Japan's 82-year-old Emperor Akihito on Monday indicated his readiness to abdicate, voicing concern in a rare video message to the public that he could one day become unable to fulfill his role as the symbol of the state because of his age.
A major milestone year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has passed, and in two years we will be welcoming the 30th year of Heisei.
As I am now more than 80 years old and there are times when I feel various constraints such as in my physical fitness, in the last few years I have started to reflect on my years as the Emperor, and contemplate on my role and my duties as the Emperor in the days to come.
As we are in the midst of a rapidly aging society, I would like to talk to you today about what would be a desirable role of the Emperor in a time when the Emperor, too, becomes advanced in age. While, being in the position of the Emperor, I must refrain from making any specific comments on the existing Imperial system, I would like to tell you what I, as an individual, have been thinking about.
Ever since my accession to the throne, I have carried out the acts of the Emperor in matters of state, and at the same time I have spent my days searching for and contemplating on what is the desirable role of the Emperor, who is designated to be the symbol of the State by the Constitution of Japan. As one who has inherited a long tradition, I have always felt a deep sense of responsibility to protect this tradition. At the same time, in a nation and in a world which are constantly changing, I have continued to think to this day about how the Japanese Imperial Family can put its traditions to good use in the present age and be an active and inherent part of society, responding to the expectations of the people.
It was some years ago, after my two surgeries that I began to feel a decline in my fitness level because of my advancing age, and I started to think about the pending future, how I should conduct myself should it become difficult for me to carry out my heavy duties in the way I have been doing, and what would be best for the country, for the people, and also for the Imperial Family members who will follow after me. I am already 80 years old, and fortunately I am now in good health. However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now.
I ascended to the throne approximately 28 years ago, and during these years, I have spent my days together with the people of Japan, sharing much of the joys as well as the sorrows that have happened in our country. I have considered that the first and foremost duty of the Emperor is to pray for peace and happiness of all the people. At the same time, I also believe that in some cases it is essential to stand by the people, listen to their voices, and be close to them in their thoughts. In order to carry out the duties of the Emperor as the symbol of the State and as a symbol of the unity of the people, the Emperor needs to seek from the people their understanding on the role of the symbol of the State. I think that likewise, there is need for the Emperor to have a deep awareness of his own role as the Emperor, deep understanding of the people, and willingness to nurture within himself the awareness of being with the people. In this regard, I have felt that my travels to various places throughout Japan, in particular, to remote places and islands, are important acts of the Emperor as the symbol of the State and I have carried them out in that spirit. In my travels throughout the country, which I have made together with the Empress, including the time when I was Crown Prince, I was made aware that wherever I went there were thousands of citizens who love their local community and with quiet dedication continue to support their community. With this awareness I was able to carry out the most important duties of the Emperor, to always think of the people and pray for the people, with deep respect and love for the people. That, I feel, has been a great blessing.
In coping with the aging of the Emperor, I think it is not possible to continue reducing perpetually the Emperor’s acts in matters of state and his duties as the symbol of the State. A Regency may be established to act in the place of the Emperor when the Emperor cannot fulfill his duties for reasons such as he is not yet of age or he is seriously ill. Even in such cases, however, it does not change the fact that the Emperor continues to be the Emperor till the end of his life, even though he is unable to fully carry out his duties as the Emperor.
When the Emperor has ill health and his condition becomes serious, I am concerned that, as we have seen in the past, society comes to a standstill and people’s lives are impacted in various ways. The practice in the Imperial Family has been that the death of the Emperor called for events of heavy mourning, continuing every day for two months, followed by funeral events which continue for one year. These various events occur simultaneously with events related to the new era, placing a very heavy strain on those involved in the events, in particular, the family left behind. It occurs to me from time to time to wonder whether it is possible to prevent such a situation.
As I said in the beginning, under the Constitution, the Emperor does not have powers related to government. Even under such circumstances, it is my hope that by thoroughly reflecting on our country’s long history of emperors, the Imperial Family can continue to be with the people at all times and can work together with the people to build the future of our country, and that the duties of the Emperor as the symbol of the State can continue steadily without a break. With this earnest wish, I have decided to make my thoughts known.
La ministre de la défense, Tomomi Inada, entourée des membres du nouveau cabinet, le 3 août, à Tokyo. KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP
En nommant des proches à son gouvernement, dont une femme connue pour ses positions nationalistes à la défense, le premier ministre japonais, Shinzo Abe, renforce un peu plus sa mainmise sur le pouvoir. La nouvelle équipe, qui a été dévoilée mercredi 3 août, inclut les piliers de son administration, à commencer par son porte-parole, Yoshihide Suga, le vice-premier ministre et ministre des finances, Taro Aso, ou encore le ministre des affaires étrangères, Fumio Kishida.
Officiellement présenté par le premier ministre pour « accélérer la mise en place des abenomics » – sa politique économique –, le nouveau cabinet est nommé trois semaines après la large victoire du Parti libéral-démocrate (PLD, conservateur) aux élections sénatoriales. Depuis, ce parti et ses alliés détiennent les deux tiers des sièges aux deux Chambres, ce qui doit permettre à M. Abe de concrétiser sa vieille ambition de réviser la Constitution.
Tomomi Inada nie le massacre de Nankin par l’armée impériale japonaise en 1937 ou l’existence des femmes dites « de réconfort »
Il a choisi de confier le ministère de la défense à Tomomi Inada. Deuxième femme à occuper cette position après Yuriko Koike en 2007 – dans le premier gouvernement Abe –, elle n’a pas d’expertise particulière dans ce domaine. Elle sera pourtant chargée de mener la délicate mise en œuvre des législations sécuritaires votées en 2015, notamment le nouveau cadre d’intervention des Forces d’autodéfense à l’étranger.
Mais Mme Inada bénéficie de sa proximité avec le premier ministre, dont elle serait la « protégée ». M. Abe la considérerait même comme son potentiel successeur, en raison notamment de leur proximité idéologique. Il l’a nommée en 2014 à la tête du conseil d’analyse politique du PLD, un poste qui revient traditionnellement à des élus plus expérimentés, après qu’elle a détenu le portefeuille de la réforme administrative de 2012 à 2014. « M. Abe veut perpétuer son pouvoir, analyse Koichi Nakano, de l’université Sophia. Il n’envisage pas d’autres successeurs que Mme Inada, qui n’est toutefois pas encore prête pour le poste. »
Mme Inada multiplie les prises de position révisionnistes
Elue depuis 2005 du département de Fukui (centre), cette ancienne avocate de 57 ans est connue pour ses prises de position nationalistes, proches de celle de M. Abe. Avant de s’engager en politique, elle a notamment défendu des officiers nippons s’étant sentis diffamés par les écrits de l’écrivain Kenzaburo Oe sur leur comportement pendant la bataille d’Okinawa, en 1945.
Depuis son entrée au Parlement, elle multiplie les prises de position révisionnistes, niant le massacre de Nankin par l’armée impériale japonaise en 1937 ou l’existence des femmes dites « de réconfort ». En 2015, année des 70 ans de la fin de la guerre, elle a plusieurs fois appelé à ne pas s’excuser.
Membre de l’organisation ultranationaliste Nippon Kaigi, elle a également rejeté l’emploi du mot « invasion » pour qualifier l’action du Japon en Asie et défend les visites au controversé sanctuaire Yasukuni, qui honore les soldats morts pour la patrie, parmi lesquels des criminels de guerre. Mme Inada est également favorable à la révision de la Constitution. Des positions qui ne manqueront pas de compliquer encore plus les relations avec la Chine et la Corée du Sud.
Pour son remaniement, le chef du gouvernement s’est séparé des deux ministres ayant perdu leurs sièges aux sénatoriales, Mitsuhide Iwaki (justice) et Aiko Shimajiri (chargé des affaires d’Okinawa). Bien que sollicité pour rester au gouvernement, Shigeru Ishiba a choisi de le quitter. Ce poids lourd de la politique japonaise ambitionnerait de succéder à M. Abe.
Le premier ministre a par ailleurs intégré plusieurs membres de la Seiwakai, sa propre faction au sein du PLD et la plus puissante du parti, notamment Hiroshige Seko, qui remplace Motoo Hayashi au ministère de l’économie, le METI.
Battre le record de longévité au pouvoir depuis la guerre
Le premier ministre japonais, Shinzo Abe (au centre), quitte sa résidence officielle pour se rendre au palais impérial, le 3 août, à Tokyo. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP
Egalement dans la perspective de conforter son pouvoir, le chef du gouvernement a renforcé son emprise sur le PLD. Outre la promotion de Hiroyuki Hosoda – un autre membre de la Seiwakai – à la tête du conseil général du parti, il a choisi Toshihiro Nikai, un baron du PLD favorable aux abenomics et disposant d’un excellent réseau d’amitiés en Chine, pour en occuper le secrétariat général en remplacement de Sadakazu Tanigaki, victime en juillet d’un grave accident de vélo.
M. Nikai dirige sa propre faction au PLD. Il fut longtemps considéré comme un rival potentiel de M. Abe, qui, depuis plusieurs mois, fait tout pour l’amadouer. Si bien que celui-ci serait désormais favorable à la prolongation du mandat de M. Abe à la tête du parti. De fait, M. Abe, dont le mandat de président du PLD se termine en septembre 2018, aimerait le conserver. Il souhaiterait rester au pouvoir au moins jusqu’aux Jeux olympiques de Tokyo de 2020 et battre le record de longévité au pouvoir depuis la guerre. Ce record est détenu par son grand-oncle Eisaku Sato, en poste de 1964 à 1972.
Mais ses choix de nommer des proches et des membres de sa propre faction aux postes-clés du gouvernement et du parti rappellent la gestion de son premier gouvernement en 2006. Le fonctionnement du cabinet avait été un échec, notamment par l’enchaînement des maladresses de personnalités qui maîtrisaient mal leurs attributions.
Philippe Mesmer (Tokyo, correspondance) Journaliste au Monde
Japan's newly-appointed Defense Minister Tomomi Inada answers questions from reporters at the prime... Read more
TOKYO (AP) — A woman who has downplayed Japan's wartime actions and is known for far-right views was named defense minister in a Cabinet reshuffle Wednesday, a move that could unsettle Tokyo's relations with Asian neighbors with bitter memories of its World War II-era atrocities.
Tomomi Inada, a former reform minister who most recently was policy chief in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, replaced Gen Nakatani as defense minister. She is the second female to fill the post.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed more than half of the 19-member Cabinet in a bid to support his economic and security policies, as well as push for revising Japan's postwar pacifist constitution.
While keeping the economy as the top priority, Abe said he would do his "utmost to achieve a (constitutional) revision during my term," which ends in September 2018.
A lawyer-turned-lawmaker with little experience in defense, Inada is one of Abe's favorites. She regularly visits Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war dead including convicted war criminals, a gesture seen as an endorsement of Japan's militaristic past.
She also has defended Japan's wartime atrocities, including forcing many Asian women into sexual servitude in military-run brothels, and has led a party committee to re-evaluate the judgment of war tribunals led by the victorious Allies.
Her link to a notorious anti-Korea group was acknowledged by a court this year in a defamation case she lost. Inada also was seen posing with the leader of a neo-Nazi group in a 2011 photo that surfaced in the media in 2014.
Inada, 57, is a supporter of Abe's long-cherished hope to revise Japan's Constitution. She has said parts of the war-renouncing Article 9 should be scrapped, arguing that they could be interpreted as banning Japan's military.
Inada said she would try to protect peace and safety under the Japan-U.S. alliance, a cornerstone of Japan's security and diplomacy. At a news conference after her appointment, she refused to say if she planned to visit Yasukuni to mark the Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of World War II.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. would sustain its close cooperation with the government of Japan.
Asked about the possibility of the new defense minister visiting the shrine, Toner told reporters: "We continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a manner that promotes healing and reconciliation. That's always been our position."
Inada called the test launch of a North Korean missile that fell into the sea off Japan's northwestern coast on Wednesday a serious threat. She said the security environment surrounding Japan is worsening "by the day." Yet, when asked about her suggestion in a 2011 magazine interview that Japan should consider possessing atomic weapons, she said the country at the moment is supposed to keep its military capability at a bare minimum and it's not the time to study the nuclear option.
Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga were among key Cabinet members who retained their portfolios, while 10 ministers were replaced in the reshuffle. Many are not necessarily experts in their assigned portfolio, prompting opposition lawmakers to criticize Abe for dominating the Cabinet with like-minded supporters of his political views.
Abe, whose key policies include women's advancement, will have two other female Cabinet members, including one who will serve as Olympic minister after being shifted from environment minister. Tokyo is to host the 2020 Summer Games.
While campaigning for last month's upper house elections, Abe promised to focus on economic revitalization in the short term, and to later seek to revise the constitution.
Since he took office in late 2012, Abe has sought to boost growth by pumping massive amounts of money into the world's third-biggest economy. But lavish monetary easing and public works spending so far have failed to reignite growth as much as hoped.
The reshuffle was the third since Abe took office, and the first since October. ___
Follow Mari Yamaguchi at twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
A woman who questions Japan’s widely acknowledged role in Second World War atrocities and who believes that it should consider acquiring nuclear weapons is expected to be named today as the country’s defence minister.
According to Japanese newspapers, Tomomi Inada will be appointed as part of a cabinet reshuffle, the first since Shinzo Abe’s victory in parliamentary elections last month.
The decision may further alienate China at a time of tension over a territorial dispute. The Chinese navy is running a live ammunition drill in the East China Sea involving hundreds of ships and submarines, apparently in preparation for a “cruel and short” war at sea.
Ms Inada, 57, a close ideological ally of Mr Abe, moves from the job of policy chief in his Liberal Democratic Party. She is associated with Nippon Kaigi, a right-wing organisation dedicated to refuting what it holds to be lies told about the wartime conduct of the Imperial Army.
She insists that the “comfort women” forced to service Japanese troops during the war — in effect sex slaves, many of them from Korea — were willing prostitutes legally recruited. She also questions estimates of the number of Chinese civilians killed by Japanese soldiers in the Rape of Nanking, and the legality of the post-war tribunal which convicted and hanged Japanese leaders as war criminals.
A regular worshipper at the Yasukuni shrine, where Japan’s war dead are revered as Shinto gods, Ms Inada has also been photographed alongside Kazunari Yamada, leader of the far-right National Socialist Japanese Workers’ Party. He wears a swastika armband and boasts of his friendship with Neo-Nazis around the world, insists that the Holocaust “couldn’t have happened” and speaks of “what great things Hitler did”.
In 2011 Ms Inada was barred from entering South Korea for her revisionist views of history. It is not clear whether this ban will be lifted if she is appointed defence minister.
In a parliament with a low proportion of female MPs, she is sometimes spoken of as a potential national leader. Mr Abe said in 2010: “When a Japanese woman becomes prime minister for the first time, it will be Tomomi Inada.”