Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Japan to exchange its reputation for military power

Japan's Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe is trying to start an active campaign to amend the Constitution of Japan, which will focus on creating a full-fledged army in Japan. However, a poll revealed that only a third of the Japanese population supported the idea. Does Japan need a full-fledged army?

As many politicians say, it is a severe state of public finances, rather than the Constitution of Japan that limits Japan's ability to maintain a military structure. Political scientists tend to believe that the price of official amendments to the basic law of the country may be too high, especially in terms of international relations. China and South Korea may interpret this move as hostile towards them on the part of Japan.

In addition, Japan will no longer be able to bear the title of a "pacifist state", which was an integral part of the country's reputation, which, in turn, could produce a destabilizing effect on the Asian region as a whole.

Japan and the defense of Senkaku Islands 

A few days after being re-elected to the post of the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe confirmed Japan's sovereignty over the tiny eastern Senkaku islands (Diaoyu), for which two superpowers are fighting - China and Japan. In addition, Japan is in a century-old dispute with South Korea over the island called as Takeshima by the Japanese, or Dokdo - by the Koreans. It is believed that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan from the point of view of history and international law. The issue of the territorial sovereignty of the islands had not been raised before 1971, when they started talking about the possibility of the existence of oil resources there. Since then, the governments of China and Taiwan have their claims to the territory.

Geographically, the Senkaku Islands are made up of small islands: Uotsuri, Katakodzima, Minamikodzima, Cuba, Taisho, Okinokitaiva, Okinominamiva and Tobise. When dividing Japanese territories after the Second World War, they, according to the San Francisco Peace Treaty, were delivered under the control of the United States of America. They were returned to Japan in May, 1972.

The Senkaku Islands were carefully examined by geologists and anthropologists.  The results showed that the region had never been under the control of China. The Japanese Cabinet issued a decree that officially, in accordance with international law, made the Senkaku Islands a territory of Japan. Afterwards, a question appeared about the development of oil resources on the continental shelf of the East China Sea. No one was interested in the islands before that.

Japan - allies and opponents

The real causes of Chinese-Japanese tensions originate, to some extent, from consequences of a long-standing rivalry. For example, deputy Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has recently said that over the last fifteen hundred years, there was not even a day in history when Japan's relations with China would be going smoothly. At present, the conflict is exacerbated with objective factors of the growth of the Chinese economy and the economic recession in Japan. Nationalism in these countries is an important ideological component, and ruling circles must prove their intransigence towards opponents.

At the end of the Second World War, Japan has never fully regained its national identity. The country was reinventing itself in some degree, which included a major dilemma - the choice of allies and opponents. Japan was trying to act as a major power, and remain respectful to American interests.

In the future, Japan could rearm itself and build its own nuclear weapons, which could balance its power with China. However, such a move would lead to a potentially dangerous arms race in the region. Japan could be friends with China, thus turning its back on the United States. Such a step could change the balance of forces and make China, not the U.S., a dominant superpower.

In turn, the United States sees Japan and South Korea as closest allies in the Asian region that balance the growing influence of China. As for South Korea, Japan has a conflict of interests with this country over the island, which South Korea calls Dokdo and Japan - Takeshima. A visit of the South Korean president to the island caused a storm of indignation in Japan. The deterioration of relations led to material consequences. South Korea postponed the deal on sharing intelligence information about North Korea with Japan, in which the United States was interested. Japan is considering the extension of the currency swap agreement, although about five million tourists migrate between the two countries each year, and the leaders will have to overcome the odds. 

South Korea and Japan still can not adequately evaluate actions of the parties during the Second World War. This applies mainly to South Korea that believes that Japan apologized inadequately for using women as sex slaves during Japan's annexation of Korea. Recently, foreign ministers Fumio Kishida and Yun Bin Xie conducted talks in Brunei, and agreed to focus on future bilateral relations. It was the first such meeting in the past nine months.

Japan and South Korea are connected by means of global issues relating to nuclear and missile programs of North Korea and the growth of military and economic power of China. Meanwhile, the U.S. indirectly tries to influence the Sino-South Korean ties. China, as reported by Reuters, said it would participate in the Japan-China summit only if Tokyo recognized China's territorial claims to the Senkaku Islands. In July of this year, at a tripartite meeting between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the United States and South Korea, three high-ranking diplomats confirmed that they did not accept North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and urged to take concrete action on the denuclearization of North Korea.

Nowadays, basic principles of self-defense of Japan are focused on the protection of its islands and marine areas in the south. The government of the country says that to oppose the conquest of the islands, Japan needs to have a full-fledged army. The country will strengthen its naval and air forces through the construction and purchase of submarines, aircraft carriers, as well as a new generation of fighters. 

Forbes Analyst Donald Kirk notes that Japan has been building up the capabilities of its armed forces very slowly. Japan's defense budget has decreased by 5.2 percent in several years. Therefore, to increase the strength of its armed forces, Japan will probably have to "tighten the belt" and cut many articles of the budget. The post-war "economic miracle" of Japan became possible owing to the minimization of military spending. How can the militarization of Japan affect its economy, especially during the time of an economic crisis? This is a big question indeed.

Sergei Vasilenko


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