8/10/2004

The Rising Sun

Asahi Shimbun reports that the US is pressuring Japan to drop its pacifist nature:

Pacifist Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is an impediment to the alliance between Japan and the United States, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

He made his comments Wednesday to Hidenao Nakagawa, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Diet Affairs Committee, who is visiting Washington.

Armitage indicated that the present constitutional interpretation prohibiting the exercise of Japan's right to collective self-defense will have to be revised to further strengthen the military alliance between the two nations.

Armitage said much the same thing in a proposal he helped write four years ago when he was still working in the private sector as part of a bipartisan panel that outlined policy positions.

Armitage made his remarks in response to Nakagawa's comment that both the LDP and opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) would continue to discuss constitutional revision.

Armitage added that while the United States supported Japan's moves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, any nation with that status has to be prepared to deploy military force in the interests of the international community. He said unless Japan was prepared to do that, it would be difficult to become a permanent member.


I have to ask, why wouldn't this be a good thing? New investment in military capabilities might well boost Japan out of its economic torpor, and allow for a stronger regional presence. Unlike the Imperial era, Japan today is a democracy, and closely tied to the rest of the world (Japan is the Globalization poster child). Its hard to envision a scenario where Japan renews its Imperial ambitions.

It also helps to have a strong Other to rally against - in this case, China. Japan could blunt Chinese regional ambitions, especially if it went nuclear - and keep in mind that the madman in Pyongyang is just offshore. The idea is balance, not domination, and I think a strong Japan would be an essential ingredient.

Of course there are benefits beyond geopolitics - Japan would be better able to help police the Malacca straits and other chokepoints plagued by pirates on world trade. And since the boundary between shipping piracy and global terror is probably a diffuse one, a beneficial impact on terror is not fantasy.

Overall, the idea has merit. The important question is, though, what role do the Japanese themselves want to play?

2 comments:

Dan said...

Like you said, it all boils down to what the Japanese want to do with their country. The prospect of a nuclear Japan, however, might make Bejing think twice the next time they send fuel and military shipments to the Mad Emperor Kim.

Conrad said...

I have to ask, why wouldn't this be a good thing? New investment in military capabilities might well boost Japan out of its economic torpor, and allow for a stronger regional presence.I have to say, I don�t really agree with you here at all either at a specific or general level. Japan already has a fairly large defence budget that appears smaller than it is because of accounting and budgetary principles in the way that it is represented and I don�t think military keynesianism outside wartime is a sustainable or desirable way to revive a flagging economy. Japan�s economic woes, in anycase have deeper roots and there are structural problems to be solved that greater govt spending won�t cure.

Unlike the Imperial era, Japan today is a democracy, and closely tied to the rest of the world (Japan is the Globalization poster child)Ahem, and democracies never act like imperial powers right?! More pertinently I think there would be unease at the way this period in Japanese history is regarded and taught in its schooling system and the representation of the past the state offers to its citizens. Many East Asian countries do not have fond memories of Japanese actions leading up to and during WWII and they are less than reassured by the way this has been handled by the post-WWII Japanese state. And yes Japan is closely tied to the rest of the world, I would be careful however to describe it as a �poster child of Globalisation� given that its trade and industrial policies aren�t exactly what most people would understand as that of an open country. It has integrated into the global economy, but very much on its own terms; an important factor behind its economic revival and success but this is something not easily replicated by many emerging market countries today.

It also helps to have a strong Other to rally against - in this case, China. Japan could blunt Chinese regional ambitions, especially if it went nuclear - and keep in mind that the madman in Pyongyang is just offshore.I think this is a boat that has to a great degree already sailed; Chinese regional ambitions won�t be blunted by this, at the most it will present another obstacle to be overcome. This is such an integral part of Chinese strategy that I seriously doubt any short-term change can be effected; the real question will be what can influence not Chinese regional ambitions but global ambitions. As for the madman in NK, the only thing that I can say is that deterrence tends only to work when dealing with non-paranoid leaders/states; otherwise adding more nuclear weapons into the equation is as usual a very, very, bad idea.

The idea is balance, not domination, and I think a strong Japan would be an essential ingredient.The problem here is that states don�t act like people, and while a balance of power doctrine is often advanced as a rationale for pursuing a particular strategy; it is one that is governed by external conditions not internal restraints and the urge towards some form of domination is weakly controlled once these conditions no longer exist. A regional infrastructure in dealing with potential conflicts and one which encourages peaceful economic co-operation is a much better avenue that one which relies on strong military powers to keep each other in check. It also has less chance of leading to any outbreak of hostilities.

Of course there are benefits beyond geopolitics - Japan would be better able to help police the Malacca straits and other chokepoints plagued by pirates on world trade. And since the boundary between shipping piracy and global terror is probably a diffuse one, a beneficial impact on terror is not fantasy.I dunno, this seems to be a relatively minor payoff considering the changes that are being proposed. A far better and more effective, as well as more viable in the long-term, way to deal with piracy in these maritime regions is to encourage and get the SE states involved such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore et al. to take the burden of some of this policing and to crack-down on the on-shore facilities and bases that such piracy depends on. As far as I understand, most experts in the field are sceptical that shipping piracy networks will co-operate will terrorist ones; since they both have divergent aims and the implementation of a major terrorist attack will invite excessive amounts of unwanted attention for the former as well as killing the goose that lays the golden eggs as far as their income opportunities are concerned.

The important question is, though, what role do the Japanese themselves want to play?
Obviously this is the key; I differ from you in that once certain courses of action are embarked upon, they tend to be difficult to reverse and have costs that aren�t always seen in advance. There is clearly an important role to be played in legitimate defensive capabilities and given Japan�s dependence on maintaining connections with the rest of the world on which much of its continued economic prosperity rests; I think rather than enter into a more assertive military-orientated strategy in unilateralist terms - there should be a move towards a more regionalist institutionalist strategy is needed. Some signs of this were present, as one could observe in Japanese offers to establish an Asian Monetary Fund in the wake of the 1997 Financial Crisis and closer moves in expanding co-operation with ASEAN, as well as making that organisation more than just a talking shop for unrepresentative governments.