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By explaining the role of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in disaster relief, the April 15 article “Military flexes relief might, gains newfound esteem” painted the SDF in a very good light.

The esteem is deserved, I think, because I have great respect and gratitude for SDF personnel and others working with dedication to fix broken Japan — especially those working in and near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

After reminding us of the SDF’s shaky start in 1954 in the shadow of the militarism-renouncing Constitution, the article goes on to quote military analyst Kazuhisa Ogawa describing how the public has come to appreciate the SDF’s role in emergency service after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, and more so now in the wake of the March 11 triple disaster.

Limited to just 1 percent of gross domestic product, Japan’s military budget is one of the largest in the world simply because of the size of the economy. That budget means that it is a well- provided, well-paid armed force of 240,00.

So while priding itself on its pacifist Constitution, Japan paradoxically maintains one of the largest military forces in the world — currently 28th in size. Yet, in a ruse of semantics, by insisting on calling it the Self-Defense Forces, Japanese avoid admitting that they even have an army at all.

The obvious question is this: If the military budget was spent on conventional civilian emergency services like the fire department and police, instead of on the military, then there would be no need at all for a quarter million-strong armed force. The country would still be able to boast an impressive emergency relief capacity and, at the same time, be a more authentic embodiment of its own war-renouncing constitutional principles.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

grant piper

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