An August 11 New York Times article, “Trump’s Tough Talk on North Korea Puts Japan’s Leader in Delicate Spot,” assessed President Donald Trump’s heated rhetoric towards North Korea from the perspective of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The article included insight from Sasakawa USA Fellow for Economy, Trade, and Business Tobias Harris.
According to the article, while Prime Minister Abe is eager to toughen Japan’s stance towards North Korea and strengthen Japan’s military, the Japanese public is less eager to veer from the country’s pacifist constitution, with just one-third supporting the constitutional revisions desired by Prime Minister Abe. At the same time, President Trump’s willingness to use tougher rhetoric towards North Korea may make it harder for Abe to balance his desire to expand the capabilities of Japan’s Self Defense Forces with the public’s disinterest in constitutional revision.
Harris told the New York Times, “if it looks like the U.S. set off the chain of events that led to escalation, and Abe didn’t use his relationship with Trump to moderate that, it’s easy to imagine that there would be a domestic price to pay.” Mr. Harris went on to say that the Japanese public is less interested in brinkmanship than President Trump.
The article also drew on the knowledge of a range of experts, including James Schoff, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Hideshi Takesada of the Institute of World Studies at Takushoku University in Japan.