Warning Signs From Japan
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 3, 2014
Summary: Japan's Abe regime is under pressure from mass protests. On July 1, a provisional cabinet amended Japan's constitution. It substantially changed the peace constitution, authorizing the government to engage in "collective self-defense." Put simply, from this day forward, even if Japan has not been attacked, it can cite "preventing its allies from being attacked" as a justification for military aggression.
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Japan's Abe regime is under pressure from mass protests. On July 1, a provisional cabinet amended Japan's constitution. It substantially changed the peace constitution, authorizing the government to engage in "collective self-defense." Put simply, from this day forward, even if Japan has not been attacked, it can cite "preventing its allies from being attacked" as a justification for military aggression.
As we all know, in 1946, under orders from the United States, a defeated Japan adopted its "peace constitution." Article 9 of the peace constitution clearly states, "The Japanese people, sincerely seeking international peace based on justice and order, forever renounce war, the threat of force, or the use of force, as means for settling international disputes." It states, "In order to achieve these goals, it will not maintain armed forces and other war-making forces, and does not recognize the right of the government to engage in war."
The peace constitution may have been passed under orders from the United States. But its basic intention, its pacifism, its democratic spirit, helped facilitate Japan's postwar recovery. With the end of the Cold War however, Japan's "1955 Framework" collapsed. Forces favoring rapid innovation faded. But abandoning the peace constitution remained difficult. Politicians worked around the problem in various ways. The "revised constitutional interpretation" is an important step.
The new resolution has overturned the "three conditions for initiating the right of self-defense" honored by successive Japanese Cabinets. In its place, Japan now has the new "three conditions for the exercise of force." One. If Japan is subject to an armed attack, or a nation with close relations with Japan is subject to an armed attack that threatens the survival of Japan and the lives of Japanese nationals, or poses a clear danger to their liberty and their pursuit of happiness. Two. To protect the state and citizens when no other means can prevent such attacks. Three. The exercise of force is limited to the "minimum required." If the above three conditions are satisfied, Japan may exercise force as a "self-defense" measure.
This is a major turning point. The media have responded in several ways. Some call this "the restoration of militarism." Some say this "moves toward a new era of security." South Korea's Chosun Ilbo linked this to an agreement reached late last month in Sweden between Japan and North Korea. Japan promised to lift sanctions against North Korea if it reviewed the cases against Japanese abductees. On June 20, the government of Japan published a "Kono Statement Verification Report" on the comfort women issue. South Korea linked these three issues and said that an "Abe led Japan appears indifferent to South Korea, and is moving further and further to the right." The newspaper also noted that "The Abe cabinet's three initiatives will lead to the deterioration of relations between South Korea and Japan. It will have a negative impact on peace, security, and order in northeast Asia."
How should we perceive the Abe regime's initiatives? Let us be precise. The international situation is very different from what it was during the Cold War and the Second World War. Has Mainland China risen? Has Japan reverted to militarism? These await more evidence. What is certain is that under Abe's efforts, Japan's post World War II "defense only" security policy is undergoing fundamental change. The right-wing Abe has led Japan far astray from its postwar pacifism.
Following the cabinet meeting, Abe declared that "Japan will not embark on a path of war" and "What Japan needs is the deterrent ability, so it can defend the peace." He stressed that "Normal circumstances do not permit sending troops overseas. That has not changed. The Self-Defense Forces will never be involved in fighting such as the Gulf War and the war in Iraq and the like. The possibility of Japan's involvement in war will be further reduced. Japan may never again be involved in a war." He said "Japan is taking the road to peace. That will not change. This will strengthen that resolve." Alas, his high-minded rhetoric does not change the fact that Japan has reached a major turning point in its national policy.
Two. Given the close relationship between the U.S. and Japan, Japan's initiative was clearly supported by the United States. Encouraged, even. The United States has asked Japan to assume greater international responsibility. It has demanded that Japanese remove the ban on collective self-defense. This complies with Japanese right-wing moves toward a "normal nation." That is why it succeeded.
Three. The strategic picture in East Asia is certain to become increasingly complex and tense. Mutual trust and understanding between Mainland China and Japan was already weak. Japan is worried about the rise of China. China cannot win the trust of the US-led, Japanese-squired Western nations. Sino-Japanese strategic confrontation, an arms race, and even regional conflicts, are possible, This of course will make Taiwan's international plight even more difficult and awkward. The Ma government's grand strategy of "close to America, at peace with the Mainland, and friendly with Japan" increasingly difficult.
Four. Japan's cabinet has interpreted the constitution, and changed its policy. In fact, this is a dangerous violation of democracy. The South Korean media said, "If the Prime Minister decides it is necessary, then Japan can go to war," "In Japan, something forbidden for 33 years, is now permitted merely because the Prime Minister thinks it is necessary. This in itself is a kind of dictatorship."
Scan the media for reports. One will find that almost all Japanese public opinion polls show the public strongly opposing this constitutional interpretation of collective self-defense. But as a Korean reporter noted, "In Japan's political circles, there is only the "wishes of the Prime Minister," there is no "wishes of the people." This being the case, is this not an obvious warning sign for all of East Asia?
Japan has strayed from the path of pacifism and democracy. Taiwan cannot afford to leave matters to chance and misjudge the situation. Vigilance and caution are essential.