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Japan maintains its “pragmatic” stance on Trump’s incitement to blockade the Capitol

When US President Donald Trump instigated a revolt on January 6 that led a crowd of supporters to violently attack the US Capitol, leaders around the world – including in Japan – condemned the move.

But Japan’s mildly worded rebuke contrasts with the powerful language used by leaders around the world.

Prime Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters on January 7 after riots that left five people dead.

Asked about Trump’s responsibility for the incident, Cato declined to comment, saying it was an internal matter of the United States

On January 6, Trump supporters tried to prevent the US Congress from endorsing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November elections, after Trump told them to walk to the building. On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting a violent revolt.

Cato’s comment created a markedly different tone from the reactions of leaders around the world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned Trump by name, saying he had created the atmosphere for the violence. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said democracy should never be rolled back by the mob. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Trump’s behavior is a threat to the democratic principle of one person with one vote. Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been particularly close to Trump, denounced the US president for encouraging people to behave in a disgraceful way, and said he was pleased with the spread of democracy after Congress confirmed Biden’s election.

But when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke about the issue, while on an NHK TV show on January 10, he also avoided the harsh rhetoric.

The world sees the United States as the representative of democracy. In that sense, it is very regrettable, ”Suga said.“ I hope (the United States) will move from conflict to unity under Biden, the next president. ”

Lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party criticized Suga for not sending a clear message to the world.

It’s important for Prime Minister Suga to get the message across. German Chancellor Merkel criticized President Trump for inciting violence, but at the same time, she said she opposes freezing Twitter for Trump, “Masahisa Sato, who heads the party’s foreign policy committee, quoted a member as saying at a meeting Wednesday.

Members of the National Guard march in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington on Wednesday. | Bloomberg

Japanese experts on American politics say Trump’s close relationship with Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, played a role in Suga’s response.

Hiro Aida, a visiting professor at Kansai University and author of several books on US policy, says there are several reasons for the Suga administration not as open in its criticism of Trump as other governments, including Japan’s reservations toward Trump. It is part of the Abe administration’s legacy.

Abe cemented a close relationship with Trump during his four years in office, further strengthening bilateral ties. Under the bilateral security treaty, the United States will defend Japan against any foreign attack and have 54,000 troops stationed at US bases in Japan.

Japan’s conservative political traditions are characterized by pragmatism and indifference to principles and ideals. The Japanese government has also been conservative in its approach to the Hong Kong issue.

“Trump had the best personal relationship with Abe,” says Mikko Nakabayashi, a professor in Waseda University’s School of Social Sciences. “Suga promised the people and the LDP that he would preserve Abe’s policies and legacy. So, criticizing Trump might mean criticizing Abe, which he definitely wants to avoid.”

However, influential Japanese national newspapers condemned the riots, and the Asahi Shimbun wrote in its editorial that what happened was a danger to all democracies. The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun described what happened as a stain on the democratic process.

Some regional media have used strong language to warn that US democracy is at risk or have criticized Trump by name. A Chugoku Shimbun editorial published last Saturday clearly stated that Capitol violence was a crime by Trump, and that there is no doubt that the day of the attack was the most disgraceful to American democracy. The Hokkaido Shimbun editorial the day before said that the first priority for the incoming Biden administration should be to repair a damaged American democracy.

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