ASDF chief justifies the war, is axed

Kyodo News

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday night that Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami will be dismissed over his essay justifying Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia and urging the country to exercise its right to collective defense.

Tamogami’s essay — titled “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” — won the top prize of ¥3 million in a writing competition hosted by Apa group, a Tokyo-based operator of a business hotel chain. The result was announced earlier Friday.

Tamogami wrote it is “false” to accuse Japan of having been an aggressor nation before and during World War II and described Japan as “a victim” that had been drawn into the Sino-Japanese War by Chiang Kai-shek, who led the Chinese Nationalist Party.

Tamogami also challenges the government’s current position on the activities of the Self-Defense Forces under the U.S.-drafted Constitution, hinting Japan should be allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense and possess “offensive weaponry.”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Taro Aso criticized Tamogami for the essay, telling reporters, “It is not appropriate, given his position, even though he published it in a private capacity.”

But the case will inevitably draw flak from China, South Korea and other parts of Asia that suffered at the hands of Japan during the war.

Tamogami told reporters, “I will follow the order. I will explain to the public about the matter next week.”

Tamogami, 60, known for his controversial remarks since becoming ASDF chief in March 2007, wrote in the essay, “Our country is said to have invaded the Chinese mainland and the Korean Peninsula in the prewar period,” referring to the period before and during World War II.

“But surprisingly few people are aware that the Japanese army was stationed in these countries on the basis of treaties,” he argues.