After much political wrangling, the House of Representatives has passed the bills relating to the new defense guidelines between Japan and the United States. Deliberations in the House of Councilors got under way April 28. With the full cooperation of the Liberal Party and Komeito, and with the partial cooperation of the Democratic Party, these bills are very likely to be approved by the Upper House. It is not certain, however, whether final approval will be given before the scheduled adjournment of the current Diet session June 17.

Having cleared a major hurdle with the passage of these bills, the Diet this week started tackling 17 bills relating to the reorganization of the nation’s central administrative structure into one agency and 12 ministries. Many difficulties lie in the path of the government’s efforts to get these bills passed by the Diet before it adjourns June 17. Toward the end of May, therefore, the Liberal-Democratic Party will probably start arguing for an extension of the current Diet session. In my opinion, there is no choice but to extend the session by a month or so.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and other leaders of the LDP appear relieved by the passage of the defense-guidelines bills by the Lower House. I have serious doubts, however, whether the redesigned treaty ensures Japan’s security in an event of an incident in the Far East.

During the Diet deliberations, nobody referred to “incidents in the Far East”; instead, the debates centered on “incidents in the surrounding areas,” which is a meaningless term, mere wordplay. The government has given some six examples to illustrate what is meant by the phrase “an incident in the surrounding areas,” but these are utterly incomprehensible to the Japanese public.

The Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces are supposed to cope with any incident occurring in the areas surrounding Japan. It is highly doubtful, however, whether these three forces, constrained by their present size and also by rules binding their actions, would be able to fulfill any such mission. With the legislators busy with their wordplay, nobody has dared bring up the need to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces. This shows that the politicians are not seriously interested in potential threats to this country.

When the LDP came into being in November 1955, it adopted six or seven major platforms, one of which called for the creation of self-defense forces to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Allied Occupation forces. In the 44 years since, the Liberal Democrats have failed to fulfill a single one of those public promises. The existing Self-Defense Forces, for example, are far from sufficient to protect the nation. According to the original plans, these forces were allowed to have up to 350,000 men. Today, however, they have only about 135,000 men, down about 15,000 from the level of 150,000 of just a few years ago.

It is utterly impossible to defend this nation of 370,000 sq. km with only 135,000 troops. The Maritime Self-Defense Force has 153 vessels, and the Air Self-Defense Force about 700 aircraft. Of the latter, about 300 are fighter planes, but there is not a single bomber, because bombers are believed to be offensive weapons for use against targets beyond the nation’s boundaries. It is laughable for an air force to have no bombers. NATO bombers are currently attacking enemy military bases every day in an effort to resolve the ethnic conflict in Europe. There is not a single country in the world that does not possess bombers as a means of resolving international conflicts. Japan remains an anomaly.

It should be noted, furthermore, that the Self-Defense Forces are not permitted to shoot first. They are told to return fire only after being fired upon. Does that mean they can shoot only while dying? It seems to me that they are being told to die a meaningless death rather than defend the nation. Under these circumstances, Japanese soldiers should not be punished if they desert out of fear of danger.

There is something wrong with those Japanese lawmakers who believe that the nation can rely on that kind of self-defense force. What will happen after the existing small forces have surrendered or been killed? Rely on the reserve forces, which number no more than about 30,000? They are too old to carry guns or even to run. Moreover, the Self-Defense Forces are not supplied with adequate ammunition to defend the country. Ammunition is kept at explosives warehouses, which until the end of the war were housed on military compounds. Today, however, under the terms of the Explosives Control Law, those warehouses are kept away from military installations In the time taken to fetch the necessary munitions, enemy bombers would be able to wreak total destruction.

Another important question is: Who would the nation rely on after the members of the Self-Defense Forces are killed? People over 50 or the younger generations in their 20s and 30s have not had any military training and, therefore, are incapable of firing a cannon, flying a fighter aircraft, boarding naval vessels or driving a tank. This leaves the country with no means of coping with any incident in the surrounding areas.

None of the young members of the Diet has gone through any form of military training. Defending the nation in an incident in the surrounding areas is possible only with strong willpower and daily training on the part of every citizen. As long as the Japanese people neglect military training, they are not fit to defend their own country. Diet members, regardless of their ages, should take the lead by undergoing military training.

All the countries surrounding us have conscription systems obligating every male citizen to undergo military training. Only Japan is different. I feel sorry for the U.S. for entering into a security treaty with Japan, which has no awareness of what is needed for national defense.

Ryuichiro Hosokawa, former managing editor of the Mainichi Shimbun, is a political commentator.

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