11/04/2005, 00.00
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Tokyo's army will be able to operate abroad with the US

by Pino Cazzaniga

This is the outcome of an agreement which modifies Japanese pacifism, enshrined in the Constitution. Some see it as a reaction to the growth of China.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – A document entitled "Alliance between United States and Japan: transformation and realignment for the future" is provoking reactions in Japan. Signed on 28 October in Washington, the document was presented to the press by two high-ranking ministerial duos: Condoleeza Rice, American Secretary of State and Nobutaka Machimura, Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister, along with Donald Rumsfeld, American Defence Secretary, and Yoshinori Ono, director of Japan's Defence Agency.

The document was presented as a "provisional report". In reality, it consists of a goal which has been conclusively reached after two years of work, by the "US-Japan Security Consultative Committee" and finishing touches which may be applied to the document before its entry into force in March will not change its essence. Its novelty lies in the fact members of the Japanese "Defence Agency" (that is, the army) will, from now on, be able to cross the borders of the archipelago to collaborate in global security alongside its US ally.

The document registers a substantial change with regard to the declaration made in Article 9 of Japan's 1947 Constitution, proposed (or imposed) by General Mc Arthur: "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." Already after only five years (1952), the American government must have repented of this puritan intransigence because it added mutual security to the peace treaty, allowing Japan to have its own army which, in compliance with the wording of the Constitution, is called "Self-Defence Agency". In return, Japan allowed the ally to set up powerful military bases on its territory.

Until the end of the eighties, the men and means of the Self Defence Force (SDF) never ventured beyond the nation's borders: the anti-militaristic principle in the constitution was an insurmountable barrier. But then the government decided to contribute to global security within the UN framework, sending SDF contingents to hot spots needing reconstruction like Cambodia and East Timor. A breach, probably irreversible, of the constitutional dam which burst at the start of the 2000 years: during the American war in Afghanistan, the Japanese government made two SDF ships available, equipped with the most sophisticated communication instruments. A contingent of 3,000 Japanese soldiers is currently stationed in Iraq.

The agreements signed in Washington last week, which the Defence Secretary, Rumsfeld considers "courageous and significant" are the most substantial step taken in the journey of mutual collaboration.

Seen from the perspective of Japan's democratic development and dialogue between the nations of East Asia, they seem to be rather a regression. A columnist of the Japanese daily Asahi wrote: "From now on, Japan will sustain American military action on a global level. Such a change is equivalent to a revision of the security treaty". Such a grave decision could not have been taken without popular or parliamentary consultation.

David Wall, former lecturer of the Institute of East Asian Studies at Cambridge University sees Japan's recent militaristic movement as a reaction of resentment against China. He writes: "The fact that China is taking on the role of leader of East Asia in a pacific way and with the backing of other Asian nations increases resentment in the context of Japanese right-wing nationalism… following the development of this military alliance it is hard not to conclude that Japan, together with USA, is aiming to contain the power and influence of China in the region.

The American professor's opinion seems too pessimistic. At least 50% of Japanese are for openness to Asia in general and especially to China.

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