Debate Magazine

Can Japan Deepen the Alliance with America While Pursuing Pacifist Diplomacy?

Posted on the 18 October 2011 by Shahalexander

These days, prime ministers step down every year in Japan. Also, depressant atmosphere prevails due to poor economic performance and nationwide concerns with Japanese decline on global stage. In such unreliable political sceneries, Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone had an interview with NHK’s anchorman Kensuke Ogoshi in News Watch 9 which was broadcasted on September 15, and he told the guideline for Japan’s future. At the interview, Nakasone insisted that Japan rebuild a nation strong against natural disasters in view of 3/11 earthquake, and appealed importance of soft power as a liberal democracy. In addition, Nakasone told it necessary for political leaders to brush up their personality and intellect by themselves, in order to perform the duty of the prime minister. I was impressed with the interview itself, but I felt some contradictions in his comment that Japan should deepen the alliance with the United States while pursuing pacifist diplomacy. This is because it has become apparent that Japan cannot cooperate with the United States and the global community in security issues as a pacifist nation based on Article 9 of the constitution, which was typically seen in the Gulf War of 1991.
Nakasone argued that we never forget that Japan gave a great deal of trouble to Asian neighbors during World War Ⅱ. I agree with him that Japan not return to militarism during the Pacific War, but do people around the world want Japan that is continually repentant of the past? The Abe administration and the Aso administration explored to strengthen military cooperation with NATO, and European nations welcomed them because both Japan and Europe are close allies to the United States and industrialized democracies. In addition, Asian democracies facing threats of Chinese military expansion think well of growing military role of Japan. In the post Cold War era, while the global community faces threats like the War on Terror, resurgence of China and Russia, and nuclear proliferation, does only Japan have to repent the past continually as done in the postwar period?
Come to think of it, in the 1980s when Nakasone was in charge of the administration, the influence of Middle East affairs on the US-Japanese alliance grew bigger and bigger. The United States had no choice but withdraw the Nixon Doctrine, which led Japan to abandon free rider policy in national security. This is a precursor of “globalization of the US-Japanese alliance as I mentioned on this blog before. Participation in RIMPAC symbolizes such globalization and multilateralization. Though Japan had already participated in joint naval exercise of Pacific nations since preceding Suziki administration, its involvement has expanded since the Nakasone administration. Not only liberal democracies in the region, but also Britain join this exercise far away from the Asia-Pacific area. Such large scale participations were precedents to sending the Self Defense Forces to Iraq under the Koizumi administration. National defense policy in the 1980s has had such great impacts on Japan later in this century. In addition to this achievement, Nakasone endorses constitutional amendment. Despite this, he insisted that it was Japan’s fundamental position to pursue pacifist diplomacy. Therefore, Nakasone’s comment in the interview sounded like a self denial of his own achievement and creed.
It is a considerable constraint for Japan to abide by exclusively defensive defense principles as a pacifist state. In Iraq, the Self defense Forces joined the mission of reconstruction under the British command, but they were not allowed to fight along with other coalition forces. Had the Self Defense Forces been able to carry guns and shoot just one terrorist to death, it could have nurtured common sentiment of unity with British and Dutch forces as fellow soldiers. More importantly, it would have been welcomed by Iraqi people. If that had been the case, Japan could have won much more trust in the global community. Regarding the response against North Korean ballistic missile which is one the most dreadful threat to the Japanese homeland today, experts have not agreed on which stage to intercept it because of constraints under the principle of exclusively defensive defense, and things have become theological controversies.

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