During a recent TV talk show, in which high school- and university-age people were participating, the coordinator asked, “Do you love Japan or do you hate Japan?” Most participants answered they love Japan. If I remember correctly, only a few said they hate this country.

I was encouraged that Japan’s young people as a whole love the country. Many participants said they love the country because it is “peaceful.” I agree with their answer. But I also have doubts about their perception of “peace.”

To be sure, Japan has lived in peace over the past 54 years — in the sense that it has not found itself in a state of war. This does not mean, however, that Japan has been truly peaceful all these years.

Take the kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents. North Korean denials nothwistanding, it is an undeniable fact that operatives from that reclusive communist state abducted and thus violated the human rights of Japanese nationals. It is also true that the Japanese government has effectively turned a blind eye to these blatant human-rights violations.

North Korea kidnapped Japanese people from Japanese territory in broad daylight in open defiance of Japanese sovereignty. It is no exaggeration to say that their human rights have been trampled by covert acts of aggression by a hostile country.

The kidnappings were not triggered by war, but took place in peacetime. They were committed under the disguise of peace. But neither the Japanese public nor the Japanese government has shown any real concern about these unlawful acts, perhaps in part because only a handful of victims were involved.

There are probably no victims among the friends and relatives of those youths who said in the talk show that they love Japan because it is a peaceful nation. If there was a victim among their family or friends, how could they have said that Japan is a peaceful nation?

Many Japanese seem to be concerned only about their family and close friends. Maybe they do not think that kidnapping is a serious human-rights violation. Maybe they are not much concerned about the abduction incidents. The problem is, they have a false sense of peace. They take peace for granted. Perhaps they think that Japan is peaceful as long as it is uninvolved in military conflict.

But the truth is the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents constitutes a grave violation not only of human rights but also of Japanese sovereignty itself. As such, these incidents amount to acts of aggression. It is wrong to think that Japan is a peaceful nation.

Of course, North Korea, a country that abducts foreign citizens on Japanese soil, cannot be said to be a law-abiding nation. But Japan must accept part of the blame for the incidents because it failed to prevent them from happening. These kidnappings should not have happened in the first place.

The Japanese government has the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the Japanese people. Having failed to prevent the kidnappings, it has, for all practical purposes, abandoned that responsibility. The very existence of the Japanese nation will be endangered if the government cannot protect the human rights of Japanese people.

That optimistic remark by young people — that they love Japan because it is peaceful — overlooks the danger posed by covert acts of aggression. Just because Japan has experienced no war for more than half a century does not mean that it is a peaceful nation.

It takes a great deal of effort to keep peace. Earlier this year, two North Korean spy boats violated Japanese territorial waters in the Sea of Japan and escaped with impunity. Japanese authorities should have captured the illegal intruders.

Defending the country against foreign incursions or aggression requires ermormous efforts. To be able to halt or capture an intruding ship, for example, the Self-Defense Forces as well as the Maritime Safety Agency must train on a routine basis. But to conduct training, you first must assemble people who are willing to perform the necessary duties. And training requires a lot of money.

By the same token, it takes a lot of money, as well as a great deal of determination, to protect the lives and human rights of the Japanese people. Without this, it is impossible to keep peace — real peace, that is — in this country.

Many youths of Japan do not seem to be aware of this. They seem to believe that the kidnappings of innocent Japanese citizens by North Korean agents are isolated incidents that have nothing to do with them because they — and their relatives and friends — are not directly involved. They appear indifferent to what is happening beyond their circles.

They do not seem to understand that keeping the peace requires sacrifice. They have, as I said, a false sense of peace. They take peace for granted — as if it were air. But don’t blame them for that. It is the politicians that should be blamed, for they have not made serious efforts to tell the young people that it takes a lot of effort to keep the peace. If young people are “peace-addicted,” it is because our politicians are “peace-addicted.”

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