Further, the clearing away of that political debris will also enable the modification or rewriting of the Japanese Constitution in such a way as to permit the creation of a real, offensive-capable military in Japan. This would have been unthinkable a mere ten years ago.
These stories together say a lot.
From the Taipei Times, Kim Jong-il helps accelerate US, Japanese plan to realign forces
The Dear Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, has inadvertently added urgency to US plans to realign its military forces in Japan and to the Japanese intent to make their forces more relevant, as the US and Japan seek to increase their capabilities by cooperating more closely....
In the weeks following the North Korean launch of seven missiles into the sea between Korea and Japan on July 4, Lieutenant General Bruce Wright, the US Air Force officer who commands US forces in Japan, said there had been "a monumental change" in Japanese attitudes toward transitions already underway.
Japanese officers, queried separately, agreed.
Before, negotiations had been moving along but had run into obstacles due largely to political pressures within Japan. Opposition focused on local issues such as noise from aircraft, crowding as residential areas grew up around once-remote US bases and cultural misunderstandings between Japanese and Americans in Japan.
Those issues have not been entirely swept away but, as a staff officer at a US air base west of Tokyo said, "Japan is on the cusp of major changes in security policy."
The Japanese, for instance, have asked the US to accelerate delivery of Patriot anti-missile batteries to Japan.
The weight of Japan's small but modern armed force is gradually being shifted from Hokkaido, the northern island, where its Northern Army's mission was to repel a possible Russian invasion. Today, Japan sees a near-term threat from North Korea and a slowly developing threat from China. Kyushu is closer to North Korea and China than Hokkaido.And from the Manichi Daily News, Nationalist Abe rides wave of popularity as front-runner to lead Japanese government
A Japanese officer in the Western Army said: "We are the ones out front now."
Abe is far and away the top candidate to take over on Sept. 20 as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a position that guarantees his election by the LDP-controlled parliament to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He is slated to formally declare his candidacy Friday....
His handling of the North Korean kidnapping issue illustrates the traits he will likely bring to the job: a hard-line against North Korea, a defiant and muscular nationalism, and a keen ability to please the crowd.
Abe is unlikely to initiate any breaks in policy with Koizumi. Analysts expect continued market reform and ever-tighter diplomatic and military cooperation with top ally the United States. The security treaty with the U.S. was signed when his grandfather was prime minister.
Recently Abe has floated ideas for creating Japanese versions of the U.S. National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency.
In a book, "Toward a Beautiful Country," and in speeches he's given lately, Abe has signaled what is likely to be a centerpiece of his initial year in office: revision of Japan's U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution, which bars the military from overseas military action.
"It's been 61 years since the end of World War II and we need to start working toward creating a Japan that's suitable for the 21st century," he said during an August speech.
Lastly, from the International Herald Tribune, Report: Japan will treat North Korea nuclear test as national emergency
TOKYO Japan will declare a national emergency if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, a response usually reserved for major earthquakes and other national calamities, a news report said Saturday.Watch as Japan decides to build a real armed force with offensive capabilities.
It is about time.