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Japan's neighbours fear Abe's nationalism
Jim Middleton speaks with Akihisa Nagashima, a member of Japan's Opposition and potential Foreign Minister.

Japan's neighbours have been watching with some trepidation now that prime minister Shinzo Abe has cemented control of both houses of parliament.

The fear is that the conservative Mr Abe will pursue a more assertive nationalism, stirring up wartime sensitivities and once again building up his country's military.

Any such moves, though, could offend Japan's pacifist constitution.

Akihisa Nagashima is a member of the country's opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, and is touted as a potential party leader and foreign minister.

JIM MIDDLETON: Akihisa Nagashima, thanks very much for your time


JIM MIDDLETON: Now that Shinzo Abe has control of both houses of the Japanese parliament, what are the immediate implications for the course and conduct of Japanese foreign and security policy?

AKIHISA NAGASHIMA: Just first foremost priority is to revitalise the Japan economy. And I believe his own agenda of history problem and other security policy vision and more constitutional division will I think be postponed.

JIM MIDDLETON: So how important a signal is it then that it does appear that Mr Abe will not visit the Yasukuni shrine on August the 15th, which is, of course, the anniversary of the end of World War II? Just how symbolic is that?

AKIHISA NAGASHIMA: Of course it's really very important gesture in terms of foreign relations with Korea and China, as well as with the United States. Many, you know, policy makers and experts in Washington really worry about Abe's sticking to his own agenda, namely history and constitutional division.

JIM MIDDLETON: What are we to make then of the fact that the Japanese government is now commissioning a huge new warship, the biggest since World War II, twice the size of anything that the Self Defence Force has currently, a helicopter carrier? Just where does that sit and how does that sit with the pacifist tendencies of Japan's post World War II constitution?

AKIHISA NAGASHIMA: Actually that ship was funded by DPJ government two years ago, our government. Actually, you know, that is helicopter carrier we call it destroyer, but the function is five helicopters operating at a time. Very useful to defend sea lines and communication for Japan, which is vital to the Japanese economy. And also we are now facing very aggressive Chinese maritime advancement, both in South China Sea and East China Sea.

JIM MIDDLETON: So you think this development is entirely consistent with the provisions of the Japanese constitution, and you don't think, do you, that it will be provocative, in particular for the Chinese, but also that the United States may feel a little uneasy about having such a large piece of naval hardware in the hands of Japan?

AKIHISA NAGASHIMA: Actually, the United States are very much supportive. I haven't heard of any anxiety from Washington. However, the Chinese really may be annoyed or concerned about the naval build-up that Japan is now doing.

But, you know, the Chinese military budget is almost tripled as Japan's. and their naval forces and maritime government forces really are getting bigger and bigger.

JIM MIDDLETON: One final question: why is it then that Japan and China find it so difficult to resolve these long standing territorial disputes? Wouldn't it be in both countries' interests to jointly develop the resources under the sea and under the sea bed rather than spending so much time and energy in confrontation?

AKIHISA NAGASHIMA: There is history. Of course we really reflected - I mean, we are reflecting what we did in the past to the Chinese people. However, the total issue is nothing to do with that history. It's a sovereign issue.

So we are not hastily compromising on that issue. But we are not going to exacerbate or escalate the issues. And I think, you know, maybe in this coming September or October I believe that the Chinese and Japanese top leaders will meet to at least try to sit down to solve that problem diplomatically.

JIM MIDDLETON: Akihisa Nagashima, thank you very much.

AKIHISA NAGASHIMA: Thank you very much.
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