Resurgent military power
Japan’s rapid turn to right threatens regional peace
The specter of militarism is rearing its ugly head in Japan, slowly but unmistakably.
Japan, which started its military comeback on the international stage with the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops to the Gulf War in the 1990s, has since stepped up arms exports, and more recently, opened the way for nuclear armament, at least legally.
Now Tokyo is sounding out the possibility of allowing SDF to engage in military activities overseas if its allies are attacked, under the pretext of ``collective self-defense.”
This means Japanese soldiers can land on ― once again ― the Korean Peninsula if North Korea attacks the U.S. troops in South Korea.
The scenario is of course based on the assumption that the latest study made by a blue-ribbon panel under the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office, as reported by public broadcaster NHK, becomes a reality. If past experiences are any guide, however, the media report could be a leak and the conclusion might mirror Tokyo’s intention.
Some ultra-rightist politicians, including the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, are not content with the ongoing ``reinterpretation” of Japan’s pacifist Constitution, vowing to revise it in ways to make Japan a ``normal” country and turn the SDF into a regular army. Just as disturbing is up to 60 percent of the Japanese people are supporting their right to collective self-defense, as a survey by the Asahi Shimbun showed.
There have always been right-wing groups in Japan who wouldn’t repent on but justify their country’s wartime atrocities and other past misdeeds. Yet it increasingly seems as if the once exceptional groups are gaining voices amid the multiple distresses inflicting on the neighboring country at home and abroad, such as a massive earthquake, nuclear disaster, economy stagnating for decades, and China’s economic and military emergence.
We hope the majority of moralistic and conscientious Japanese citizens would know better than allowing extreme nationalists to inject a mistaken fantasy of a resurgent military power. Especially worrisome in this regard is the United States’ new Asia policy, in which Washington is making self-negation of permitting Tokyo to drop the pacifist elements in Japan’s Constitution written by the postwar U.S. military rulers and encouraging Japan’s rearmament, all for the single purpose of containing its new rival, China.
History shows Korea, destined to survive surrounded by far bigger neighbors, thrived when it could successfully maintain its balance on the diplomatic tight rope without veering to one side. The need for diplomatic checks and balances is even greater now, not least because this country is no longer the small player it once was but has grown to be a force hardly negligible economically and otherwise. Needless to say, a unified Korea would enjoy a far bigger and more important status on the global political map. And it is an open secret that one of the last countries that want to see that happen is Japan.
It is against this backdrop that makes the ongoing snafu over Seoul’s secretive and abortive attempts to forge military ties with Tokyo all the more regrettable. It is hard to watch the current chaotic situation within the Lee Myung-bak administration and not ask whether the President and his aides have any sense of historic mission as other Koreans.
The fiasco is simply unthinkable unless it is the joint product of a Japan-born president who is pro-Japan to the bone and his chief diplomatic aide who was awarded by Japan’s rightists for his pro-Japanese traits. What is more egregious about the Korea-Japan military pact is its content and the attempt itself, rather than the process. Again, we urge Lee to scrap the accord and apologize to the people. This is no time to retry its conclusion by sacking the aide, under the pretext of keeping promises between governments. No Koreans allowed them to make such promises.
Domestic misrules, however serious they are, can be settled at home. Diplomatic mistakes cannot. Lee and his diplomatic team can best serve the nation by doing nothing more until their tenures end.