In the Sept. 26 Kyodo article “Abe tries to counter militant image in U.S.,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that under the current interpretation of Japan’s Constitution, Japan’s warships cannot “come to the aid of U.S. warships operating around Japan in international waters if they are attacked from the air.”
The same thing was mentioned by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez during a hearing for Caroline Kennedy’s confirmation as ambassador to Japan. Menendez cited a hypothetical situation in which a U.S. ship and a Japanese ship sailed side by side: If the U.S. ship came under enemy fire, the Japanese ship could only watch.
This is why the U.S. side has been eagerly asking Japan to revise its Constitution. It wants Japan to feel legally justified in taking retaliatory action against an enemy firing at the U.S. ship.
Sounds reasonable, but for starters, Japan and the United States are not equal partners under their security treaty. The relations are not as natural as those between the U.S. and the U.K., for example. The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty of 1951 was forced on Japan in exchange for its independence. As a result, the U.S.-led Allied Occupation Forces were able to grow into today’s U.S. Forces Japan.
Although the treaty was revised in 1960 and renamed the Japan-U.S. Mutual Security and Friendship Treaty, the very essence of the old treaty carried over into the new one. In other words, the Occupation regime, in a sense, continued even after Japan’s sovereignty was restored, guaranteeing U.S. use of bases as before.
There are 88 U.S. bases and facilities throughout Japan, of which 33 are in Okinawa. The absurdity is that Japanese taxpayers must not only provide the land for these bases free of charge but also shoulder 74 percent of their maintenance costs — even though the U.S. military has used them as staging posts for troop deployments to fight wars overseas that have nothing to do with Japan.
Therefore, it’s nonsense to say that Japan must cooperate with the U.S. further by revising, or otherwise reinterpreting, its Constitution so that it can fight a global war alongside the U.S.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.