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[Newsmaker] Ex-prime minister fans Japan’s nationalist fever

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister, seems desperate to grasp his nation’s top political post again, judging by his decision to jump into the intensifying diplomatic spat between Korea and Japan in a thinly veiled tactical move.

Fully aware of the extreme sensitivity of the issue, Abe pledged to reverse all of Japan’s past apologetic statements over its colonial atrocities, if his party wins the election and he is again elected prime minister.

Abe’s newly reaffirmed stance on the issue comes as no surprise. He and many other Japanese politicians have long been refusing to formally and fully acknowledge and accept responsibility for sexually enslaving some 200,000 Asian women during World War II ― many of whom were Korean.

Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe

Why did Abe attempt to highlight his premature election pledge at this point? Does he not have more important political and economic issues to address ahead of crucial parliamentary polls that might be held as early as October?

For his Liberal Democratic Party to win in the forthcoming elections, Abe seems convinced that his right-wing posturing could win back more votes by touching the hearts of nationalistic voters.

Abe is also in fierce competition with other Japanese politicians ― Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda included ― who are rushing to strengthen their positions by jumping into the fray created when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made his Aug. 10 visit to the Dokdo islets.

What is surprising here is that both ruling and opposition party members in Japan are joining forces to deny the country’s shameful past. This collective denial comes at a time when Japanese voters show no preference toward either party.

Instead of offering fresh visions and constructive policies, Japanese politicians are scrambling to take up emotionally charged issues such as territorial disputes and the acknowledgement of colonial atrocities.

Expect more denial-obsessed Abes as the election draws near in Japan.

By Yang Sung-jin (