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Before the year is out, the world could witness Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.
When U.S. President Barack Obama touches down in Asia later this month for a long-overdue trip, he will have a daunting challenge ahead of him: pushing Washington’s two major regional allies together.
Much of the alarmism over Japan’s new national security tilt is misplaced. A balanced interpretation must not dwell only on Abe’s personal views -- and his recent unhelpful visit to Yasukuni Shrine -- but also take into account what policies the country needs to be the United States’ prime ally in the region.
In the wake of his party's victory in recent upper-house elections, some have predicted that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will abandon his efforts to fix his country's troubled economy in favor of military assertiveness. There are several problems with that line of thinking, including Abe's own pragmatism, his country's complicated legislative procedures, and the realities of regional politics.
Japan's recent territorial tussles with China and South Korea and the election of the conservative Shinzo Abe as prime minister have the world worrying that the country is taking a hawkish turn. In practice, however, Tokyo's new government will toe a moderate line and concentrate on strengthening its diplomatic ties.