The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, signed in 1951, is understood to be an arrangement whereby the United States, in exchange for the use of military bases in Japan, is committed to the rescue of this nation in the event of external aggression. Japan, with its “war-renouncing” Constitution, follows a policy of noninvolvement in foreign disputes. It is assumed, therefore, that the only way Japan can cooperate with U.S. forces is by offering bases and services. This basic assumption remained essentially unchanged even after the treaty was revised in 1960.
However, the new laws governing the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines allow this nation to cooperate with U.S. forces beyond the framework of the 1960 treaty. Specifically, in the event of an emergency deemed by the government to be a “surrounding situation,” Japan will be able to assist U.S. forces through Self-Defense Forces activities on the high seas and logistical support at both the public and private levels, in addition to the use of bases and financial assistance. It is clear to everyone that these laws — which passed the Diet last week — represent a de facto revision of the security treaty.
Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Liberal Party, writes in the latest issue of a monthly magazine that the guidelines are essentially a “scenario for Japan to take part in wars.” The government, however, has said repeatedly that the guidelines “present no problems because they are not integrated with the use of force.” The fact is that the all-important issue of national security has been handled in a way that runs counter to the trend of history in the post-Cold War world.
In 1996, Japan and the U.S. issued a joint statement on security that effectively broadened the objective of the security treaty from peace and stability in Japan and East Asia to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Since then, I have repeated my belief along these lines: The security treaty has changed in qualitative terms; therefore, a full-dress debate should be conducted on security issues, including not only those issues that involve the Constitution but also those pertaining to the modalities of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
It is true that there remain potential sources of conflict in Asia, including the Korean Peninsula, despite the end of the Cold War. So I do not reject the argument that Japan should do what it can to meet emergencies in surrounding areas. But I have serious doubts about the way the guidelines bills have been handled in the Diet. The bills called for the kind of security action that would put the nation in harm’s way. Indeed, although Japan’s very destiny was at stake, the debate was dominated largely by partisan interests and factional maneuvering.
New Komeito, the second-largest opposition party and one that is moving ever closer to the Liberal Democratic Party, opposes an early dissolution of the Lower House leading to a snap general election. The party is staking its electoral fortunes on a return to the old multiseat constituency system (the current system mandates single-seat districts). The Liberal Party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, wants to obtain an assurance of electoral cooperation from the LDP. Keiseikai, the LDP faction that backs Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, is looking to secure his re-election as LDP president ahead of schedule.
So the guidelines bills were passed after just two months of cursory discussions. The Diet, it must be said, betrayed the trust that the people place in the nation’s highest deliberative body. In earlier times, a debate on such critical bills would have sparked a showdown between the ruling and opposition parties in and outside the Diet and, depending on how it developed, might have driven the Cabinet to resign en masse.
During the parliamentary debate, even LDP legislators expressed concern about the ambiguous handling of the guidelines bills, saying that it would make a hole in the current constitutional interpretation of the right to collective self-defense, namely, that Japan has the right, but cannot exercise it. The opposition parties failed to deal forthrightly with this question. The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition group, was found particularly wanting. Preoccupied with technical details, it never conducted a hard-hitting, broad-gauged debate on Japan’s security policy in the post-Cold War era. Security policy as well as economic problems should have been the key subjects of discussion for both the ruling and opposition parties.
Meanwhile, former U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Joseph Nye, in a U.S. reaction to the passage of the guidelines bills, singled out Japanese participation in the theater missile defense program as the next step to bolster the Japan-U.S. alliance. While in office, I flatly rejected a funding request for TMD research. However, Obuchi gave the green light to such funding as proof of the alliance’s solidity.
It will take at least 10 years to complete the TMD system. The present Stalinist regime in North Korea is not likely to continue for very long. It will take a lot of money to build the system, which is designed to destroy incoming missiles before they hit their targets. Is it really necessary for Japan to chip in to develop costly weapons that so far have failed in one test after another? We should not take part in a dubious weapons program being conducted by a foreign defense industry.
It also worries me that there is a growing trend toward neonationalism in this country, as evidenced by results in April’s unified local elections, by abrupt moves to legalize the Hinomaru flag and the “Kimigayo” anthem and by the establishment of a parliamentary review panel on the Constitution. We must remember history’s lesson that the bud of nationalism may blossom into ultranationalism.
It is a fact that Diet action on the guidelines bills was prompted in part by recent developments that have created a sense of crisis here, notably last summer’s missile launch by North Korea, suspicions over underground nuclear-weapons facilities there and incursions by unidentified ships (presumably North Korean spy boats disguised as trawlers) into Japan’s territorial waters in the Sea of Japan. But we must not lose sight of the larger picture by marching to the drumbeat of an imminent crisis.
Many Japanese have one simple yet critical question: Why, despite the end of the Cold War, is Japan strengthening its military cooperation with the U.S. to prepare for contingencies in surrounding areas? So far the question has not been answered in convincing and clear-cut terms.
The U.S.-led bombing of Yugoslavia has renewed concerns among Japanese that the guidelines legislation may involve Japan more deeply in America’s unipolar, self-centered and arbitrary global strategy. The government must openly and clearly address these concerns and thereby secure public understanding of and support for the legislation. Then, and only then, will it become possible to maintain the alliance in the true sense of the word.
I would like to remind the Japanese people that the most important thing for Japan now and in the future is to uphold the pacifist ideal of Article 9 of the Constitution — the quintessential principle that Japan shall never use force abroad.
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