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Japanese right-wingers urge military buildup

Publication Date : 15-09-2012


Right-wing politicians in Japan are calling for a military buildup as the nation's territorial row with China escalates, analysts warned.

Japan's regional neighbours are showing growing concerns over the nation's rising militaristic shift amid a diplomatic standoff between Japan and China over the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as Senkaku Islands), which has historically been China's territory.

Former Japanese defence minister Shigeru Ishiba told voters yesterday to support the conversion of Japan's military, which is constitutionally limited to self-defence, into a normal military force.

Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, also urged revisions to Japan's pacifist constitution.

Hashimoto's newly formed political party includes the Diaoyu Islands in the party's logo.

Hashimoto, in presence of his supporters on Thursday, also vowed to visit the Tokyo-based Yasukuni Shrine, the Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

The shrine honours Japan's war dead, including 14 Class-A World War II war criminals, and is viewed throughout the Asia-Pacific region as a dark reminder of Japan's militaristic past.

"Recent calls from Japanese right-wing politicians to rewrite the pacifist constitution and upgrade its military show that right-wing views are spreading and gathering momentum in Japan," Feng Zhaokui, former director of Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said at a Beijing-based seminar on the Diaoyu Islands.

At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting in early July, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also expressed support to allow military action.

Feng warned that there have been moves within Japan, including Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara's campaign to "buy" the Diaoyu Islands, to use the dispute to inflame nationalist sentiment and public discontent.

Japan illegally seized the islands at the end of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). But key declarations following World War II legally returned the islands to China.

Yet Shintaro Ishihara, the right-wing Tokyo governor, unveiled plans on behalf of the city government to "buy" the islands in April. Noda joined the bid and announced a plan in July to "nationalise" the islands.

Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japanese studies and vice-dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, said Japan's attempt to "nationalise" the Diaoyu Islands is essentially a duplication of its expansion pattern during the Sino-Japanese War at the end of the 19th century.

"Japan's stance on the islands is a blatant denial of the victory of a global anti-fascist war and a serious challenge to the post-war international order," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday, blasting the Japanese government's decision to "nationalise" the islands.

Meanwhile, politicians including Noda have previously said that Japan cannot rule out the possibility of dispatching its Self-Defence Force troops if the situation "gets out of control".

"Some rightists' support for military action to 'take over' the Diaoyu Islands pose a huge threat. Such words violate the political commitment between the two countries to refrain from armed conflict and also breach widely accepted international rules and laws for solving territorial issues," said Peng Guangqian, a major general of the People's Liberation Army and a Beijing-based military strategist.

Tokyo enacted a sweeping update of its national defence policies two years ago, and it has been bolstering its military in its southwest, where it has laid claim over the Diaoyu Islands, which has been a traditional fishing ground for generations of Chinese fishermen and could hold potentially large gas reserves.

Tokyo also unveiled plans on Sept. 7 to seek more national funding for vessels and manpower to enhance its presence in remote islands, mainly targeting the islands to its southwest.

Japan has plotted provocations over the dispute to play up China's "military threat" to increase support for a larger defence budget, said Ji Zhiye, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Poor public opinion of the Noda cabinet, a stagnant economy and a chaotic political arena have given rise to radical voices advocating a tough stance toward China over the dispute, analysts said.

Tokyo is also keen to boost its alliance with the United States, and the Diaoyu Islands issue has given it a chance to convince the public of the need to beef up its military alliance with Washington, Ji said.


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