With the July 21 Upper House elections handing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a solid majority in both chambers of Parliament, the ruling coalition has a serious opportunity to implement Abe’s ambitious economic reform initiatives. Though there are many politically unpopular obstacles standing in the way of such reform, this victory is an endorsement of the Liberal Democratic Party’s “Abenomics” agenda and represents one of the first major shifts in Japanese politics since 2007. For ongoing coverage and analysis on Japanese domestic politics, keep updated by AEI’s foreign and defense policy scholars.
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Security concerns in the Asia-Pacific are on the rise. Tensions over territorial disputes have spiked across the region. China is menacing its neighbors. North Korea continues to pursue a dangerous nuclear weapons capability. The United States has announced a pivot to Asia, but defense budget cuts and challenges elsewhere in the world may undermine the president's promises to America's allies.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recognized that the environment in which Japan lives is changing. Japan must change along with it or live at the mercy of others less hesitant to shape the world to their own desires.
The president promised Tokyo that the U.S. would protect Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands-but after Syria and Crimea, Obama's tough talk may fail to impress Beijing.
President Obama will leave Japan without a vital trade deal. Instead, TPP talks now look like they could drag on indefinitely, with no real deadline to push the parties forward. TPP is a microcosm of a larger failure: lack of political courage in Tokyo has long contributed to economic stagnation, and now the same thing is starting to occur in Washington.
More importantly, when Obama sat down with Abe for sushi on April 23, he hopefully recognized that the Japanese prime minister may represent the last, best hope for keeping alive the administration's pivot, to Asia.