Japan’s Shift in Security Policy
The untamed military policies in the early 1930’s Japan set in motion, a war machine that plunged throughout East Asia causing unfathomable suffering. The merciless war of aggression caused post-war Japan to formulate changes to the constitution, which prohibited the use of military force to settle international disputes. Japan employed limited participation even in UN peacekeeping activities to noncombat roles. However, for the last few years, Japan is gradual showing signs to shift towards rightism, and to act a little more confrontational, because of China’s rapid maritime expansion.
On June 30th, Monday, thousands of people marched in Tokyo to denounce this major shift in security policy. Pensioners, students and working women gathered outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office, carrying banners that read: “I don’t want to see our children and soldiers die” and “Protect the constitution”. On Sunday, June 29th, a man set himself on fire in Tokyo’s Shinjiku Railway station, after speaking through a megaphone to protest against the Japanese government’s change in defense policy. An opinion poll showed that 50% of people are against this shift, while 34% are supporting the change. Prime Minister Abe convened a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (July 1st) to approve the right to exercise collective self-defense (to allow Japan’s military to defend other countries).
Many critics have accused the government for renouncing the article 9 of Japanese constitution. This two paragraph article is said to renounce war and promises that Japan would never maintain land, sea and air forces. The article was loosened a little bit, in 1954, when Self-Defense Forces (SDF) was formed. But, these were said to be formed to protect Japan’s own land, and these forces didn’t had any long-range missiles or aircraft carriers. Peacekeepers think that there would be no immediate changes to the constitution, since it requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, but in a few decades the demands of Geo-politics might vaporize Japan’s pacifist clauses in the constitution.
The East Asian nations for five decades after the World War II relied on US for both security and economy. Washington kept the resourceful East Asian countries like Japan, China and Taiwan in a tight leash. But, China’s rapid economic growth in 90’s and 2000’s prompted the Asian countries to reconsider their strategic options. The previous Japanese Prime Minster Mr Noda wanted to form a stronger military relationship Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam (with America at the centre). However, Japan government faces a dilemma in totally changing the security and foreign economic policies. US might be the main security guarantor for Japan, but China is the number one trading partner for Japan.
From the start of this decade, Japan is heavily is concerned over security more than anything, since China’s greater surveillance and expanding naval forces has caused a tense maritime border situations. Both these countries, up to the apocalyptic end of World War II, have fought over these collections of remote, uninhabitable islands, but only now Japan is eager to take unprecedented steps state its claims and to monitor its waters. Japan also has great prevalent concerns over the events unfolding in Korean peninsula.
Prime Minister Abe and government officials has repeatedly ensured that Japan’s history as a pacifist state will continue, and that, it wouldn’t send Japan’s military into reckless overseas wars. The pacifist sentiment in Japan is having a very strong impact, but America’s wariness and China’s belligerence might change things in the future.