Pulling no punches as usual, outspoken Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara accused Beijing of being a "robber" for trying to interfere with Japan's effective control over the disputed Senkaku Islands, which China also claims.
“China has announced its intent to rob someone’s house by force," Ishihara told a packed news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo on May 29. "As it has caused similar diplomatic troubles in the past, we must prepare to lock up our door tighter.”
During his 90-minute news conference to about 220 journalists, camera crews and members in the club’s main conference room, as many journalists often rolled their eyes at his brutally frank remarks, Ishihara continually attacked all parties from China to even his own electorate in Tokyo.
It has been a standard tactic for Japan’s “reformist” politicians to single out enemies and take confrontational stances against them since the enormous success of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who labeled opponents even within his own Liberal Democratic Party as “resistance forces.”
But Ishihara, arguably one of the early inventors of the method, still draws a clear line from other confrontationists by his ruthless, often abusive and discriminatory verbal attacks against his enemies and critics.
Ishihara said Japan and the United States are making too much of a concession to China, as they naively believe in the potential of its enormous market.
“A country that steals from the originality and inventive genius of other countries would destroy the latter's technologies, which are the foundation of their civilization and economy,” the Tokyo governor said. “It’s extremely dangerous. We should turn to other markets like Indonesia and India.”
The 79-year-old novelist-turned politician, who also spent 25 years as a Diet member, continued on the attack, criticizing the Japan-U.S. post-war relationship, and calling his country a “mistress” of Washington.
“But our master is now on the decline--he is old and losing his physical strength. It is why Japan now has to sheepishly deal with China.”
He also called Foreign Ministry officials “extremely corrupted” for prioritizing diplomatic favors for China and United States over Japanese interests.
Asked if he supports popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who also has seized the political spotlight through his confrontational rhetoric, Ishihara even helped identify the mayor’s potential opponents.
Ishihara said Hashimoto will be fighting an uphill battle against vested interests, which the governor said are controlled by particular rights groups.
“He will need to take up a life-or-death battle against them, and I will support him in one way or another,” Ishihara said of the flamboyant Osaka mayor.
Questions from reporters also centered on Tokyo’s incessant quest for hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, and Tokyoites’ stagnant support for the bid. Tokyo is one of the finalists along with Istanbul and Madrid, although the International Olympic Committee is concerned about the low public support rate for the bid. Again, Ishihara was ruthless in criticizing his own electorate.
“Tokyoites are difficult to satisfy, because they are full of themselves and take everything for granted,” he said. “They are of a different species from other Japanese, in the sense they only care about themselves. It’s OK, even if they don’t show up for the Games. Everyone else from around the country will come, once we host the Olympic Games.”
Audience members may have wondered why such an established, influential politician needs to stay so provocative, and Ishihara gave a clue to understanding his unique psychology during the news conference.
While he often criticizes the Japanese for being self-denigrating when they view their country’s modern history, he seemed to take the strong consciousness of a victim when he views Japan’s present state in international politics.
“I want everyone to look at Japan’s position in today’s world, and you will see the country is in the most precarious position in international politics,” he said.
Two of Japan’s neighbors, Russia and North Korea, are armed with nuclear weapons, according to Ishihara.
“China, with its traditional expansionist ideology, is also seeking hegemony in the Pacific, and the Senkaku issue should be considered as the first step of its ambition,” he said.
Ishihara is leading an effort by the Tokyo metropolitan government to buy three of the disputed Senkaku Islands, located about 170 kilometers north-northwest of Ishigakijima island in Okinawa Prefecture, which has angered China.
Stirring controversy may also be the governor's deliberate tactic to influence national politics, but the news conference made one thing clear--Ishihara thinks the Japanese public is unable to ignore him, regardless if they support him or not.
Asked if Tokyoites’ reluctance to host the Olympic Games is a no vote on his own personality, Ishihara said with a confident smile, “If I step down and then more people will support Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympic Games, I will resign as soon as tomorrow.”
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