Japan steering dangerous course toward militarism

By Su Xiaohui Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-8 19:48:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Japan believes that it has turned over the page on its militarist aggression and that it is groundless for its neighbors to make unwarranted charges about its current behavior. However, the truth is that its irresponsible behaviors have aroused concerns from regional countries. Japan has failed to build a positive image.

The fundamental problem is that Japan has never fully understood or dealt with its history of militarist aggression.

Since the end of WWII, Japan's neighbors have insisted that Japan should sincerely apologize for its war crimes. However, the Japanese side failed in providing an appropriate response, especially over issues such as "comfort women."

This is also reflected in the government's attitudes toward the Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japan's past militarism. Cabinet officials paid visits to the shrine to conduct ritual activities in spring and autumn. Such behaviors touched the red line of the victim countries, including China and South Korea.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is turning more conservative. It has aggressively made attempts to revise the pacifist constitution, which is obviously an important part of the post-war arrangements.

Amending the constitution is a long-cherished goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In 2007, when he first served as prime minister, he promoted the enactment of the national referendum law. The law established the procedures for amending the constitution.

Japan has also built up its security forces. Due to the restrictions of the pacifist constitution, the Self-Defense Forces are not allowed to possess intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers, or attack aircraft carriers. However, Japan has been seeking to upgrade its military capability by bypassing the constitution.

With the "state purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands, the country made concrete investments in the Maritime Self-Defense Forces, in order to deal with China's actions in defending its sovereignty.

There have been hot debates about the intention and function of Japan's helicopter carrier Izumo which was launched earlier this year. The fact that this vessel is named after a flagship involved in Japan's aggression against China in the 1930s has already laid bare Tokyo's ambition.

Some analysts emphasized that the overall capacity of Japan's forces cannot overweigh that of China, and Japan's military expense increase seems modest compared to China's great leap in military spending.

But the problem is that Japan has virtually gone beyond the exclusively defense-oriented strategy.

The country's efforts to distort the history of military aggression and shake off the post-war arrangements have aroused great concern from its neighbors. It is in question that whether Japan will follow the path of peaceful development.

Japan's policy choices have undermined its image as a positive player in the region, and will accordingly have a negative impact on the country's long-term development and its own national interests. Unfortunately, no signs indicate that Japan has realized the existing and potential dangers of these moves.

Another dangerous signal is that Japan has tried to utilize its relationship with the US to gain an advantageous position in dealing with its neighbors, especially those who have territorial disputes with Japan.

The US has practical policy thinking. It is looking forward to more contributions from Japan to its strategic design in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US is reluctant to take a firm position in urging Japan to respect the post-war regime constituted by the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation.

However, it is still unlikely for the US to side with Japan concerning its problems with other regional countries, including territorial disputes. The US has sensed the risk that disputes may go out of control and in turn harm US interests. Accordingly, the US is paying more attention to crisis management, including the regulation of Japan's behavior.

It seems that the only choice left for Japan is to correctly understand the current developments and correct its mistakes. It is not too late to get back on the right track.

The author is deputy director of Department for International and Strategic Studies, China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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