Japan and the World Community

EDITORIAL, 14 Apr 2014

#320 | Johan Galtung, 14 Apr 2014 - TRANSCEND Media Service

From Osaka, Kyoto

Japan could have been a leading world power today.

Not a 19th century colonial-imperial-military power, but a peace power like Switzerland, only much bigger.  If its political leaders had embraced the peace constitution with Article 9–finally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize–depriving Japan of the right to war with the same enthusiasm of its population.  A recent public opinion poll showed 2/3, 63%-64% opposing collective defense and revision of A9.

Not that A9–against war, not for peace–is perfect.  Betrayed by politicians “interpreting” and used as a comfortable sleeping pillow by the peace movement people, two solid pillars should have been added, like defensive defense and positive peace.

Yes, the world can be a dangerous place, somebody might attack. In order not to provoke attacks and costly arms races, take the war on own soil, with conventional border defense (short-range, even fixed weaponry, nothing offensive), paramilitary defense (militia) and nonmilitary defense (non-cooperation if occupied).  A strong package.

No, the world is not that dangerous.  We can learn how to resolve the conflicts of today and tomorrow, and reconcile unhealed traumas of yesterday; and how to cooperate with others for mutual and equal benefit–equity–and develop enough empathy to know how others feel.

Peace power Japan would have developed expertise on all that, become a host to help parties in conflict, and propagated A9 all over.

A peace power Japan would have abolished nuclear power plants not to be suspected of making weapons-grade plutonium, and have joined the neighbors in East Asian and Northeast Asian communities.  Senkaku-Diaoyu and Takeshima-Dockdo could be community property, dividing the proceeds 40%-40%, to Japan and China-Korea, with 20% to the community.

Such a peace power Japan would have been be admired as pioneering a better world community, and respected and emulated–not feared.

Its voice would not have been his master’s echo, but a voice of peace coming from a practitioner.  Others would invest and trade, not risking war.  And aggressive others would be deterred from attacking.

But the present regime reminds the world community of militarist-nationalist, Hideyoshi-Showa, Japan.  Underlying this is an economic infrastructure based on “easing”–euphemism for printing money like the aggressors USA-UK–with a 2% inflation hurting consumers rather than a deflation hurting business.  Devaluation of the Japanese yen led to less increased export than expected and (Le Monde Diplomatique January 2014) the highest trade deficit since 1979 with higher prices particularly for food and energy.  The unemployment is low, but 35% of the jobs are part time-temporary, and real income decreases.  Misery can be a fertile soil for nationalism, and militarist Japan now makes money exporting arms even to countries at internal or external war.

Instead of equity and empathy, the key neighbors, China and South Korea, are served provocation by prime ministers visiting the Yasukuni shrine honoring Japanese soldiers, even war criminals, apology seen as “masochistic”, and blunt nationalism in authorized school text books.

The leading Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun made an opinion survey:

Issue Answer Japan China Korea
War problems










Yasukuni shrine

visit OK?









Post-war peace policy so far OK? Yes








Future peace policy will be OK? Yes








Japan is divided down the middle, and the two neighbors are almost undivided against the Japanese policies; Korea even more than China (aggression against Korea was from 1910 as against 1931 for China).

More than 60 wasted postwar years, now worse than ever; giving a damn in their sentiments.  Their reflection: Japan may do it again.

Why such an absurd policy?  One factor is Japan’s idea of having not only the right but the duty to raise and protect their neighbors.  But “Asia for Asia” quickly became “Asia for Japan”–Hideyoshi-Showa.

Another is submission to the victor in the Pacific war, wishing to be the regional No. 2 after the USA; if Japan cannot be No. 1.

That leads to the nuclear issue: power plants had been producing weapons-grade plutonium.  The revelation that the plutonium had been entrusted to the USA for safe-keeping came as no surprise.  Were the plants constructed on the coast for easy US submarine access?

Japan does not need that nuclear power and both could and should denuclearize; given Fukushima with 100,000 nuclear refugees.

Hiroshima-Fukushima.  Japan has been unable to handle its trauma as guinea pigs for two nuclear bombs after de facto capitulation.  Hardly mentioned publicly, known to everybody, meaning repressed into the collective subconscious, the worst place, easily drawn upon by a leader wanting USA to taste some of the same.  From servility–even humiliated by an imposed American in the prime minister’s office to supervise Fukushima communication–to aggression is a short step.  Much better is a neutral attitude, neither servile, nor hostile.

The US master is now rapidly sliding downhill with failures all over, even in the Middle East and Ukraine.  So also in the Pacific, even Japan has problems with a “trans-pacific partnership” that will make consumers even worse off.  And a Japan in trouble will not be rescued by the USA, but be thrown away if no longer serving US interests as a “liability”, like South Africa–and one day Israel.

Wake up, Japan.  No need to choose between the USA and China; be neutral, on friendly terms with both.  Imagine a trilingual Japan with English and Chinese, what a wealth!  Accept the invitation by East Asia and Northeast Asia to join their families, as Germany and South Africa joined theirs.  Become Japan, the peace power.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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