For 70 years Japan has desisted from military conflict and war, but new legislation by the Japanses Government seeks to put an end to this relative pacifism
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Japanese Constitution was written under the surveillance of the United States. In Article 9 of the constitution, Japan declared the renunciation of war as means of resolving international disputes permanently. The deep repentance and the nightmares that followed in the period of the Second World War made Japanese citizens, who aspired towards pacifism, ready to accept the constitution and secular democracy. Since then, for 70 years until this present day, Japan has never conducted war and kept away from all foreign military involvement.
While some people think that Japan’s is not an authentic democracy because the current political and economic systems were originally imposed by external factors, the majority of Japanese however, feel proud of their strong sense of pacifism under Article 9. Dozens of people even thought the constitution was worth being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and actually tried to nominate the Japanese people.
Despite the fact that most Japanese citizens are favourable to the constitution, it has been a dilemma for the Japanese Government that cannot be ignored. The Japanese Government has been sandwiched between the strict restrictions of Article 9 and the US’ explicit and implicit demands for assistance, especially concerning the Middle East issues.
Because of absolute abidance to the constitution, it was impossible for Japan to give a rapid response to the US and the international calls for military support during the Gulf War. Although Japan eventually made the financial contribution of $13 billion, the impression given to the international community and the US was that of a simple paymaster who was reluctant to sacrifice its citizens. As a result, the subsequent response of the Japanese Government towards the 9.11 attacks was relatively quick.
Even though Article 9 bans the dispatch of self-defence forces overseas and engagement in collective defense, the Japanese Government pushed for passing a Law Concerning Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction in 2003, which generated much dispute. Thus, the Iraq Special Measures that aimed to offer reconstruction support under a fixed period of time, were conducted under strict conditions that limited the areas where the Japanese defense forces could operate to only non-combat zones, and prohibited exportation and use of arms and ammunitions.
These gradual changes and reinterpretation of the Article have made today’s Japanese citizens scared and sceptical about their government. In particular, the recent attempts by the Japanese Government calling for Legislation for Peace and Security caused massive opposition in Japanese society. This Legislation of Security implies drastic changes to the Japanese Constitution which include approvals of:
- dispatch of Japanese Self-Defence Forces overseas
- collective self-defence (specifically ‘when an armed attack against a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan occurs and as a result threatens Japan’s survival …’)
It is understandable to want to dispatch Japanese Self-Defence Forces overseas just for protection of Japanese diplomats and officers who work at crucially dangerous areas. In fact, it has been a fatal problem for both Japanese office workers and highly unstable and undeveloped states, that Japanese Self-Defence Forces cannot operate overseas
It is clear that with Japan’s advanced technology and high-quality products, reconstruction support and infrastructural development in developing countries could be promoted much more effectively. Moreover, not only the exportation of technology but also the know-how of business management is thought to be a necessary skill to be conveyed to indigenous people.
However, even if Japanese office workers are enthusiastic about contributing to global crises, it is hardly realistic if there is no force that protects them outside Japan. In fact, the Japanese Government had great difficulties when they had to meet the CPA’s request to the Japanese private sector for cooperation in building power plants and introducing cement and medical technology in Iraq. What is more regrettable is the fact that in November 2003, just before the dispatch of Self-Defence Forces, two Japanese diplomats who worked with CPA were actually killed by someone in Iraq. Nobody saw the scene of the attack. One of them, Katsuhiko Oku, was a most passionate person who even rejected to wear a bulletproof jacket for protection because he genuinely trusted the Iraqi people and wanted them to know that. These tragedies and difficulties could have been avoided if there had only been forces who could protect Japanese officers. In other words, the dispatch of Self-Defence Forces to dangerous areas for protection of Japanese workers enhances the stability of Japanese industries overseas, which in turn contributes to the development of poorer countries.
However, the new Legislation of Security that the Japanese Government is pushing for seems to put more emphasis on Japan’s relationship with the US rather than the safety of Japanese citizens. The definition of collective self-defence is too obscure to prevent Japan from being involved in a war in the future, under the convenient banner of ‘support’ for the US. Twelve professors from Japanese top universities established the Association of Scholars Opposed to the Security-Related Bills, blaming the Japanese Government for violating Article 9. The Japanese Self-Defence Forces were originally supposed to protect Japan and its citizens. Getting involved in a war for incomprehensible reasons is the last thing the Japanese want.
It is also noteworthy that Japan has been building up good relations with Middle Eastern states due to the efforts of Mr Oku, the Self-Defence Forces and other Japanese officers who worked in the region. In fact, when three Japanese were kidnapped by a terrorist group who demanded the withdrawal of Japanese Self-Defence Forces in 2004, Iraqi citizens made a demonstration against the terrorist group flying flags on which ‘Honest Japanese’ was written. The Iraqi people even protected the Japanese Embassy from the terrorist attacks. This response was possible largely because they knew that Self-Defence Forces and Mr Oku were there genuinely for Iraq’s future.
The new Legislation of Security has the possibility to not only threaten the safety of Japanese citizens, but to destroy Japan’s amicable relationship with Middle Eastern states. Is subservience to the US really worth taking that risk?