After yet another incendiary action from North Korea last week, many are wondering what measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of Japan.
Abe vows to do his ‘utmost’ to project Japanese people’s ‘lives’ from the threat of North Korea. Not only do Abe’s comments express concern for ordinary Japanese people, as opposed to grandstanding and power games, they also highlight the importance of protecting the Japanese way of life. The implicit message behind Abe’s comments is a deeper one that Japanese people do not just want to stay alive if that means living in fear but they also want to lead meaningful lives. Although Abe referred to Japan and Japanese people, the significance of his comments are far-reaching.
Abe’s sentiments reverberate in many different parts of the world that also live under various kinds of threats, ranging from terrorism, high crime to foreign aggression. A familiar sentiment voiced whilst terrorist attacks rocked Europe is ‘we will not give in’ by allowing fear to change the way we live, but Abe’s comments are not a call to blindly carry on in the face of an existential threat. Rather, they are about the importance of standing up for principles in so much as our manner of living is shaped by what we believe in. If we were to try to list the traits that make us human, one would surely be that we do not want to survive for survival’s sake but to live according to higher values.
Values can be a source of conflict as the recent history of North Korea and Japan testifies but so often they are a cause for curiosity and understanding. This is why Abe’s statement is likely to be well received by many people all over the world who are facing similar dangers. Even as we condemn the actions of North Korea we can see them as resulting from an unwillingness to engage with them. Professor Masao, quoted in Reuters, believes that the purpose of North Korea’s action was not to inflame tensions with Japan, but to open the ‘path to dialogue’. Whilst launching ballistic missiles undoubtedly sends the wrong message, perhaps it does suggest that North Korea intend to remove the roadblocks to understanding and that last weeks actions were a last resort after many failed attempts to take the diplomatic route.