The Re-Making of Japan as a Normal Country


The Re-Making of Japan as a Normal Country

Eisuke Suzuki

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barak Obama restored the once damaged U.S.-Japan Alliance to the central foundation of the peace, security, and economic prosperity of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. They have reached a broad agreement on policy goals and strategies to deal with a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues facing both countries. Mr. Abe proudly declared, “Japan is not, and will never be, a tier-two country. That is the core message I am here to make. And I reiterate this by saying, I am back, and so shall Japan be.”

   One thing is clear: The coming back of Japan cannot be accomplished by merely trusting in the goodwill of peace-loving peoples of the world or by relying only on soft power without backing of hard power. Curiously, however, the question of Japan’s security regime is conspicuously absent of all US-Japan joint statements of policy agenda discussed in the meetings, even though Mr. Abehas launched the drive to amend the Constitution of Japan. And that is the problem of the US-Japan Alliance.

   Abe’s vigorous policy agenda have alarmed international media which have characterized such policy agenda as a shift to the right. Critics in some quarters even called him “the ultra-rightist”. Such characterization underlines a certain perspective to perpetuate a fictitious world embedded in the Constitution of Japan. Japan’s fictitious world is founded on the Constitution’s Preamble that says “we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world” and Article 9(2) that stipulates that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

These two conditions precedent to the independence of Japan at the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 have constituted, unhappily, the fundamental premises of Japan’s post-war regime. The purpose of constructing such a fictitious world in the Constitution was to carry out U.S. occupation policy toward Japan that aimed at the total weakening and disarmament of Japan. Since then, Japan has thus become “a half-sovereign state,” which is epitomized by the absence of prerequisite force of the state. Of 193 members of the United Nations, no state other than Japan has a constitutional provision similar to Article 9(2). Innumerous people praised and admired Article 9(2) in the past, but no countries have adopted such provision in their respective constitutions. It cannot be a global standard because it is unreal and of no substance. Japan remains the abnormal country of the world.

Japan’s Self-Defence Force (SDF) has unfortunate history. Its predecessor “National Police Reserve” was established in 1950 after the outbreak of the Korean War” to complement national and local government police forces.” The ambiguous and half-baked nature of its being “more than police,” but “less than military” has dragged its shadow up to now. The National Police Reserve was designed to complement the capability of police forces which would otherwise be unable to deal with situations unfolding, and its legal basis, as in the police, is based on a positive list approach which is premised in the express statement of each action to be taken and each power to be exercised under the Police Officers Duties Law. As a result, the conduct and operations of the SDF are equally regulated by the Police Officers Duties Law. And so, SDF troops are not allowed to use weapons unless in self-defence. This extraordinary situation has rendered the SDF unable to take responsible and prompt action and is forcing commanding officers alone in the field to bear unreasonable responsibility.

This is the core problem of Japan's post-war regime in general and security in particular. The discrepancy between Article 9(2) and the presence of thegrowing SDF remains the historic contradiction. It has created a schizophrenic state of mind in Japanese political predisposition haunted by the bogey of a "militarism" ghost. As a result, Japan's foreign policy has suffered as it has been constrained by its own limited rights of state while it has increasingly been incorporated into theglobal strategic design of the United States. Yet, Article 9(2) hinders the development not only of Japan’s normal security relations with the United States due to its inability to engage in collective self-defense, but also of its participation in the U.N. peace-keeping operations due to the condition of “non-combat zones” Japan attaches to such participation.

For Japan to be responsible for its own security as an independent state and to share a burden of peace-keeping as a responsible member of the international community, the Constitution must be amended. Without such amendment the security interest of the U.S.-Japan Alliance would not be better served. Mr. Abe is just trying to make Japan an ordinary and normal state like any other member states of the United Nations to discharge that part of responsibility.###