His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Akihito of Japan, opened the Japanese National Diet this Friday. Reading a prepared speech within the upper assembly, it marks Japan’s 189th Ordinary Session since the first Imperial Diet was opened by Emperor Meiji on 29 November 1890.
In accordance with the Japanese Constitution, it is one of the Emperor’s numerous duties to formally open the Japanese National Diet when it begins a new session. However, unlike the British sovereign, he has no formal control over when it opens or finishes. His role within the proceedings is purely ceremonial.
During the opening ceremonies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the opportunity to reaffirm Japan’s ties to the United States following the inauguration of America’s 45th president, President Donald Trump. Citing the alliance that has existed between Japan and the United States since the end of the American occupation of Japan, Abe declared relations between the two nations to be an “unchanging principal” for the country’s foreign and security interests.
His comments and desire to meet with the latest US President reflect an increasing worry amongst the Japanese that Trump’s “America First” policies and disinterest in foreign interventionism may leave the Japanese islands vulnerable over the next four years. There are also concerns about the increasing volatility of China and North Korea, who have been growing steadily more aggressive in recent years.
Abe has remarked that he’d prefer American troops remain in Okinawa to act as “deterrence”.
During his electoral campaign, Donald Trump insisted that the Japanese government pay more towards the some 50,000 American soldiers currently stationed within the Japanese islands, including US military bases on Okinawa, with threats of withdrawing them should they refuse.
Japanese dignitaries in Washington D.C. were quick to point out that the Japanese government already pays generously towards hosting American troops. Since his election, such comments have ceased.
As well as seeking to reaffirm American-Japanese ties, Abe has also pledged to increase cooperation with other Asian nations, as well as India and Australia.