Can Japan’s right wing ever revive militarism by catering to US?: Global Times editorial
Published: Apr 24, 2022 12:21 AM
Photo: GT

Photo: GT

Some worrying trends have been emerging in Japan recently. The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has put forward a number of suggestions on revising the country's direction-setting National Security Strategy, including describing China as a "grave threat," increasing defense expenditure to over 2 percent of GDP within five years, and pursuing the ability to attack an enemy's command and control systems as well as missile bases. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan on Friday released its 2022 Diplomatic Bluebook. Some analysts believe that the policy report abandoned the country's moderate attitude toward Russia in the past nearly two decades and shifted to a hard-line stance. 

In the new Bluebook, Japan not only hypes up "China threat theory" and the Taiwan question, but also harshly condemns Russia's "invasion" of Ukraine. And for the first time, the report says the Southern Kurils, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, are "illegally occupied by Russia." It says Japan will cooperate with South Korea to "deal with" North Korea. But it calls Takeshima, referred by South Korea as Dokdo, as "Japan's territory," which triggered protest from the South Korean Foreign Ministry. 

The territorial disputes and frictions between Japan and its neighboring countries have historical origins, but in the context of the increasing geopolitical conflicts in the world, it is hard not to imagine whether Japan intends to take advantage of the chaos through such indiscriminate moves, like spraying bullets from a machine gun. 

After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Japan has been very active in "punishing Russia." While many European countries are remaining cautious, Japan, an Asian country, has become one of the most high-profile allies of Washington on this issue. At the same time, some politicians in Japan, and even government departments such as the Ministry of Defense, are sparing no effort to exaggerate the "threat" of China and Russia. Their purpose is obvious - catering to the US in exchange for Washington making an exception to clear Japan's path toward making amendments to its pacifist constitution and breaking its commitment to the "exclusively defense-oriented" strategy. 

What is worth particular vigilance is, since the Ukraine crisis, there have been voices in Japan equating the crisis with the hypothetical scenario on Taiwan island, and the influence of such voices is growing. Influential Japanese right-wing politicians including Shinzo Abe have repeatedly claimed that Taiwan island's security challenges are Japan's concern, alarmingly tying the island's "security" with Japan and trying to mislead the Japanese public and even national policies. This is extremely ridiculous. They are very clear that as long as Japan maintains a "safe distance" from Taiwan secessionists and as long as the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are far away from the Taiwan Straits, where could the so-called danger come from?

All of the above are just the pretense of Japanese right-wing politicians. Their goal is to untie Japan militarily step by step, and finally achieve the target of revising the pacifist constitution. After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, they raised their advocacy of introducing a "nuclear sharing" arrangement, and behind the move is the eagerness to revive militarism and rewrite the post-WWII international order. Leaving other issues aside, what does increasing defense spending to 2 percent of GDP within five years mean? This means that Japan's defense expenditure will double in a short period of time, which is unprecedented in peace years. Once done, Japan's defense expenditure may rank third worldwide, and it is still an "exclusively defense-oriented" country in name.

The wishful thinking of some people in Japan is that they can carefully balance the situation and use crises one after another to militarily unbind itself in the context of the China-US competition. Japanese right wing still hold grudges toward the WWII, and militarism has not been truly and completely cleared in the country. This has not changed until today. Not only is Washington turning a blind eye to Japanese right wing's moves due to geopolitical short-sightedness, but there are even voices in the US urging Japan to arm itself. If so, the US is breeding evil. 

No matter how Tokyo and Washington coordinate with each other across the Pacific Ocean, it will not change the reality that their moves are incompatible with the general trend of the region. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, triggering strong opposition from countries including China and South Korea. In recent years, the Japanese right-wing's eagerness to revive militarism has become more and more obvious. As a result, Japan has fallen into constant discord with neighboring countries, and there has been a serious state of confrontation. This shows that whatever excuses Japan has found, they cannot become a passport to militarism. The harder Japanese right-wing forces try to break free from the shackles, the stronger counterforce they will feel.