BEIJING – China on Tuesday urged Japan to reflect on its militarist past and stick to the path of peaceful development after new security laws took effect the same day.
“We hope Japan can earnestly learn lessons from history, stay on the path of peaceful development, act with prudence in its military and security policies and make more constructive efforts for regional peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing.
When asked about the new laws that will allow Japan’s armed forces to expand overseas operations, Hong also repeated China’s oft-used expression that “due to historical reasons,” Tokyo’s developments in its military and security fields have been carefully watched by its Asian neighbors and the international community.
Of those Asian neighbors, Taiwan and South Korea reacted in tones similar to China’s.
Tsai Ming-yao, secretary-general of Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry’s Association of East Asian Relations, told a news conference on Tuesday that the move signified a more balanced military cooperation between Japan and the United States.
Stopping short of endorsing the policy change as positive, he said any military deployment or legal revision should be aimed at maintaining regional stability and world peace.
In Seoul, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-Hyuck told reporters that “we will closely watch what directions Japan’s security policies are moving to.”
He added that South Korea wants Japan to “inherit the spirit of the pacifist Constitution in implementing new security policies in such a way to be instrumental to peace and stability in the region.”
Under the laws, the Self-Defense Forces can now defend the United States and other allies that come under attack, a move that previous governments had regarded as counter to war-renouncing Article 9 of the postwar Constitution.
The Diet enacted the laws in September after the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sidestepped the legislative constraints by reinterpreting Article 9, rather than amending it.
The public was conflicted by the drastic change in defense policy.
Members of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe leads, strongly pushed for easing the constitutional constraints on the armed forces’ activities abroad, citing new security threats, such as China’s growing assertiveness in regional waters.
Critics, constitutional scholars and opposition parties have warned that the new laws violate the pacifist Constitution and say Japan is now at risk of being dragged into unwanted conflicts abroad.