Japan maintains ‘pragmatic’ line on Trump incitement to Capitol seat

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When US President Donald Trump instigated an insurgency on January 6 that led to mobs of supporters violently attacking the US Capitol, leaders around the world – including Japan – condemned the move.

But Japan’s lightly worded rebuke contrasted with the forceful language used by leaders around the world.

“Hopefully the difficult situation facing America’s democracy can be overcome, and that stability and harmony will be restored as the country moves towards a peaceful and democratic presidential transition,” said the chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato to reporters on January 7 following the riot that left five. people are dead.

When asked about Trump’s responsibility for the incident, Kato declined to comment, saying it was a domestic US matter.

On January 6, Trump supporters tried to block the U.S. Congress from validating President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election after Trump told them to walk towards the building. The US House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached Trump for inciting a violent insurgency.

Kato’s comment struck a markedly different tone from the reactions of leaders around the world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned Trump by name, saying he created the atmosphere for the violent events. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said democracy should never be overruled by a crowd. French President Emmanuel Macron has said Trump’s action poses a threat to the democratic principle of one person, one voice. Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had been particularly close to Trump, condemned the US president for encouraging people to behave in shameful ways and said he was happy that democracy prevailed with Congress upholding the election. by Biden.

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But when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke out on the matter, during an appearance on a television show for NHK on January 10, he also avoided harsh rhetoric.

“The world sees the United States as the representative of democracy. In that sense, it is extremely unfortunate, ”said Suga. “I hope (the United States) will move from conflict to unity under Biden, the next president.”

Lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party criticized Suga for not sending a clear message to the world.

“It is important that Prime Minister Suga gets the message across. German Chancellor Merkel criticized President Trump for inciting violence, but at the same time she spoke out against the freezing of Trump’s account by Twitter, ”said Masahisa Sato, who heads the Foreign Policy Committee of the United States. party, citing one of the members at a meeting. Wednesday.

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Japanese experts on US policy say Trump’s close relationship with Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe played a role in Suga’s reaction.

Members of the National Guard march past the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. | BLOOMBERG

Hiro Aida, visiting professor at Kansai University and author of several books on US politics, says there are several reasons why the Suga administration has not been as adamant in its criticism of Trump as it has been other governments, including Japanese reluctance to Trump. , which is in part a legacy of the Abe administration.

Abe had a close relationship with Trump during his four years in office, which cemented bilateral ties. Under the bilateral security treaty, the United States defends Japan from foreign attacks and stationed approximately 54,000 troops on American bases in Japan.

“The tradition of conservative politics in Japan is characterized by pragmatism, which is indifferent to principles and ideals. The Japanese government was also reserved in its approach to the Hong Kong issue, ”Aida explains.

“Trump had the best personal relationship with Abe,” says Mieko Nakabayashi, a professor in the school of social sciences at Waseda University. “Suga promised the people and the LDP that he would keep Abe’s policies and legacy. Therefore, criticizing Trump can mean criticizing Abe, which he absolutely wants to avoid.

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Yet Japan’s influential national newspapers condemned the riots, with the Asahi Shimbun writing in his editorial that what happened was a danger to all democracies. Yomiuri Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun newspapers both described what happened as a stain on the democratic process.

Some regional media have used strong language to warn that American democracy is in danger or criticize Trump by name. A Chugoku Shimbun editorial published last Saturday made it clear that the violence on Capitol Hill was a Trump crime and that there was no doubt that the day of the attack was the most shameful in American democracy. A Hokkaido Shimbun editorial the day before said that the first priority of the new Biden administration must be to repair America’s damaged democracy.

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