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

An Objection to July 2 New York Times Editorial
HANABUSA Masamichi / Former Ambassador to Italy

July 8, 2014
The New York Times, in its 7/2 editorial entitled "Japan and the Limits of Military Power", argues that Prime Minister Abe has increased anxiety in Asia by partially admitting the exercise of the right of "collective self-defense". I cannot but feel that this editorial is grossly unbalanced and insufficiently argued out as it fails to see a crucial factor in the East-Asian politico-military world. The missing factor is who possesses nuclear weapons in this region. China's nuclear arsenal in fact could destroy Japan many times over, while Japan is an avowedly non-nuclear-weapon state whose power-projection capability is extremely limited. Under these circumstances, the use of military power by Japan is subject to nearly absolute limits, unlike that of nuclear powers. This absolute limitation would remain unchanged, even if Japan became a 'normal' country. It is neither logical nor reasonable, therefore, for the editorial board of the New York Times to disregard this important factor and argue all too alarmingly that the qualified lessening of limitation on Japanese military power due to the latest decision by Prime Minister Abe's Government would mean 'changing Japan into a country to wage wars'.

The record of Japan's post-war diplomacy based on international cooperation leaves no doubt whatsoever that Japan has steadfastly stood for the maintenance of the status quo in East Asia, neither seeking any gain through, nor possessing the capability for, military adventurism. It is inconceivable that Japan takes on nuclear-armed China, counting on the American nuclear umbrella. Nor does Japan entertain any military ambition in the Korean Peninsula or Southeast Asia. The NYT editorial board might be wary that Japan's actions might entrap the United States in a war which it does not want. But, such a possibility is practically zero.

The basic factor which had led Japan to the latest decision is, above all, the series of developments in the past two decades, such as the end of the Cold War, war wariness in the US following so many wars it has waged, the rapid Chinese military buildup and subsequent increase in her assertiveness backed by force in her external relations. Having probed for ways to respond to the new situation, the Japanese Government has decided on the catalogue of permissible use of force which is intended primarily to enhance the deterrence under the Japan-US Security Treaty.

It might be comforting for China and the ROK, and even possibly for the US, not to see Japan change its hitherto excessively passive stance in its external relations notwithstanding the above-mentioned sea change in the world surrounding Japan. But many Japanese have now come to realize that it is no longer possible for Japan to maintain its vast interdependence with the rest of the world by simply depending on the benevolence of other nations. They fear that Japan’s presence in the world would quickly be eroded if Japan did not engage itself more actively in preventing nuclear proliferation, ensuring the security of sea-lanes, conserving the global environment as well as participating in UN peace-keeping operations in trouble spots for a more secure and safer world.

The writer is of the view that the situation in which Japan finds itself today closely resembles that of Britain on the eve of WWII, in that its overseas economic interests would not be secured without maintaining its strong alliance with the US. As a status-quo power, Japan would not be able to safeguard its national interests without making maximum possible efforts to strengthen the Japan-US Alliance. Many of the military activities which are newly to be permitted under the latest Government decision are for the purpose of safeguarding the security of Japan and the Japanese people though strengthening the deterrence under the Japan-US Alliance. Those who stridently sound the alarm must realize the logic and workings of deterrence; the Japanese shooting down of missiles flying to America is unlikely to happen, just like the actual triggering of the American nuclear umbrella that deters nuclear attacks on Japan. Probably the most important among the newly possible Japanese military activities would be in terms of greater contribution by Japan to future UN peace-keeping operations. At any rate, if the US wishes to maintain its preeminence in the world into the future, the Japanese decision this time is to be welcome. It would be definitely off the point if the Americans were to entertain anxiety about it.

Based on their own tragic experiences, the Japanese people are firmly convinced that nuclear weapons are catastrophically destructive and should never be used. I am convinced that, in view of the deeply ingrained anti-nuclear sentiment and pacifism on the part of its people, Japan, an island nation geographically vulnerable to nuclear attacks, would never change its basic policy to rule out the nuclear option for itself, even if the US power were drastically marginalized and the world were turned into a lawless jungle. Given this assumption, the significance of the latest changes in Japan's defense policy is very limited in scope. Certainly it should give no cause for alarm to those countries that have no intention to attack Japan or the US.

For these reasons, I conclude that the said NYT editorial is influenced excessively by views shown by parts of Japanese media and groups which are often doctrinaire and prone to utopian pacifism, blindly adhering to the war-renunciation clause of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The editorial blows out of proportion the import of Prime Minister Abe's latest decision with an excessively alarming overtone.

Masamichi Hanabusa is Chairman Emeritus of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐イタリア大使  

2014年 7月 8日







(筆者は本連盟 名誉会長。)
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > An Objection to July 2 New York Times Editorial