At a recent meeting of the Diet’s Constitutional Review Council, Americans who participated in the drafting of the Japanese Constitution 54 years ago during the Occupation gave testimony. Their statements provided valuable clues to an understanding of the circum- stances that led up to the establishment of the Constitution, as well as the psychology of young Americans of that time.
I hear that some members of the Diet are moving to invite Chinese and South Koreans as well to speak at council meetings. This is hearsay; I may be misinformed. Being deeply concerned about such a possibility, I would like to issue an early warning about the idea.
First, allow me to recount my personal experience as a way to explain my point.
In 1990, when Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait put Japan’s response in the spotlight, a bill to allow the nation to participate in international peacekeeping operations was considered. That proposal did not materialize.
Prior to the drafting of the bill, the Japanese government decided to send special envoys to China, South Korea and ASEAN states to sound out their opinions. As an envoy to China, a legislator with friendly ties to that country was mentioned.
The Foreign Ministry instructed the ambassadors to the countries concerned to ask the governments of those countries whether they would accept the envoys. Colleague ambassadors of mine, who faithfully performed their duties, immediately contacted the host governments and cabled the home office that they were ready to receive the emissary. I was the ambassador to Thailand at the time, but I took exception to the rule — I was the only one who did not act quickly.
I had doubts about the idea of sending special envoys abroad to hear foreign opinions on a bill that had yet to be finalized. I thought it should be the other way around: Envoys should be dispatched, if necessary, after the bill is enacted, to explain the bill to neighboring nations. In my view, seeking in this manner the opinions of China in particular, and also of South Korea where anti-Japanese feelings were running high at the time, would be tantamount to killing the bill.
I sent a telegram to the home office stating my objection. Now I feel a bit ashamed of the bureaucratic, expedient way in which I stated my case. Considering my status at the time, I thought I should not present an outright objection. Instead, I asked why politicians should be sent as special envoys when we have ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary. It was a cosmetic argument meant to tickle the turf mentality of government bureaucrats intended to buy time so that Tokyo would reconsider the emissary plan.
If I had been allowed to handle the matter at my discretion, I would have been able to get favorable responses from the Thai government — namely, consent to the PKO bill and Japan’s expanded peacekeeping role as well as an assurance of noninterference in Japan’s internal affairs.
My time-buying resistance tactics worked. The lesson is this: In a sensitive maneuver such as this, a fait accompli should be established before it comes under criticism from outside the government. Otherwise, such a delicate mission will not succeed.
Many Japanese who were brought up during and after World War II have a tendency to think, without much regard for long-term consequences, that it is “good” for Japan to listen to what other Asian nations have to say. Such a tendency is also manifest in purported moves to invite Chinese and South Koreans to speak at the Diet on the Constitution.
Such thinking is flawed. It is inconceivable, particularly from the viewpoint of today’s younger generations, that Japan should follow neighboring countries’ opinions on its security policy.
In fact, while I was trying to buy time, the government’s idea of sending special envoys came under fire from the Liberal Democratic Party’s Executive Council. As a result, the plan fell through.
Japan began giving foreign countries a say in its own education policies in 1982 when the textbook issue (involving descriptions of Japan’s wartime aggression) stirred controversy here and abroad. The larger problem is that the issue set a precedent for this nation to accept foreign interference in its security policy as well.
It is all to the good if agreement on, say, disarmament or confidence-building measures is reached in a spirit of reciprocity. But a nation’s security policy cannot be established by unilaterally accepting the views of its neighbors.
During my 40 years in the Foreign Ministry, I was not always an exemplary public servant, so I felt that I owed a lot to the country. Not so this time around. I cannot help but feel that (by indirectly playing a role in efforts to kill the emissary plan) I have repaid a bit of my “debt” to the government.
Going back to the idea of inviting Chinese and South Koreans to speak at the Constitutional Review Council. If the panel really wants to invite them, its purpose will be, obviously, to seek opinions on Article 9. Council members will ask in effect, “Are you not afraid of Japan’s rearmament?” This is a question that a segment of the Japanese mass media has repeatedly asked foreigners since the mid-1980s. The implication is that they want to extend foreign interference to the issue of constitutional revision.
That would put foreign witnesses in an embarrassing position. If a Chinese is invited, Beijing will find it difficult to miss the opportunity. And if a witness does appear at a council meeting, he will have to state Beijing’s official line. As a result, judging from current trends in public opinion, the Japanese perception of China will almost certainly worsen; and so, too, will relations between the two countries.
South Korea will also find itself in an awkward position if a Chinese attends a council meeting. South Korea’s government may decline the invitation, but private citizens may volunteer. If any of them appears, some of his statements will probably embarrass the government in Seoul. My point is that Japan should decide its policies without creating problems in other countries. This is especially true about the Constitution. If Japan is to be truly independent, it must solve its problems on its own.
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