• Kyodo

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Former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa proposed here Thursday that Japan reinterpret its Constitution to allow the Self-Defense Forces to support and defend U.S. forces if a U.S. military operation is directly connected to Japan’s security.

Article 9 of the Constitution stipulates that the Japanese people renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. This is currently interpreted as meaning that Japan cannot defend its allies against enemy attack and can only act against direct threats to Japan.

“I would like to envisage that the Self-Defense Forces can and should be deployed to assist and defend U.S. forces insofar as their activities are clearly and directly relevant to Japanese security risks,” Miyazawa said during a speech at ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of a peace treaty between Japan and the Allied powers.

Miyazawa said the Japan-U.S. alliance has not only served the security of Japan well, but it has also played an important stabilizing role in peace and security in East Asia and beyond.

To make the alliance more effective and adapt it to the changed realities of the region, Miyazawa said, “I propose that Japan should define the right of collective security as a logical extension of the right of self-defense.

“This, in my view, does not require revision of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The Japanese government, if necessary, should clarify the interpretation of Article 9 with regards to the right of collective defense.”

In proposing the change, Miyazawa pointed out the importance of reaffirming Japan’s position that the SDF would only be deployed under strict conditions and that Japan will never become a nuclear power.

“This basic stance has served well in convincing other Asian countries that Japan does not harbor any territorial or political ambitions abroad and thus in effecting reconciliation with our neighbors,” Miyazawa said.

Miyazawa expressed his belief that China will become an important issue for the Japan-U.S. alliance.

“The guiding political philosophy in China could become more nationalistic,” he said. “As China grows economically, so will China’s military capabilities. Japan has to be mindful and in fact concerned about the prospect of China becoming a military might with power-projection capabilities.”

Miyazawa also proposed a multilateral regime composed of Japan, the United States, China, Russia, and South and North Korea for peace and security in Northeast Asia. iyazawa attended the actual signing of the peace treaty with the U.S. and 47 other countries at the Opera House in San Francisco on Sept. 8, 1951. At that time, he served as secretary to Finance Minister Hayato Ikeda, who later became prime minister.

On Saturday, ceremonies will be held here to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the peace treaty between Japan and the Allied powers and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which was signed shortly after the peace treaty.

Common agendas

Despite clear differences in some issues, Japan and the United States can have common interests in security and economic issues, and can work together in dealing with China’s rise as a regional power, experts said in a cross-Pacific conference marking the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Under the theme “Building on the Legacy of 50 Years of Friendship: The Next Generation Looks Forward,” the conference was held Friday morning Japan time, linking participants in Tokyo and San Francisco via satellite.

Moderated by Richard Samuels of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Motoshige Ito of the University of Tokyo, 10 panelists — scholars, economists, business leaders and politicians — exchanged views on political and economic issues concerning the two countries.

Despite differences over such issues as global warming and the stance toward China, Japan and the U.S. are capable of forming a common consensus, said Akihiko Tanaka, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

“I am of the opinion that Japan and the U.S. share a greater deal of convergence of interests. . . . If those areas of diversions are viewed as challenges, we may create an opportunity for the convergence of interests,” Tanaka said.

Michael Green of the U.S. National Security Council cast his view that the interests of the two countries are converging, especially on the economic front, where the U.S. hopes Japan will experience growth.

On the other hand, Steven Vogel of the University of California, Berkeley, pointed to possible diversions of interest between the two countries.

The Japanese people and government are questioning the presence of the U.S. military in Japan, as seen in the firm opposition by Okinawa residents. Some Japanese political leaders are also in support of reorganizing or reducing the U.S. bases in Japan, he added.

On the other hand, the U.S. wants to upgrade its security relationship with Japan and make it really work in case of crisis, he said. In this context, the U.S. wants Japan to spell out more clearly what Tokyo can do in certain scenarios.

On the economic front, some panelists said Japan and the U.S. can cooperate in dealing with a China that increasingly grows in economic might, while extending support for Japan’s structural reform plans. led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Jiro Tamura, a professor at Keio University, said that because China is emerging as an economic power and its “nontransparency” poses uncertainty to the global economy, Japan and the U.S. should join forces to form an economic order in Asia-Pacific.

Tamura welcomed Koizumi’s reform initiatives, particularly in the field of competition policy, saying it is unprecedented for a Japanese prime minister to promote competition policy and strengthen the Fair Trade Commission.

Robert Feldman of Morgan Stanley in Tokyo said the current fall in stock prices is good because such a negative factor promotes people to implement reforms.

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