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Japan Stands Up

TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to extend the Diet’s current session for 95 days, until September 27 – making for the longest continuous session in the Japanese parliament’s postwar history. The reason is clear: Abe is determined to pass a set of national security bills allowing a reinterpretation of Japan’s constitution that enables the country to play a greater role not only in enhancing its own security, but also in advancing world peace.

Abe’s actions in the Diet come on the heels of his performance at the recent G-7 summit in Germany, where he broke with Japanese tradition. For the previous 39 years, Japanese representatives to the G-7 had focused on the economic discussions at such meetings, content to remain largely silent as the industrialized world’s other leaders surveyed the planet’s political hot spots and recommended action or, more often, inaction.

But the summit showed that Japan no longer intends to stand on the diplomatic sidelines. On the two foreign-policy issues that dominated the agenda, Abe was a forceful participant, advocating a muscular response to Russia’s encroachment on Ukraine’s sovereignty – indeed, Abe visited Kyiv before the summit – and supporting efforts to roll back the Islamic State.

Abe’s interventions at the G-7, and his determination to create a legal framework for a more proactive security strategy, are proof that Japan, at long last, is constructing a foreign policy – a Weltpolitik – that reflects not only the global weight of its economy, but also the impact of faraway events on its national security.