Is Japan Determined to Reenact Its Wartime Folly?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 13, 2013
Summary: If one looks back through history, one realizes Japan has never been a "normal" country. It has been a troublemaker in Asia for more than a century. Japan appears bent on its old path of foreign aggression. If it is, then we should restore the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration. The Chinese Mainland has recently begun questioning the legitimacy of Japan's rule over the Ryukyus. This is a first step.
Full Text below:
Japan's Meiji Restoration had three main goals. One, colonization enabling industrial prosperity. Two, the adoption of industrial civilization. Three, a wealthy nation and a powerful military. The ultimate goal was a wealthy nation and a powerful military. Japanese elder Yamagata Aritomo argued that "A powerful military is the basis of a wealthy nation." As a result, beginning in 1868, Japan began marching down the path of predatory, beggar-thy-neighbor, foreign militarism.
From then until 1945, Japan sent its military forces abroad at least eleven times. In 1874, it invaded Taiwan, perpetrating the Mudan Incident. Between 1894 and 1895, it provoked the First Sino-Japanese War. In 1900 it joined the "ba guo lian jun," or eight nation alliance, that invaded China during the Boxer Rebellion. Between 1904 and 1905, it fought the Russo-Japanese War. Between 1914 and 1918, it fought in World War I. Between 1918 and 1925, it invaded Siberia. Between 1927 and 1928, it invaded Shandong, perpetrating the Jinan Massacre, In 1931, it invaded northeast China, provoking the September 18 Incident. In 1932 it invaded Shanghai, provoking the January 28 Incident. In March and April of 1936, it launched a full-scale invasion of China. In 1941, it attacked Pearl Harbor, and provoked the war in the Pacific. Between 1886 and 1945, Japan's average annual military expenditure exceeded 10% of its GDP. During the last three decades of this period, the figure exceeded 12%.
Japanese academic Michio Morishima noted that "Victorious wars mean a wide range of benefits, including new territory, huge economic benefits, and countless new markets. These have led Japanese to regard wars as profitable ventures." Among these wars, seven were wars of aggression against China. The first "pot of gold" contributing to Japan's economic take-off, was the war reparations it extored from China following the First Sino-Japanese War. Later development of heavy and chemical industries in Japan paralleled long-term aggression against China from 1931 onward. The historical trail is clear. The first goal of Japan's "powerful military" was the invasion of China, and by plundering its resources, to achieve the attendant goal of a "wealthy nation."
Japan's militarism was a disaster for its Asian neighbors. In July 1945, in the "Potsdam Declaration," the United States and Britain told the world that the Allies' basic objectives would be reached only when "there is convincing proof that Japan's war-making power is destroyed."
But following World War II, the U.S. alone occupied Japan. For the sake of the Cold War the United States rapidly deviated from the Allies' agreement to disarm Japan. It encouraged Japan to rearm. Shigeru Yoshida was the longest-ruling Japanese leader during the early postwar period. He knew that the United States would defend Japan. Therefore he adopted the opposite approach from the Meiji era. He sought first to enrich the nation, and afterwards to strengthen the military. His secretary Kiichi Miyazawa explained, "Once the peoples' livelihood has been restored, the day of rearmament will come. Before that, national defense should temporarily to left to the Americans." In the face of U.S. pressure, Japan's Peace Constitution was the perfect shield to ward off criticism. In other words, Japan's post-war re-armament, was from the outset a United States initiative. Japan knew the United States would not dare give up Asia's largest "domino." This forced the United States to assume responsibility for Japan's national defense. As a result the Japanese economy following World War II experienced a swift recovery.
In recent years,Mainland China has undergone a resurgence. The United States conversely, has suffered a relative decline in overall national strength. As a result it has asked Japan to assume greater responsibility for maintaining joint US-Japan hegemony in Asia. Japan sees Mainland China's growing strength as unfavorable to its own long-term economic and political future. As a result the militaristic thinking of the Meiji Restoration has once again reared its ugly head, and become a dominant force in the nation.
Morimoto Min is a pro-LDP, right wing Japanese academic. On September 24, 2009, he published an article in the "Sankei Shimbun" openly advocating Japan once again adopting the 'wealthy nation, powerful military" path. He said "This principle has remained unchanged since the birth of the nation." Last June, Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party appointed of Morimoto to the sensitive post of defense minister. As we can see, belief in the "wealthy nation, powerful military" approach is shared by all of Japan's major political parties. According to a Kyodo News poll, 60% of the public supports his appointment. The Noda Cabinet's overall approval rating has increased. Obviously it has public support.
The current "wealthy nation, powerful military" policy harks back to Yamagata Aritomo's old justification for militarism, that "A powerful military is the basis of a wealthy nation." The Noda Cabinet appointed Morimoto to this sensitive position. It outrageously "nationalized" China's territory, provoking a crisis in the Diaoyutai Islands. Noda successor Abe, has even more flagrantly championed this Road to Perdition that led to years of war in Asia.
Japan refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It implies that it is developing nuclear weapons. One hundred and sixty-eight members of Japan's parliament paid a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and three members of the Cabinet paid a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. Abe paid a visit to the shrine in his capacity as Prime Minister. He presided over a high-profile "Sovereignty Restoration Day" ceremony. At the ceremony Abe declared that "We are obliged to make Japan more powerful." He sang the Japanese militarists' anthem, the "Kimigayo." He led three cheers of "Long live the Emperor!" He then donned a camouflage uniform, a helmet, and boarded a tank.
It is as if we have traveled back in time, to the beginning of World War II, and Japan is clamoring for a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere."
Last December, in order to revive Japanese militarism, Japan announced a new draft constitution. It expressly identified the Japanese emperor as the head of state, and not just a symbolic leader. The Japan Self-Defense Force will change its name to the Japanese Army. Abe is also actively working to modify Article 96 of the Constitution to lower the threshold for amending the constitution. This will enable him to amend Article 9 of the Constitution, totally nullifying the Peace Constitution.
If one looks back through history, one realizes Japan has never been a "normal" country. It has been a troublemaker in Asia for more than a century. Japan appears bent on its old path of foreign aggression. If it is, then we should restore the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration. The Chinese Mainland has recently begun questioning the legitimacy of Japan's rule over the Ryukyus. This is a first step.