“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, 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 are the words of Article 9 of the 1947 Japanese Constitution, a document written by the occupying U.S. forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. At the time of the adoption of this pacifist constitution, the United States was concerned about a resurgent nationalist group coming into power in Japan, and this was a measure to prevent that.
Shortly thereafter, with the beginning of the Korean War and the escalation of the Cold War, the United States backtracked on its original stance and encouraged the Japanese to become involved in the containment of communist forces, albeit in a very limited capacity.
The Japanese government developed the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) in 1954, which was supposed to act only in the case of being attacked. Now, 62 years later, the JSDF has developed into a military force in every capacity except name.
With an ever-more globalized world, new threats arise every day. This is something many in Japan have come to realize. On Sept. 19, 2015, the Diet of Japan passed a piece of legislation essentially allowing the JSDF to participate in foreign conflicts; it came into effect March 29, 2016.
Commonly known as “Anpo Hoan,” or “Security Bill,” it calls for collective self-defense, or mutual defense among allies. This has allowed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party to pass this legislation without technically violating Article 9 of the Constitution.
Essentially, it claims only to act in the defense of itself and its allies if under attack from a foreign threat. Unfortunately, Japan absolutely needs this legislation to deter the aggressive military and territorial expansion of China, be militarily prepared to deter an unlikely attack from North Korea (thanks to President Donald Trump’s easing of tensions between the nations), and protect its citizens residing overseas from international terrorism.
The passing of this legislation has led to much debate among Japan’s populace. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now slated to be the longest-serving prime minister of Japan with his recent reelection victory as his party’s leader, has proposed to have Article 9 revised by 2020.
Unfortunately, many within Japanese society have grown comfortable under the U.S. security umbrella and have yet to realize the need to revamp their defense forces. The consensus on whether to re-militarize is very polarized, with a slight majority in favor of changing Article 9.
Many within Japanese society have embraced a sense of deep pacifism and oppose Japan becoming involved in overseas conflict. This is understandable, as they have enjoyed 73 years of peace.
However, this peace has been ensured by the US–Japan security treaty, under which U.S. forces are obligated to protect Japan under all circumstances, but Japan is not obligated to do the same. It is not a mutual defense treaty, but a one-way defense treaty.
Unfortunately, MacArthur and his advisers were a bit shortsighted when drafting the 1947 constitution, as they did not foresee that Japan could prove to be an essential ally in ensuring regional stability in Asia.
Threat From China
Japan and the rest of Asia’s biggest threat is an increasingly aggressive and militaristic China, whose actions jeopardize the entire Asia-Pacific region.
In the past three decades, China’s economy has slowly evolved from a third-world communist nation to a highly developed “semi-market” economy (though the country remains under totalitarian communist rule). This has been even more evident in the last decade, with China’s economy surpassing Japan’s.
With these economic gains, China has developed a newfound confidence and sense of nationalism. Its government and people see themselves as the next world power. They also see an opportunity to take back land that once belonged to former Chinese empires, and to proclaim their status as a powerful nation after two centuries of relative weakness and conquest by foreign empires.
China’s new nationalism threatens to upset the balance of power that exists in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s numerous territorial claims include the Japanese Senkaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands in China), the nation of Taiwan, about half of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and the entire South China Sea. Of all China’s claims, the claim to the South China Sea is the greatest threat to global stability.
In its claim to the South China Sea, China seeks to have control over the region’s large oil reserves and 40 percent of world trade, which passes through the region every year. Knowing the Chinese regime’s style of governance toward its own population, one should be able to conclude that the same style of authoritarian dominance will be implemented over the waterways of East and Southeast Asia, should China get its way.
China continues every year to drastically increase its military budget and capabilities, while using those new capabilities to push the boundaries of neighboring countries’ national borders and territorial waters.
The occupation of the Scarborough Shoal, Parcel Islands, and some of the Spratly Islands by the Chinese regime has led to intense military standoffs with the Philippines and Vietnam. China ignores international tribunals that have concluded that its claims are invalid, and it continues to occupy and build man-made islands with military-grade installations and airstrips.
Japanese Military Needed
In response, the United States has conducted freedom-of-navigation patrols to protect what is viewed by the rest of the world as international waters. If Japan and other nations were to jointly conduct these patrols with the United States, it would send a message to the Chinese that it has not only one nation but an entire bloc of allied militaries standing against it to protect free trade and territorial integrity.
If not, many fear China will slowly swallow up and directly control trade routes in the Asia-Pacific region, severely weakening the economies of its neighboring nations, which would become dependent on China to ensure that imports and exports flow through its newly claimed borders, thus making them vassals or dependencies of the Chinese regime.
This would also have adverse effects on the rest of the world’s global trade, where we can almost be assured that China would impose heavy tariffs on any trade going through “Chinese territory.”
Another major disadvantage of Japan’s lack of a fully fledged military is the capability to rapidly deploy special forces overseas to protect its citizens and embassy personnel.
In 2015, two Japanese citizens, Kenji Goto, a journalist, and Haruna Yukawa, a freelance mercenary, were separately captured by the ISIS terrorist group and beheaded. Japan does not have an equivalent of Navy SEALs or Green Berets that could infiltrate the captors and rescue their citizens.
If a “Captain Phillips” situation—pirates holding a ship captain hostage—happened to a Japanese cargo ship, the Japanese would most likely call upon the United States to rescue their citizens.
The United States, while obligated to protect Japan, should not be responsible for protecting every overseas Japanese citizen all the time. This is something the Japanese government and military should be responsible for.
In a time of ever-increasing international Islamic terrorism, the Japanese government has to be more vigilant than ever to protect its citizens and embassy personnel overseas, especially in volatile countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
For these reasons, Japan absolutely must continue with the normalization of its armed forces. It is essential for Japan to work with the United States to ensure that China does not consume Asia, and it must be able to protect its own citizens overseas from unprecedented situations. Many within Japan, like Abe, are beginning to realize that pursuing an isolationist, pacifist foreign policy is no longer a viable option.
With all due respect for MacArthur and his valiancy during World War II, Article 9 was written without any foresight or considerations that an armed Japan may one day be needed by the United States to ensure peace and stability in the region.
This normalization will not result in Japan reverting back to an imperialist conquering nation, as many have ridiculously claimed. This time around, Japan is attempting to be a part of a coalition of nations whose goal is to prevent another expansionist nation, China, from doing what Japan did seven decades ago.
Many Japanese will object to the positions taken in this article, but often times hearing the ugly reality about global relations can lead people to realize that peace through strength is often the best solution.
Ian Henderson is a contributor to Shield Society, former director of outreach for The Millennial Review, and former development coordinator for PragerU.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.