The Japanese Jerk

The political right, rather the far right, in Japan, looks restless. They want to see Japan once again rising militarily, matching its economic might, to assert their hegemony and dominance in the region. They think the bitter legacy of two world wars should be forgotten—let time play its healing role. For them, it is futile to dig into history at a time when ‘globalised cooperation’ is the buzz word in every international discourse. But the victim nations of Japanese aggression think otherwise.

In 2012, the Japanese Government announced its "purchasing" the Diaoyu Islands part of China's territory, which prompted China to issue a stern rebuke. After Abe took office as prime minister for the second time in late 2012, Japan continued to take a tough stance on territorial disputes, intensifying tensions with China. Both Chinese and Japanese ships enhanced patrols around the disputed waters and led to some conflicts. As a result, political talks between the two sides were suspended.

Aside from territorial disputes the Japanese Government has made some other ill-considered moves. In July, the Abe administration approved a controversial reinterpretation of Japan's constitution to end a ban on allowing its military forces to exercise the right to collective self-defence, which many observers believe is the first step in what could be the renewed militarisation of Japan.

The Japanese Government has long held an ambiguous attitude regarding the Japanese army's atrocities during World War II (WWII). Many Japanese politicians have repeatedly paid homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 14 Class-A WWII war criminals, in spite of strong opposition from countries that suffered at the hands of Japanese invasion during the war. Last year, Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine had a serious impact on Japan's relations with its East Asian neighbours. Besides China, South Korea also denounced Abe's actions.

If anything, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to make Japan a ‘normal country’, with a military that can come to aid of its allies, and conduct peace keeping operations abroad. The limits of Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution, which renounces war, is being tested. Misawa airbase is a sensitive airbase in Northern Japan, which the modern Japanese Airforce shares with an American eaves dropping facility. Jet fighters from Misawa could help an American destroyer fight off a North Korean attack. No doubt diplomacy in the region has been spoilt by echoes of wartime nationalism amongst China, South Korea and Japan. The ‘‘self defence forces’’ of Japan have plenty to defend facing tensions with China, missile threats from nuclear armed North Korea, and an old dispute with Russia over northern islands. Japan’s 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron, part of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force, files F-2 planes in pairs. At Misawa, Japan scrambled its fighter aircraft more than 700 times in 2013, and exceeding 600 times in 2014. Most of the intercepts were to meet Chinese, Russian and North Korean planes.

Maybe practice missile tests were routine. But there is every reason to believe that Japan is possibly preparing to do away with WWII related restrictions in the sphere of military. In truth Japan has already militarised itself beyond post-war barrier. It is a matter of time that they would call themselves ‘normal’ while burying their low-key postures. This time, however, they would have face tough challenge and competition from China.

Vol. 47, No. 30, Feb 1 - 7, 2015