Asian neighbours nervous after election comeback for Japanese 'warmonger'

LDP leader Shinzo Abe vows to challenge the pacifist constitution and spend on defence

Tokyo

Three years after being dumped from power and written off by some as a political force, Japan's conservative Liberal Democrats have scored a remarkable electoral comeback in a victory with potentially ominous implications for the rest of Asia.

With votes still being counted from today's general election, the LDP was projected to win control of the 480-seat lower house with coalition partner New Komeito.

The hawkish LDP leader Shinzo Abe, who has pledged to revive Japan's stagnant economy and aggressively defend its territorial interests, is now certain to become the nation's next Prime Minister – its seventh in six years.

The LDP's liberal-left rival, the Democratic Party, was pummelled at the polls for breaking electoral promises on welfare, tax and defence, shedding more than 200 seats. The Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who lost much of his public support by backing a tax rise and supporting nuclear power, conceded defeat last night.

Mr Abe wants to boost spending on public works and restart Japan's nuclear reactors, most of which are idling in the wake of last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster. His remedy for the economy, which is sliding into its fifth recession in 15 years, involves forcing the nation's central bank to buy billions of yen in special government bonds. "What's first and foremost is to achieve an economic recovery and pull Japan out of deflation," he told a television station last night.

But it is his foreign policy views that worry some in Asia. Mr Abe has repeatedly pledged to challenge Japan's pacifist constitution and increase defence spending, a strategy likely to anger China and South Korea. The China Daily has dubbed him a "warmonger with dangerous designs".

In campaign speeches, he dwelt on deteriorating Sino-Japanese ties, which have soured over a bitter territorial dispute. "Japan's beautiful seas and its territory are under threat," he said this month. "I promise to protect Japan's land and sea, and the lives of the Japanese people no matter what."

Mr Abe is part of a group of conservative politicians who believe Japan must end what they see as national self-flagellation about the nation's war record. After he took over leadership of the LDP in October, he made a pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which is dedicated to Japan's Second World War leaders, including convicted war criminals, along with more than two million ordinary soldiers.

Many analysts predict, however, that Mr Abe will tread carefully while in office to avoid friction with the US. Japan's media says Washington, which is committed to defending Japan if it comes to blows with China over the disputed Senkaku/Daioyu islands, has already made it clear that it wants both sides to tone down the heated rhetoric of the past few months.

The Buddhist-backed New Komeito, has confirmed that it is willing to form a coalition government, but the LDP has not ruled out co-operating with the right-wing Japan Restoration Party, set to win about 45 seats. An LDP/Restoration government is likely to take a harder line on foreign policy.

It will be Mr Abe's second stint as Japan's leader. His previous 12 months in office in 2006-07 were consumed by his passion for rebuilding what he famously called a "beautiful Japan". In practice that meant a botched attempt to scrap the war-renouncing constitution and a distracting campaign to deny Japan's involvement in rounding up thousands of sex slaves during the war.

He left office after a fierce battering from the media, complaining of a stress-induced digestive disorder that forced him to miss parliamentary sessions for repeated trips to the toilet. Mr Abe will be confirmed as Prime Minister on 26 December.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ideal candidates for the role m...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific