終戦70年 平和の堅持へ国際協調貫こう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Enhance international cooperation to guard peace
終戦70年 平和の堅持へ国際協調貫こう


Aug. 15 this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

We should take this occasion to offer silent, sincere prayers for the repose of the souls of more than 3 million people who perished against their will in that terrible conflict, while renewing our resolve for peace.

Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki, in a Peace Declaration he issued on Aug. 9, made reference to the security-related bills, stating, “There is widespread unease and concern that ... the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan [is] now wavering.” He went on to say, “I urge the government and the Diet to listen to these voices of unease and concern ... and conduct careful and sincere deliberations.”

Bills misunderstood

The set of security-related bills centering around endorsement of the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense is aimed at ensuring Japan’s peace and security through strengthening defense cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces and others.

It is regrettable that the bills’ aim has been taken as meaning the exact opposite.

Japan in the past 70 years has never been involved in any war, including the period of Cold War between East and West and the post-Cold War days. This record was not achieved simply by the grace of the pacifism based on the Constitution.

Of greater significance are efforts to found the SDF in 1954 to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities in a way better suited to the changing times, and to revise in 1960 the Japan-U.S. security treaty to steadily strengthen the bilateral alliance.

The Japan-U.S. alliance has now been broadly recognized as an international public good conducive to stabilizing the Asian region as a whole.

Examples illustrating the crucial importance of military might and deterrent power for the sake of defending a country’s territory and its populace are innumerable indeed, including the Korean War, the incursion by the former Soviet Union into Afghanistan, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

A belief that peace can be secured merely by desiring “peace for all time” and “trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world” as stipulated in the preamble of the Constitution is no better than an idealistic theory that disregards the harsh realities of international relations.

Before the war, Japan withdrew from the the League of Nations, which was groping for ways of materializing the ideal of collective security, deliberately shattering the world order at that time.

After the war, this county, because of soul-searching about that wartime past, placed excessively strict constraints on the activities of the SDF.

There can be no denying that many Japanese, dependent on the United States for the nation’s security policy while blessed with peace and prosperity under the U.S.-led international order, have been apt to drift into a state of being unable to think about what should be done to secure the country’s peace and security.

Record of trust

The turning point came with the 1991 Gulf War. The SDF was dispatched after the fighting ended to conduct minesweeping operations and has since been involved in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The SDF built up a solid track record and steadily earned the trust of other nations.

The new security-related legislation, which will expand the international activities of the SDF, is an extension of this. As well as rectifying the previously overcautious interpretation of the Constitution, Japan must play its part as a nation willing to support the new international order and fulfill an appropriate level of responsibility.

The United Nations, which will mark the 70th anniversary of its founding in October, is prone to dysfunction for reasons including the veto power held by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. It is often a stretch to say the United Nations is effectively playing a role in resolving international disputes.

At present, China is trumpeting its self-righteous logic in the East China and South China seas, where it is attempting to change the status quo through force. Russia is doing the same in Ukraine. Both of these nations, backed up by their massive military might, ignore international criticism of their behavior.

For Japan, China’s military buildup and maritime expansion are serious problems. If China’s defense budget continues to grow at its current pace, in five years it will be more than four times the size of Japan’s defense budget; a decade from now, it will be almost seven times the size.

North Korea possesses several hundred ballistic missiles that can reach Japan. The threat of terrorism is spreading, as exemplified by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group.

To ensure Japan remains safe from these threats, it is essential to pass the security bills into law and strengthen multilayered cooperation with the United States, Australia and nations in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Diplomacy and military affairs are closely connected with each other and form a complementary pair. Making it possible for the SDF to provide a seamless response to any situation will help prevent conflict from erupting and provide backing to support peaceful diplomacy that stabilizes the region.

Critics in some quarters have claimed the security-related bills will “make Japan a nation that can once again wage war” and “return the nation to the prewar days.” These assertions can only be described as twisted interpretations.

Japan firmly pacifist

Modern-day Japan is decisively different from prewar Japan in several ways. Now, Japan stands staunchly by the pacifism enshrined in the Constitution, rejects aggression and territorial expansion, and attaches great weight to international cooperation. Civilian control of the SDF remains firmly in place.

Allowing the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, as stipulated in the new security-related bills, and expanding the SDF’s humanitarian and reconstruction support activities overseas and the logistic support it can provide to military forces of other nations, will all help reinforce international solidarity.

This is precisely why the overwhelming majority of nations — with the notable exceptions of China and South Korea, which have rifts with Japan over perceptions of history — highly regard and support the content of the legislation.

Nations have extremely high expectations for the “proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation” put forward by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The prime minister should redouble his efforts to explain the significance and necessity of the security-related bills to the public and gain greater understanding of the legislation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2015)

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