Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Don't Misread What Election Results Imply
ONO Goro  / Professor Emeritus, Saitama University

September 18, 2009
Following the victory of the Democratic Party in the latest general elections in Japan, many Japanese commentators attribute the Liberal Democratic Party's defeat to the failure of the LDP's economic policies. Likewise, the Democratic Party is being criticized for their diplomatic and national security stance lacking a valid future outlook.

It is without doubt that one of the important factors for people's selection of the Democratic Party was the economic plight brought about under the past LDP administration. At the same time, it must not be overlooked, that many people have actually been dissatisfied with and tired of the LDP's foreign policy, which was considered too dependent on and subservient to America's. If you misread this point, the U.S.-Japan relationship could veer into irretrievable direction.

At first glance, this change of mind of the Japanese people appears to have been caused by the financial crisis that, originating in the America, destroyed the belief long advocated by the LDP as well as Japan's business community that, "the surest way to safety and prosperity is to go along with America."

The truth is more deeply rooted; deep down in Japanese psychology there always has existed certain ambivalence towards America. America has greatly contributed to the remarkable rehabilitation of the post-war Japan, has planted democracy in Japan, has many virtues including freedom which Japan should emulate. A sense of gratitude and respect to the United States openly emerges on the surface. Side by side with this gratitude and respect, there are many resentments; the United States keeps on justifying the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the unlawful postwar tribunal by the victor countries, continues to use military bases acquired in Japan under occupation as if they were their naturally vested rights, and forces their own way on Japan without any regard for Japanese feelings, taking it for granted that Japan has no other way but to follow the U.S. on anything. In the subconscious realm of the Japanese mind, there are resentment and repulsion for such American arrogance.

Given this ambivalence, in my view the Japanese choice of policies towards the US are subject to wide sway for minor reasons. In this respect, I am worried about recent utterances and behaviors of a group of U.S. government officials. They seem not to be able to understand at all that a possible change of policy by Japan's Democratic Party administration is supported by an overwhelming majority of the Japanese voters in general elections and criticism of it is tantamount to criticizing the Japanese people.

For example, senior government officials and spokesmen for the Departments of State and Defense have reiterated: "the posture of the Democratic regime may endanger the U.S.-Japan relationship," "Japan's policy options for North Korea must be limited," "the U.S. government is not prepared to review the U.S.-Japan Security Agreements," "the American forces in Japan will leave if the latter abolishes the 'Host Nation Support (Omoiyari Yosan)'" and the like. All such statements sound like warnings or threats and are hurting the Japanese people's feelings.

Particularly impertinent, I believe, was the statement that "the U.S.-Japan Security agreements (SOFA) will not be reviewed." When the people have chosen under the democratic procedure the political party which had promised the review of the security arrangements with the U.S. in their Manifesto, such a statement is nothing but discourteous. They appear to be unaware of their discourtesy. American media, too, carried an editorial maintaining that "the term 'subordinative' which Hatoyama uses is incomprehensible." If, while reiterating statements amounting to a demand "do what we ask," they don't feel that they are asking for subordination, as in the past, isn't it proof that they consider Japan as nothing but a "tributary state"?

Certainly, the past LDP regime would have guessed the wishes of the U.S. and found a solution desirable for America. But this posture is exactly what the Japanese people voted against in the recent elections.

The Democratic administration must take a firm stand as an independent country, being an America's equal partner, shrugging off any balls and chains of the past which were presumed as important. Otherwise, the Japanese people will be disillusioned by the Democratic Party and may become more drastic in their future choice.

I am inclined to feel that the Democratic Party is only advocating "an equal partnership" and "independence rather than subjugation," which are not at all extraordinary for men of plain common sense. At the base of their argument, there is an indisputable recognition on the part of the Democratic Party of the importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance. Their assertion for "an equal partnership" may seem to ruffle the U.S.-Japan relationship in the short term. But a true mutual understanding cannot be attained without getting beyond it and we would be in danger of being left behind the trend of globalization in relation to countries other than the United States. Furthermore, if Japan wants to be a real ally of the U.S.'s, who has not yet become aware of her self-centeredness, she should give the latter good advice no matter how bitter it may be, based on a fair and just principle, because it actually is in the interest of the United States, too.

Should the U.S. deny this position, the Japanese people's emotion that is in a delicate balance would shift toward anti-American feelings in a moment. It may then lead to a rise of forces who shout, as did the young students in the 1960s, "Americans, get out!" All I can do, who have been supporting the U.S.-Japan Alliance for over half a century since the time of anti-Americanism, is just pray that such a situation will not occur.

The writer is Professor Emeritus at Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野五郎 / 埼玉大学名誉教授

2009年 9月 18日





例えば、政府高官や国務省・国防省の報道官などが、「民主党政権の姿勢は、日米関係を害う危険性がある」「北朝鮮問題を抱えている日本の選択肢は限られているはずだ」「日米協定の見直しは行なわない」「思いやり予算を廃するのであれば在日米軍は引き上げる」    等々日本側に警告ないし脅しとも言うべき発言を繰り返しているが、それらはすべて日本国民の感情を逆撫でするものである。






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Don't Misread What Election Results Imply