One is a former prime minister known for his nationalistic views. A second is a hawkish former defense chief. And a third is the son of Tokyo's outspoken governor whose proposal to buy and develop a cluster of uninhabited islands claimed by both China and Japan has set off a territorial furor between the two countries.Among the contenders is Monster Island favorite (um, that's sarcasm) Shinzo Abe, a former PM:
A look at the top candidates to lead Japan's main opposition party — and potentially to become Japan's next prime minister — suggests that Japan may soon get a more nationalist government. That could ratchet up already tense relations with China and South Korea over territorial disputes that have flared in recent weeks and brought anti-Japanese demonstrations to dozens of Chinese cities.
There is little sign that Japanese have grown more nationalistic, but the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is expected to get clobbered in elections that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says he will call soon. Voters are angry over Noda's push to double the sales tax and his party's failure to bring promised change to Japan's stodgy politics.
Abe riled Asian neighbors when he was prime minister in 2006-07 by saying there was no proof Japan's military had coerced Chinese, Korean and other women into prostitution in military brothels during World War II. He later apologized, but lately he has been suggesting that a landmark 1993 apology for sex slavery may need revising.It's really too bad, not only because the right wingers apparently fail to represent the real Japan, but also because it could mean a long-term souring of Seoul-Tokyo relations as the new government panders to the right.
Abe also has recently said he regrets not visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including executed war criminals, during his time as prime minister. This issue is important: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni in the early 2000s put relations with China into a deep freeze.