The Paradox of Japanese Remilitarization

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In order for Japan to repent completely for past deeds and war crimes while returning to the fold as an equal partner in peace with her Asian neighbors, a seemingly monstrous contradiction must occur. Japan will be obliged to renounce her pacifist constitution — specifically Article 9 of the constitution — and create her own standing army so that she can become a normal independent nation, pursuing her own independent foreign policy and interests.

Until Japan does renounce Article 9, she will never be able to come out from under the US security umbrella and, in turn, be able to create and maintain relations with her neighbors on an equal footing. Japan must create her own military again in order to rid herself of US occupation and control.

Nevertheless, the notion of renouncing her pacifist constitution understandably causes Japan’s neighbors to become very nervous due to Japan’s past Asian aggression. This is the paradox of Japanese remilitarization.

Today’s Japan is at a crossroads. The US security umbrella that Japan has lived under these past 60 years often hampers relations between Japan and her neighbors. Japan’s economic relations with those neighbors hum along at a fantastic rate, while her political relations are constantly hindered by political stumbling at home and Japan’s security agreement with America. Even though many Japanese are beginning to think that staunchly supporting the United States is not a good idea with over 75 percent "quite dissatisfied" with Japan’s support of the illegal invasion of Iraq, Japan today is at the beck and call of the American empire.

But what can Japan do about the current situation? Many people in Japan feel that the US-Japan security agreement is an outdated and ill-fitting rented suit that must be changed. But how?

One solution has been presented by the current Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, and looks like it might be acted upon in 2006. Koizumi wishes to revise Article 9 of the constitution that renounces Japan maintaining a standing military. As former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said, "(Revising Article 9) would make Japan a u2018normal country’ that can share responsibilities and cooperate with the world …" Even though some politicians like Nakasone are also against prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine, this policy of revising the Japanese constitution has drawn much criticism from China, Korea, and the Japanese Left.

Also, though many countries and groups object to any proposed changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution, would these changes signal a hard-right shift in Japanese politics? Would these revisions put still more strain on a China already under enormous pressure from a very belligerent United States? Would a remilitarized Japan be what the US empire really wants?

Not necessarily. Incredibly, in the long run, a Japan with a foreign policy independent of the United States just might be much better at reducing Asian-Pacific tensions than a Japan that is a lap-dog of the USA.

In many ways, this entire matter is merely a problem of semantics. Japan’s Self-Defense Force is currently called Jieitai; the name of this force is to be changed to Jieigun, which translates into Self-Defense Army. To westerners, this may seem like a minor detail. But in a country that is filled with contradictions and has a language that holds hundreds of words meaning the same thing, albeit with slightly different nuances, this minor change can lead to major changes, depending on how it is interpreted. Would this change confirm that Japan is rearming and could pose a threat to her Asian neighbors once again? Or is this just another enigmatic problem of modern Japan that requires deeper consideration of the psyche and linguistics of today’s Japanese nation?

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution states:

"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

As of 2004, Japan is already in the world’s top five in military spending. Will changing Japan’s military status make any real difference? Does Japan having her own military spell trouble for China or Korea? Leftists and some critics say that it does. But after researching this issue, I have to conclude that it does not. I have become convinced that the only way Japan will ever be able to free herself from US control and handle her own foreign affairs with all of her Pacific neighbors as an equal partner will be to renounce Article 9.

Many of Japan’s neighbors complain that Japan accedes to the USA’s every wish and whim. I’d have to agree with that; in fact I complain about it as much as anyone. But I would add that if Japan’s Asian neighbors want Japan to get away from the US security umbrella, then they have to expect that Japan will want to be treated as an equal partner in all discussions and problems.

Thus, Japan escaping from the US security agreement is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, an independent Japan can take a dissenting opinion to the USA on Asian disputes. On the other hand, Japan will have to have her own military to do so. To this very day, Japan is treated as a junior in all aspects of her relations with all of her Pacific neighbors. China, Korea, and the rest of Asia will have to realize that they cannot have their cake and eat it too.

The Japanese are a very pragmatic people. An independent Japan will require an independent Japanese military. To expect Japan to leave the US security agreement without having a standing military of her own is absurd. No politicians in any country would last in office for an hour if they allowed their country to fall into the precarious position whereby its national or economic interests could not be protected in an emergency. To think that any country’s politicians could is completely ignorant.

In spite of what you may read in the mass media, Japan is still under US occupation in 2006. Undeniable evidence of this can be found in the fact that Japan doesn’t even fully control her own airspace or her own territorial waters.

For example, for over the last 20 years Japan has been begging the United States to give her back the airspace above and around areas of Tokyo. Here is an extract from an article entitled U.S. to return part of Yokota airspace that appeared in the Japan Times on March 12, 2006.

"The United States has basically agreed to return part of the airspace over Yokota Air Base in Tokyo as part of the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan, informed sources said Saturday.

"The basic agreement is expected to alleviate the overcrowding caused by the 470 commercial flights that must take detours around the so-called u2018Yokota RAPCON (Radar Approach Control)’ area each day.

"The Yokota RAPCON covers the airspace above Tokyo and eight prefectures — Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Niigata, Nagano and Shizuoka. The military airspace is 7,000 meters high at its northern part and 3,700 to 5,500 meters in its southern part near Tokyo.

"Flights bound for western regions, such as Chugoku and Kyushu, have to ascend to avoid entering the banned airspace, while flights originating from those regions must make a detour south of Yokota, according to the transport ministry.

"The agreement, however, will effectively shelve Japan’s request for the complete return of the airspace, which it has been seeking since the 1980s."

You’ve heard of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq having an illegal "no-fly zone" imposed on it, but I bet you didn’t know until now that the USA still enforces one over Japan.

After reading the above, is there anyone who believes that US occupation of Japan ended in 1952? Today, there are over 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan. In a recent survey, 63 percent of the Japanese people wanted the US troops out. The US military is a huge financial strain on Japan.

Another article that appeared on Japan’s Kyodo newswires on March 12, 2006 reported that the US was returning three military bases on Okinawa to Japan. Kyodo also reported that Japan looks set to cover the broken down empire’s $8 billion estimated cost of removing 7,000 US marines from Okinawa and sending them to Guam. (I calculate that at $1.14 million per marine. Those guys must have a lot of luggage.) Many Japanese wonder why Japan must pay for the removal of US troops from Japanese territory to another US colony in the Pacific.

The choice is clear: the only way Japan can become a normal country, treated as an equal by her Pacific neighbors, is to walk along the very same road her neighbors do. It would be a wonderful thing if every nation in the world would have a constitution that renounced military force and prohibited a standing army; it would be fantastic if war were abolished forever, but that is not the way things are. Japanese pacifists will blast me for stating this opinion, but as I have written about many times, the Japanese are, in many ways, very romanticist. It is a lovely and artful, heartwarming way to be, but unfortunately it is not the way the world works.

Would a remilitarized Japan, free of US control, become more neighborly with China and Korea? Considering economic trends and business ties, one would hope and strongly suspect so. But, either way, in order to investigate those possibilities, Japan must escape from the grasp of the US.

Japan’s goal should be to rid herself of US occupation and control. After that, in order to maintain peace, Japan will have to negotiate with her Asian neighbors on an equal footing in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Unfortunately, because of the way things are done, to do so will require Japan to change her pacifist constitution more in line with the way everyone else does things. In order for Japan to become friendlier with her Asian sisters, she will once again have to support a military, like a normal country. It is fact-of-life. It is unfortunate that Japan must support a military to do so. It is most fortunate if doing so allows her to return to her Asian family.

In this insane world, every normal country has a military. A normal country honors its military dead. That is the tightrope walk for Japan’s politicians today: Japan must fulfill the requirements of any normal country while reassuring her neighbors of peaceful intentions.

This is the huge paradox of Japanese remilitarization.

  • Thanks to Bevin Chu
  • Edited by Jeremy Irwin

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of a mass-media production company and also runs a talent agency in Japan. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.

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