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The Price of Abe's Pragmatism

It Has Hurt Japan's Moral Standing

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint news conference in Tokyo, Japan, December 2016. Alexander Zemlianichenko / REUTERS

Over the past few years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has scored a string of foreign policy successes that have led analysts such as Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt to dub him a shrewd pragmatist. In 2015, Abe secured a historic agreement with South Korea, in return for an apology and restitution for World War II era “comfort women.” (Japan’s kidnapping of thousands women and forcing them into sex slavery during the war has regularly harmed relations since it became public in the late 1980s.) He also hosted then-U.S. President Barack Obama at a commemoration in Hiroshima, in which Obama paid respects to the victims of the atomic bomb, a first for a sitting U.S. president. Abe returned the favor by visiting Pearl Harbor, “a remarkable about-face” that the media dubbed yet another demonstration of his political pragmatism.

Abe’s actions, along with his willingness to

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