July 27, 2022

Want to Help Taiwan? Support a Muscular Japan

By Daniel Silverberg

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assassination earlier this month registered sympathy in the United States but not much attention. The murder quickly faded from headlines, and the fact that Japan held a successful election merely 48 hours after the murder stifled any drama that might otherwise have attracted Americans' attention.

Abe was a complex leader. He embraced historical revisionism and unabashed Japanese nationalism — epitomized by his 2021 visit to Yasukuni shrine, where Japanese military figures, including war criminals, are honored. He wanted Japan to become a "normal country" — unshackled from post-World War II restraints and free to throw its geopolitical weight around.

Japan's political leadership must fight to sustain Abe's spirited internationalism, despite mixed political support at home.

For the U.S., there was a glass-half-full quality to Abe's assertiveness. Abe recognized that the U.S. needs a partner in arresting China's aggressive expansionism, and that Japan possesses the financial and military strength to be that partner. He pushed Japan to move beyond decades-long pacifism to assert itself militarily and economically. This is exactly what the U.S. needs today, and Japan's political leadership must fight to sustain Abe's spirited internationalism, despite mixed political support at home.

First, the U.S. will need Japan to continue to sacrifice its own energy security to sustain European energy needs. Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Japan has provided a natural gas lifeline for a gas-starved Europe. At the urging of the White House last February, Japan diverted liquid natural gas (LNG) shipments from Tokyo to Europe to keep the lights on. This required Japan to accept far lower LNG stores than normal — a tough and risky step amid rising fuel prices and inflation, as well as the absence of an alternative source. Japan may be asked to continue to forgo its own gas supplies until the U.S., European Union, and the G7 come up with plausible alternatives to Russian gas (including a bipartisan-endorsed Alaska-Japan LNG project).

Read the full article from Newsweek.

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