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Anniversary of war’s end sees Japan still committed to path of peace
Publication Date : 16-08-2014
August 15, marks again the anniversary of the end of the war.
This is the day we renew our pledge of peace and our determination not to engage in war, while also quietly paying tribute to the memory of those who died in World War II.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration decided in July on a new constitutional interpretation that acknowledged the country’s limited ability to exercise the right of collective self-defense.
In connection with this, Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki expressed “anxiety and apprehension” in the Peace Declaration of Nagasaki on the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of that city on Aug. 9, stating that “the rushed debate over collective self-defense has given rise to the concern that this principle [of pacifism] is wavering.” Others are also averse to the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution, making such claims as that the new government view could “pave the way for Japan to again take part in a war.”
Govt not seeking war
The new government view, however, is by no means an attempt to make it easier for Japan to take part in a war. On the contrary, it is aimed at minimising that possibility by strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan’s cooperation with the international community to enhance the nation’s deterrent against war.
The security environment surrounding Japan has been deteriorating rapidly in recent years. North Korea has been pushing ahead with nuclear weapons and missile development programs, while China has been bolstering its armaments and repeatedly conducting self-righteous maritime advances. The menace of international terrorism has also been surging.
It is urgent for this nation to firmly establish a system capable of coping effectively with new security situations.
During the 69 years since the war’s end, Japan has seen the benefits of peace and prosperity, having never attacked any other country or been subject to invasion from abroad.
Peace cannot be maintained simply by chanting the slogan, “Let’s defend Article 9 of the Constitution.”
It is of major significance that this country, in the years after the war, founded the Self-Defense Forces and built up its defense capabilities in a manner suited to changes in the times, while concluding the Japan-U.S. security treaty and steadily strengthening the bilateral ties of the alliance.
Although no SDF personnel have been killed in war, more than 1,800 have so far died in the line of duty from such causes as accidents and illness. We must always remember that Japan’s security is ensured through the inconspicuous day-to-day efforts of the SDF.
When the Japan-U.S. security treaty came under revision in 1960, emotional objections erupted based on the claim that Japan would be drawn into war, splitting public opinion in two.
It has been historically proven, however, that the Japan-U.S. alliance functioned effectively both during the Cold War between East and West, when there was a military threat from the Soviet Union, and under the fluid circumstances in East Asia after the Cold War ended.
The Japan-U.S. alliance is now acknowledged by many countries as “a public asset” needed for the stability of Asia.
The government used the SDF in a restrained way in the initial days of its existence, but has since expanded its role in stages to include such fields as international peacekeeping activities. This progress by Japan as a peace-loving country ever since the war’s end has been highly praised by the international community.
The approval of limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense is an extension of such peacekeeping efforts by Japan and has been supported and hailed by most countries other than China and South Korea. This fact is extremely significant.
The change in the government’s constitutional interpretation has made it possible for the SDF to protect U.S. warships and missiles from attack. Measures will be worked out to handle contingencies in various situations. Through repeated drills, the ability to seamlessly respond in every situation from peacetime to emergencies will be maintained. Such endeavors will enhance the effectiveness of deterrence.
Some people have made inflammatory claims that the change in the interpretation of the Constitution will lead to a revival of the prewar conscription system. They contend this will happen due to difficulties recruiting SDF personnel because they will be told to go to war, but this is a specious assertion.
A military draft is prohibited outright by the Constitution. Like its principles of pacifism and an exclusively defensive posture, this tenet will never change. The reinterpretation of the Constitution was restricted in order to maintain the spirit of the nation’s top law. The government must explain these points in detail to the public.
It is essential for Japan to remain a country that the United States can trust and that is worthy of being protected.
If the Maritime Self-Defense Force does not take any action when U.S. warships are attacked in the Sea of Japan, the bilateral alliance might collapse. The action one takes when someone is in need determines whether one is a true friend.
It is also indispensable for Japan to play a role commensurate with its national strength in such fields as U.N. peacekeeping operations, based on the Abe administration’s strategy of “proactive contribution to peace.”
Improve security environment
Japan’s contributions to improving the world’s security environment through such efforts as reducing hotbeds of terrorism and preventing conflicts would be directly linked to its own security. Such endeavors would also lead to Japan becoming a country worth being protected by the international community.
The government’s new constitutional interpretation limits the range of what would amount to “an integration of the use of force,” which is banned under the Constitution, and enable urgent rescue missions by the SDF to help foreign troops. It is highly significant for the SDF to take a more active part in building peace.
It is also essential for Japan as a pacifist nation to step up its diplomatic activities. Japan must reinforce cooperation with countries concerned to establish a system that will not allow the status quo to be changed through force and will try to resolve disputes peacefully based on international law.
Based on the new constitutional interpretation, it is crucial to beef up deterrence by making military and diplomatic strategies function as two wheels on the same cart.
This is the only way to ensure that Aug. 15 remains the only date on which we commemorate the anniversary of a war’s end.