07/24/2009, 00.00
Send to a friend

Growing war industry in pacifist Japan

by Pino Cazzaniga
The Japanese Constitution excludes the possibility that the country enters war or even has an army. For more than 62 years no Japanese has killed or been killed in military actions. But the ban has been overturned and now factories are producing sophisticated weapons technology.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The Japanese Constitution states that the country can not have an army or military potential and, by law, the passage of nuclear weapons is even not allowed. But its industry produces, and sells highly technological weapons. And while the country has begun a debate on possible constitutional reform on this issue, one wonders if the Land of the Rising Sun is still "pacifist".  

It all dates back to July 26 1945. when U.S. President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek met in the castle in Potsdam, not far from Berlin, to determine the terms of the surrender of Japan. The ultimatum stated that if Japan had not surrendered unconditionally it would meet with "rapid and complete destruction." The "Potsdam Declaration", which did not involve the annihilation of the Japanese nation or its government, only its democratization, gave birth to modern Japan.

From 15 August 1945, the day of unconditional surrender to General Douglas Mc Arthur, the "American shogun", broad powers were given to make this effective. The goal was achieved with a two part program: punishment and renewal.  The program punitive had its climax in the so-called "international tribunal in Tokyo", echoing that of Nuremberg.  The program for renewal, which was far more important, had its best expression in the new constitution, proclaimed May 3 1947.

Democracy and peace are it’s pillars, but the latter characterizes it in a highly unique way, so much so it is referred to as the "Peace Constitution", thanks, especially to Article 9, considered the gem of the entire document. Here is the text: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, 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. 2) 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. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized”.  In simple terms: Japan forfeit its right to declare war and to have an army! No nation in the world has such a constitution. But there's more. 62 years after its proclamation, the fundamental charter of the Japanese nation presents itself as a model constitution, because today it seems one can no longer speak of "just war"

Japanese a pacifist people?  

However, the illumination of the pacifist Constitution is not without shadows, at least regarding its origin. The text was prepared by American lawyers. Many people do not genuinely believe it to be Japanese. The movement for its replacement or reform is strong and legitimate.   But in order not to weaken esteem for it nor its force of law, these three facts should be taken into account: first, it was approved by the Diet (Parliament), with only six abstentions, and secondly, with  regards "real pacifism" its effectiveness has been enormous: in the last 62 years no Japanese has been killed or have killed in war; finally, if we limit ourselves to Article 9, popular polls shows that the number of citizens who wish to keep it as it is exceeds the number of those who believe it requires some modifications.

But that said, Japanese pacifism is not transparent, because in Japan there are three powers: one democratic and two more occult; the first is represented by the people, the voters; and hence the guarantee of freedom and openness is good;  the other two are in the hands of industry and bureaucracy, where the logic of profit or that of the international balance of power prevails over the ethics of democracy.  

The production of arms nourishes the Japanese industry.  

Today, wars are not waged with armies but with sophisticated weapons. Responding to this fact and together with the logic of profit, Japan, 60 years after the promulgation of a pacifist constitution, is the fifth largest producer of military weapons for a market value of nearly 5 billion dollars. The industrial facilities that produce them are among the biggest in the nation, such as Mitsubishi, NEC and Kawsaki Heavy Industries.

The United States Government that, through Mc Arthur, presented Japan in 1947 with a constitution that excluded the possession of an army, allowing only for a national police body, just five years later called on the nation to institute a national defense body (Jieitai). The Reason: the beginning of the Cold War. Japan did not hesitate at the request to establish a "National Defense Body" which, in order maintain juridical appearances,  it never called an "army",  but which is currently equipped with the most sophisticated modern weapons, with the exception of nuclear weapons.  

In 1953, only a year after regaining full power, Japan begun to sell weapons despite export bans. The opening up of the Japanese Government to the international war market became increasingly extensive, to the point of establishing research alliances with the United States on ultra-modern weapons such as BMD missiles (Ballistic Missile Defense), and granting the export of sophisticated technology of that type to the U.S. and Europe. Nippon Keidanren (the Japanese Confederation of Industries) has hailed the government decision as a great step forward .

For the near future Japanese prospects for international cooperation in the military industry are brilliant. Especially in nanotechnology. In the areas of miniaturization, mixers and digital optics Japan offers an excellent service that is highly sought after.   We know that the United States in Iraq are using some 12,000 robots that can be equipped with missiles and machine guns.   Can still define as "pacifist" a nation involved in the production of ultra-modern weapons only because its fundamental charter prevents it from owning them?

Covert diplomacy of Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ officials  

Saku Eisaku (1901-75) was perhaps the most astute and the most brilliant post war prime minister in the mid 60s. In 1967, Japan introduced the legislation of the three anti-nuclear principles: “not to manufacture, possess or introduce (in to Japan) nuclear bombs”. For this and for his activities in favor of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in 1974 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. But a few years ago some U.S. declassified documents revealed that Sato, in the'60s, during a visit to the White House had tacitly agreed that in case of need, the U.S. ships with nuclear warheads could transit in Japanese ports.

Moreover in 2001, after the Law on freedom of information was approved, a former top official of the Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs, revealed to the newspaper Asahi that a written document on this secret nuclear pact actually existed in the archives of the ministry but recently had been destroyed by bureaucratic order.

The result is that while the department ministers change with relative frequency, senior bureaucrats remain as the real, trusted and of course secret, authority in the field for the Prime Minister.

In terms of international politics that they must be especially competent in judging the balance of power, not in the principles of the pacifist constitution.

But the reasons of the State can not betray democratic trust when it comes to principles as basic as that of world peace. Intellectuals and the population, especially in the big cities, are becoming aware of this.



Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Japanese scientists against military-oriented research in universities
10/03/2017 13:34
Japan’s ruling parties back new “war” law
Yoshihide Suga becomes Japan’s new prime minister
16/09/2020 16:39
Tokyo: Yoshihide Suga to replace Shinzo Abe at head of government
14/09/2020 09:59
Japanese warships join fight against pirates in Somalia


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”