By Lindsay Potter
The religious cult behind the assassination of Japan’s Prime Minister (PM) Shinzo Abe has its roots in CIA anti-communist meddling and US spycraft dating back 75 years. Abe’s confessed killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he shot Abe because of his ties to the Unification Church, or “Moonies,” founded in South Korea in 1954 to fight against communism. Details continue to surface of links between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), opposition party members, and the Moonies, and of the church’s contributions to campaigns of sitting cabinet members. Clearly aligned with US foreign and military policy, the church has historical connections to the Republican Party and to former presidents Nixon, Bush I, Bush II, and Donald Trump. The LDP itself was formed by the CIA to quash left-wing movements in Japan. Abe’s grandfather and great uncle served as prime ministers, and his LDP has been in power for 63 of the last 67 years, since its inception in 1955. Deep ties between the LDP and CIA have raised suspicions due to the extreme rarity of Abe’s shooting in Japan, a country of 126 million with an average of ten gun deaths a year.
Deleting Article IX
Abe struggled but failed to repeal the constitution’s Article IX, the pacifist clause imposed by post-war US occupying forces which prohibits Japan’s use of military force in international conflicts. Following the July 8 assassination, voters rallied to the LDP and other “pro-amendment” (repeal) coalition parties, and for the first time they won a two-thirds parliamentary majority, the percentage required to revise the constitution. Article IX also forbids maintaining federal land, air, or sea forces, all of which Japan, with strong US support, has increasingly developed and armed in the name of “self-defense.”
Japan is deeply entangled with US and allied military operations. Since 2001, Japan has implemented new laws in the name of “counter-terrorism” militarizing Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF), establishing a base in Djibouti, and allowing JSDF to defend allies in combat. Japan’s navy in the Indian Ocean refueled US warplanes headed to Afghanistan and, in 2004, the JSDF deployed to Iraq for “reconstruction.”
Abe’s Nuclear Legacy
In 2002, Abe publicly claimed, like PMs before him, that Japan’s possession of nuclear weapons would not violate the constitution as long as they were for “defense.” Japan has enough plutonium and enriched uranium to develop nuclear warheads and it has ballistic missile capability. Last February, Abe promoted joining a NATO-style “nuclear sharing” pact and stationing US nuclear weapons in Japan. Both proposals would violate Japan’s three “non-nuclear principles,” limiting research, development, and utilization of nuclear reactors to peaceful uses.
The current PM Fumio Kishida hinted that a situation similar to the Russia-Ukraine conflict could break out between China and Taiwan, which US policy seems determined to provoke. As Japan prepares to release its first “national security strategy revision” since 2013, the document may publicly change Japan’s identity into a military power, potential host of American nukes, or proxy for US wars in the region.
It is hard to imagine that Japan’s population, with its historical aversion to nuclear weapons, would allow nuclear weapons in any way. But Abe brought nuclear reactors back on-line in spite of majority public opposition. Meanwhile, Kishida, who’s from Hiroshima, advocates nuclear disarmament and was the first Japanese PM to attend a Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Still, under heavy US pressure, Japan has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and did not attend the treaty’s First Meeting of States Parties in Vienna, even as an observer. How will Kishida’s personal politics stand up to entrenched LDP policy and to Washington’s incendiary affronts to China, especially as Japan sits between nuclear-armed neighbors? Japan’s nuclear posture remains ambiguous: a large economy returning to nuclear power, poised for contested constitutional revision, in a precarious position as tensions escalate in the Pacific.