Donald Trump faces Asia’s new world order

Donald Trump faces Asia’s new world order, by Rowan Callick.

Shinzo Abe’s resounding electoral victory is reverberating awkwardly around a jumpy region already on constant high alert thanks to the unremitting aggression of Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. …

Abe is now armed with the two-thirds parliamentary majority he needs to change the country’s pacifist constitution, to recognise formally the role of the Japan Self-Defence Forces, as the military is titled. While long flagged, this will cause countries that Japan invaded in the 20th century — especially South Korea and China — to ramp up their antagonistic rhetoric. …

Most Japanese voters, in giving his government a third four-year term, said that the economy was their prime concern — and they were prepared to give Abe yet more time to pursue his ambitious “Abenomics” program to revive it.

But Abe’s resolute approach to North Korea was the element that clinched the crucial extent of the win for his centre-right Liberal Democratic Party and its Buddhist coalition partner, Komeito.

Abe stressed during the campaign that he “will not waver” in the face of North Korean threats.

Immediately after Sunday’s victory he said “my imminent task is to firmly deal with North Korea”. But not, at this stage anyway, militarily. “Strong diplomacy is required,” Abe said. …

Japan has the eighth highest military budget in the world — $59 billion last year and 1 per cent of gross domestic product — with about 247,000 active personnel. Australia’s defence budget is $35bn, 1.9 per cent of GDP, with 58,000 active personnel. …

Japan’s defence budget has increased for five years in a row under Abe, who now wants to spend heavily on upgrading missile defence systems. The whole region rapidly is ramping up its military spending, with Abe warning that North Korea could target Japan with missiles laden with deadly sarin gas.

hat-tip Stephen Neil