by Jon Day
TOKYO, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's appointment of Tomomi Inada as defense minister following a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday has underscored his intentions to forge ahead with a controversial push to amend the nation's pacifist Constitution and further expand the scope of the nation's military, observers here have said.
The prime minister, nevertheless, has maintained that the reshuffle was aimed at speeding up the pace of the nation's sluggish economic revival, following multiple failed installments of his "Abenomics" economic policy mix, following the approval a day earlier of a 28.1 trillion yen (277.74 billion U.S. dollar) stimulus package.
However, political observers attest that the hawkish Inada, 57, a particularly close ally of Abe's, yet a novice when it comes to security issues, being given the defense minister's portfolio demonstrates the prime minister's intention to use his coalition's newly-gained dominance in both chambers of parliament to advance his legacy-led mission to fundamentally reshape Japan's security paradigm in the biggest, most controversial shift since WWII.
Security experts as well as senior members within the defense ministry itself believe that Inada, Japan's second female defense minister following Yuriko Koike, herself recently elected to be Tokyo governor who held the position briefly in 2007, is ill-equipped and lacks the necessary experience to hold the defense ministry's top post.
Inada is currently only serving her fourth term as a lower house lawmaker and previously held the post of state minister in charge of administrative reform for just two years and has chaired the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council again for just two years.
Defense, security and military affairs are not in her repertoire, experts close to the matter have maintained.
Inada, however, is known to share the prime minister's singular goal of revising Japan's postwar, pacifist constitution and is also, along with Abe and a number of other prominent cabinet members, a visible member of the ultra-right wing Nippon Kaigi fraternity.
"Inada has long been a member of Abe's inner coterie and shares his fundamental beliefs about the future course of the nation's political and security direction," Asian affairs commentator Kaoru Imori told Xinhua, ahead of Inada's widely-expected appointment.
"She is also a known right-wing revisionist and has made a number of controversial remarks about Japan's history, and her membership to the right wing Nippon Kaigi group is evidence of her tendentious political and nationalistic views," Imori added.
Nippon Kaigi is an ultranationalistic nonparty entity with around 300,000 members who all believe in praising the Imperial family (The Emperor), changing the war-renouncing, pacifist Constitution, promoting nationalistic education in schools and supporting parliamentarians' visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.
It is the biggest right-wing organization in Japan and Abe has, ostensibly, cherry picked his Cabinet members from this group to run the country, with these "Shinto Conservatives" believing that Japan should not apologize for its wartime acts of brutality, despite the legitimacy of proven historical events.
The appointment of Inada as defense minister will almost certainly ruffle the feathers of Japan's neighbors, experts claim. "The mood now is to try to promote cooperation," Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo, was quoted as saying of the current situation regarding ties between Japan and its immediate neighbors.
"That could change if she makes a pilgrimage to Yasukuni in a couple of weeks," Kingston added.
"Inada supports the prime minister and all parliamentarians' visits to Yasukuni (shrine) and has openly contested The International Military Tribunal for the Far East after World War II. She also believes that Japan should not apologize for its internationally-recognized war crimes committed and is a proponent of denying Japan's wartime atrocities," Imori said.
To this end, Abe appointed her chairperson of the LDP Policy Research Council in September 2014, despite the fact that the position is almost always exclusively held by party members who have had lengthy political careers.