Japan to grow ‘aggressive’ in sea disputes

By Wu Gang Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/12 0:43:01

China must be well-prepared to deal with a militarizing Japan: analysts

Japanese Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe points at a reporter during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. A resounding election victory for Abe's ruling bloc has opened the door for his long-cherished ambition to revise the pacifist constitution. Photo: AP

Concerns have been raised over the possibility that Japan may play a more aggressive role in the South and East China Seas, after the ruling coalition's victory in upper house elections has paved the way for the Shinzo Abe administration to revise the nation's pacifist constitution.

Experts said that Abe is widely seen as having ambitions to seek more military power for Japan, whose armed forces have been kept in a strictly defensive capacity since World War II.

"If Abe successfully revises the pacifist constitution, it's possible his government will be more assertive in the East and South China Seas, which will provoke China and in turn give Japan more excuses to develop its military power," said Zhou Yongsheng, a professor with the Institute of International Relations under the China Foreign Affairs University.

"Creating tensions in the South China Sea will help Japan distract from the pressures in the East China Sea where it has direct territorial disputes with China," Zhou told the Global Times.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition partner Komeito and their allies won two-thirds of the parliament upper house's 242 seats in a Sunday election. With the coalition bloc occupying two thirds of the seats in both the upper and lower houses, it paves the way for parliament to start a motion for a constitutional revision, which would be followed by a public referendum.

Abe and his party have long been seeking to change the constitution formed after World War II. He successfully pushed through a security law last year that enables Japan to send troops overseas and exercise "collective defense" with allies.

China's foreign ministry said Monday that it is natural for China and the international community to be concerned about Japan's political direction, especially its military and security policy moves, given Japan's "severe crimes" against the Asian people in the past.

"We've repeatedly said that we hope Japan can learn lessons from history and pay attention to the security concerns of its neighbors in Asia as well as the international community," Lu Kang, a spokesperson with the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular press briefing.

Japan is believed to have pushed the G7 members to voice their "concerns" about the South China Sea issue in a summit in late May.

Wang Ping, a research fellow with the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, agreed that Japan has ulterior motives in the South China Sea, even though it is far away from its territory, and has no territorial claims there.

Chinese coast guard ships have been patrolling the waters near the disputed Diaoyu Islands more regularly in recent years, despite Japan's repeated protests.

"Japan is aware of the situation, and if it dares to send military ships to the Diaoyu Islands, the Chinese navy will certainly do something," Wang said.

On high alert

Analysts said that China has to be prepared for Japan's possible militarization in the long-term, since its determination to change the post-World War II constitution seems to be strong and unstoppable.

"We may not immediately turn against the Japanese people if they revise their constitution," Jiang Lifeng, a research fellow on Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. "But we must be on high alert about any move toward militarism."

Wang said it may be difficult for China and neighboring countries to stop Japan's eventual change of constitution.

"But the key is we must be well-prepared to deal with Japan after the pacifist constitution's revision," Wang said. "Are we going to be tough, or soft, or both?"

Jiang said since Japan has always refused to negotiate with China over the Diaoyu Islands, the best way for China is to raise its own power.

"After China has enough power, there may be a better time and opportunity in the future for the two sides to sit down and solve the disputes," he said.

The process to start the constitutional revision is likely to be strenuous and could take a long time, since Abe has to convince the LDP's coalition partners and allies to that end. Abe admitted to the media on Monday that it is not going to be easy.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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