited the disputed island of Kunashiri. What he finds different of late is that bilateral relations have experienced a big, qualitative change, broadening their scope to politics, security, economics, and the environment. Worsening US-Russian relations, however, narrow Japan’s space for independent diplomacy. With little likelihood that Putin will do more than conditionally agree to return two islands, why is the Japanese government planning on Putin coming in the fall? After all, he and Xi Jinping are increasingly raising the same criticism of the United States. The article points to Japan’s dilemma: not to set back relations with Russia to the point that it will support China against Japan, while not failing to support the ally whose role in a parallel dispute over expansionism is a test of coming to Japan’s aid as well.

Another viewpoint in Japan is that Russian latent distrust toward China will trump the recent tightening of relations. Actually, Russia has been concerned about China’s rising presence in Ukraine—infrastructure investments, leased farmland plans, purchases of arms, etc.—so Japanese should not overstate the new relationship. An article in the June issue of Toa suggested that the Ukraine impact is only temporary.

With the resurgence of the progressive camp in opposition to collective self-defense and the intensification of realist arguments about a beleaguered world, the primary divide was no longer, as in the first part of 2014, between revisionism and realism with emphasis on policy to South Korea, but between activist responses guided by realism in sync with US foreign policy as well as independent of it in some areas, versus passivity with no obvious diplomatic options. ASEAN was now seen in realist terms. Russian behavior made it hard to consider it a partner rather than a realist concern. There was scant prospect of finding a path forward with China, although some hope for a meeting of Xi and Abe in the fall had been raised. This was a calm period in US-Japan relations, still basking in the halo of Obama’s April visit to Asia. The US focus had shifted elsewhere, and Japan’s focus was within on the coalition between the LDP and the New Komeito and on the battle for public opinion fought between the national media, which had taken sides over collective self-defense.