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Ishihara talks up weapons exports as deterrent

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) leader Shintaro Ishihara said Monday that Japan should produce arms for export overseas so its advanced military technology can act as a deterrent.

“We should sell as many excellent weapons as possible . . . The technologies are much more advanced. We should seriously consider this,” the outspoken 80-year-old hawk said in a group interview with The Japan Times and other media outlets before gearing up to campaign for the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

Ishihara criticized the government’s arms embargo principles, which were set in the 1960s but have been modified by successive administrations, as “nonsense.” In 1976, a key condition was attached by former Prime Minister Takeo Miki, who said Japan should refrain from exporting weapons because the Constitution stipulates that Japan forever renounces war.

Known for his hawkish stance toward China, Ishihara warned against tolerating China’s expansionist muscle flexing, citing Beijing’s treatment of Tibet as an example.

“I don’t want Japan to be the second Tibet. If we leave the matter of Senkaku Islands unattended, China may take over territories in the South China Sea,” he said.

Before abruptly resigning as Tokyo governor last month, Ishihara had led an effort by the metropolitan government to purchase three of the uninhabited islets, prompting the central government to outbid him and nationalize them on Sept. 11 to keep them out of Ishihara’s hands.

Now there is concern that his abrasive stance will cause diplomatic problems with China if he becomes Japan’s next prime minister.

Ishihara denied having any desire to lead the nation.

“He’s too old,” said Takeo Hiranuma, who briefly led the now-defunct Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party) with Ishihara before it merged with Nippon Ishin no Kai four days after its launch.

Ishihara said he wants his party to emerge from the election in a strong enough position to have a decisive effect on the ruling coalition, given that no one party is expected to gain a majority on its own.

Touching on nuclear power, Ishihara said he does not support the blind abandonment of nuclear power without first calculating how much energy the economy needs. He also said he basically agrees with the goals of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, with the exception of genetically modified foods.

Asked why he dropped plans to merge with Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan), the antitax, anti-TPP party headed by Nagoya Mayor Takeshi Kawamura, Ishihara said: “I don’t want to blame others, but it’s because the Osaka side rejected it.”

This means objections were likely voiced by Nippon Ishin’s original members, who remain loyal to founder and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a tax hike proponent.

On Nov. 13, Ishihara announced that his fledgling party would merge with Genzei Nippon. He canceled after deciding to merge with Nippon Ishin.

Ishihara, a writer-turned-politician, has been Tokyo’s governor since 1999. A book he coauthored with late Sony Corp. founder Akio Morita, “The Japan That Can Say No,” became a best-seller in 1989.