Shintaro Ishihara, the co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai) and former Tokyo governor, has resumed his life as a politician after weeks of being out of the public eye. He later confirmed speculation that he had suffered a stroke in late February and was hospitalized due to a cold.
Ishihara, 80, resigned as Tokyo governor before running in the Lower House election in December 2012.
Ishihara, a former Liberal Democratic Party member, is the co-leader of the JRP with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. The JRP holds 54 of 480 seats in the Lower House and 3 of 242 seats in the Upper House.
In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on April 4, Ishihara emphasized that he will make constitutional revision an important issue of the campaign of the Upper House election slated for this summer. Ishihara also said his last job as a politician will be to pave the way for Hashimoto to become prime minister.
Question: Will revising the Constitution be an issue in the Upper House election slated for this summer?
Shintaro Ishihara: It should be. Japan has been isolated and ignored in the international community. In order to secure its international status, it should revise the Constitution. That is the responsibility of the current administration, whose members constitute two-thirds of the Lower House.
Q: The JRP platform states that the postwar Constitution “has forced Japan into isolation and made Japan a target of disdain.” Many people disagree.
A: Japan has been deprived of part of its territory and people and has been intimidated by nuclear weapons by surrounding countries. Japan is the only country being treated like this, but the people do not believe so. Japan should become a strong military power and technology-based nation. A nation’s voice can be backed by military power and the economy. A defense industry can best contribute to revitalizing a nation’s economy. To discuss possible nuclear armament is an option for Japan’s future.
Q: The JRP says it will work to prevent the ruling coalition of the LDP and New Komeito from securing a majority and “win two-thirds of the seats by constitutional revisionists” in this summer’s Upper House election. Don’t you see the contradiction?
A: Where do you think it contradicts? We need to form a system that will make people think that 'politics move thanks to the JRP.' Even if we assert the right things, still we need enough people to make it happen.
I don't mind seeing the Democratic Party of Japan split. If it does, it would highlight its incompetence and the little possibility of its success as a political party. If the DPJ is split up, it can help accelerate the move for political realignment.
Q: New Komeito is cautious about making constitutional changes.
A: That party is a big stumbling block in promoting constitutional revision. They apparently have been put to the test as to whether they support the (pacifist) Constitution. The test will show its identity as a people’s party.
Q: Are you going to form a coalition with the LDP after the Upper House election?
A: Well, I don’t know. People can easily say ‘(form) a coalition.’ But whether a party can have a Cabinet member appointed from its ranks is not an important matter. The key is how it tackles political issues. The current system, “high standards of welfare with low tax burden,” will no longer work. We have to change the fundamentals of the country.
Q: How do you assess Abe, who has been in office for 100 days?
A: I would say he has been innocuous. (Prime Minister Abe) is not quite as educated as Nobusuke Kishi, his grandfather and former prime minister. I personally want to see Hashimoto become the prime minister. He has guts and stakes his life on politics. I feel empathy as a man. The JRP, the national party, is a recycled party of (Hashimoto's) Osaka Ishin no Kai after all, with the Osaka party being the originator. He can be a revolutionary.
Q: Don’t you have plans of your own for being prime minister?
A: I don’t have the stamina. I see myself as a 'special weapon,' but the LDP was unable to make full use of it. I believe my final job as a politician is to support Hashimoto. I still want Hashimoto to run in the Upper House election in order to make the election worthwhile.
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