Prime Minister Shinzo "pork cutlet over curry rice because my stomach is now strong" Abe has abolished the tradition that lasted for time immemorial of reporters asking additional questions after official press conference by following him around, in favor of Facebook. He tells the reporters to go like him and read the latest on his Facebook page.
He also seems to have picked up the same penchant as US President Obama of giving an "exclusive interview" to a particular media of his choice. In Abe's case, it was Washington Post.
Abe gave an exclusive interview with Washington Post right before he departed for the US visit which seemed devoid of meaning except for the domestic Japanese political maneuvre. In the interview, as Washington Post reports it, Abe spoke in unusually great details about China, describing China as having a "deeply ingrained" need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory for domestic purposes.
(Photo is tweeted by the writer of the Washington Post article, Chico Harlan. Note the rectangular badges that Abe wears as if he were a military man. One is for Tokyo Olympic 2020, the other is for Japanese abductees in North Korea, I hear. He wore those same badges when he met with President Obama.)
From Washington Post (2/20/2013; emphasis is mine):
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Chinese need for conflict is ‘deeply ingrained’
TOKYO — China has a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory, because the ruling Communist Party uses the disputes to maintain strong domestic support, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an interview.
Clashes with neighbors, notably Japan, play to popular opinion, Abe said, given a Chinese education system that emphasizes patriotism and “anti-Japanese sentiment.”
Abe’s theory on the entrenched motivation behind China’s recent naval aggression helps explain why he has spent more effort trying to counter the Chinese than make peace with them: He thinks the fierce dispute with China over an island chain in the East China Sea isn’t going away anytime soon.
Abe spoke about China in what aides described as unusually detailed terms, laying out challenges that Chinese leaders might face if other Asian countries, unnerved by Beijing’s maritime expansionism, decide to reduce trade and other economic ties. China’s government would be hurt by such moves, Abe said, because without economic growth, it “will not be able to control the 1.3 billion people . . . under the one-party rule.”
Abe also laid out his plans for deterrence, which include boosting military spending and strengthening ties with Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and other nations that share concerns about Beijing. Abe, who is to meet Friday with President Obama in Washington, said the U.S. presence in Asia is “critical” to deter China from taking territory controlled by other countries.
His comments came in an interview Saturday [February 15, 2013] with The Washington Post, which The Post was granted on the condition that the article not be published until Abe was departing for Washington.
(Full article at the link)
Then, two days later on 2/22/2013, Washington Post says PM Abe's office protested against the exclusive interview article (emphasis is mine):
Japan says Abe’s quotes about China in Post interview were ‘misleading’
TOKYO — Japan sought Thursday to clarify comments about China that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made to The Washington Post this week, with a top government spokesman saying that quotations published by the newspaper were “misleading.”
The Post had quoted Abe as saying that China’s Communist Party had a “deeply ingrained” need to spar with Japan and other Asian neighbors over territory, because the government uses such conflicts to win strong support from citizens whose education system emphasizes patriotism and “anti-Japanese sentiment.”
“There is no comment made by the prime minister as saying that China wants to clash or [have] collision with other countries,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. “As I said, as the prime minister said, we value mutually beneficial relations with China based on strategic interests.”
Japan’s response came after China denounced Abe for the reported remarks.
“It is rare that a country’s leader brazenly distorts facts, attacks its neighbor and instigates antagonism between regional countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. “Such behavior goes against the will of the international community. . . . We have solemnly demanded the Japanese side immediately clarify and explain.”
...During the interview with The Post, Abe spoke at length about China, laying out a theory of how the Chinese government, no longer able to promise economic equality, now needs new pillars for its legitimacy. One is economic growth. The other is patriotism, which he said often equates to anti-Japanese sentiment. Those factors, Abe said, push China to expand its maritime territory “by coercion or intimidation,” directed both against Japan, in the East China Sea, and in the South China Sea against its Southeast Asian neighbors.
Then, answering a question about the “maritime issue,” Abe responded, “What is important, first of all, is that their leaders as well as business leaders recognize how deeply ingrained this issue is.”
The Japanese government says that a transcript of the interview posted on The Post’s Web site is correct.
(Full article at the link)
"There is no comment made by the prime minister as saying that China wants to clash or [have] collision with other countries" ... Well, the Washington Post article doesn't say that either. It says China has a need to spar (i.e. argue, or spar as in boxing practice), and that's quite different from saying China wants to clash.
"Transcript is correct"... So what was the point of inviting Washington Post reporters to write up an article?
Reading both articles again, I think I understand better. PM Abe or his spokesman misinterpreted the word "spar".
spar - verb: Make the motions of boxing without landing heavy blows, as a form of training: "broke his nose while sparring". Dispute
In the minds of the prime minister and his men, this word became synonymous with "clash, fight".
It looks that the prime minister made a fool of himself. I bet he doesn't even know it.