Jeopardizing Japanese ‘Abnormality’: Rejoining the War System

ASIA--PACIFIC, 28 Sep 2015

Richard Falk – TRANSCEND Media Service

richard falk23 Sep 2015 – The following post was originally published as an opinion piece in the leading Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, and appears here with their permission. The link to the Japanese version:
There are two converging dangers of a new Cold War—one is confronting Russia in the Middle East and Central Asia and the other is confronting China in the South China Sea and elsewhere with a containment mentality within their own immediate sphere of operations. Washington’s encouragement of Prime Minister Abe’s campaign for a ‘normal’ Japan represents a regressive move regionally and globally, and deserves critical attention from a wider geopolitical perspective as well as from the viewpoint of Japan. It may in the end do more to limit the flexibility of the American approach to China than to free Japan from Article 9 constraints, a post-1945 ‘abnormality.’

Commenting on the Japanese National Security Debate

At its peril, most of the world is ignoring the intense Japanese debate that surrounds the passage by the Diet of national security legislation that fulfills Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vision of Japan’s proper role in the world of the 21st century. The core of the debate is about whether famous Article 9 of the Constitution can be interpreted to permit Japan to engage in collective defense arrangements around the world. Despite various prior tests of the outer limits of Article 9, and its seeming restriction of international force to territorial self-defense, the new legislation stakes out a far broader claim to engage militarily in a variety of situations around the world.

Most profoundly at issue is whether a changed national security environment resulting from issues involving nuclear weaponry, extremist non-state actors, and cyber warfare justify this more expansive approach to the use of force. Clearly, Abe’s belief that Japan’s national interests require an expanded role for force, and specifically the option to take part in overseas collective self-defense underlies the crafting of this new national security legislation.

There seems to be other issues at stake as well. The most salient of these is the continuing primacy of the United States in shaping of Japan’s security policy. It is ironic that it was U.S. occupation policy that initially demanded an anti-war clause in the new Japanese constitution, and even more ironic that the current prime minister announced his proposed policy reform with respect to collective self-defense on a state visit to the United States prior to informing the Japanese public. This posture long urged by the U.S. was welcomed by its Secretary of Defense as signaling a Japanese shift from a ‘local’ to a ‘global’ view of national security.

Most of the internal Japanese debate, pro and con, has been focused on the constitutional issues, especially on whether Article 9 can be interpreted in a manner that is compatible with collective self-defense and other features of the new security proposals. An informed consensus appears to be a resounding ‘no’ as expressed in expert testimony in the Diet and strong statements of opposition circulated among constitutional law professors in Japan. The effective LDP control of both houses of the Diet ensured from the outset that whatever the government proposed would be approved regardless of public opinion or constitutional objections. What seems clear is that legislative endorsement is only the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy battle in court to determine whether the ‘legalization’ of this contested interpretation of Article 9 survives judicial scrutiny.

There are more crucial issues at stake than raised by the legal controversy. Abe has previously argued that Article 9 was imposed on a defeated Japan when it was a helpless country without the capacity to form a national will of its own. In effect, his new approach, presented under the banner of making Japan a ‘Proactive Contributor to Peace’ is a bid to overcome the abnormal situation that existed in Japan after 1945. Flexibility for a sovereign government in defining its security priorities should not be, according to this kind of realist thinking, subject to arbitrary and rigid territorial restrictions that Article 9 has imposed. In effect, the new legislation is not militaristic at all, but a recovery of ‘normalcy,’ a restoration of full Japanese sovereignty in a manner enjoyed by other states.

This raises the deepest and most meaningful question: Was Japanese ‘abnormality’ a good or bad thing for the people of Japan and of the world? As someone with a commitment to peace and justice I long ago found the Article 9 approach taken by Japan inspirational, pointing the way toward making the international law of the UN Charter come to life, an example that could beneficially be followed by others, including in my wildest fantasies, by the United States itself. It is also encouraging that the Japanese public appears to agree with the positive contributions of Article 9, opinion polls indicating that a clear majority of the Japanese people oppose the new national security legislation and its implicit endorsement of collective self-defense. As is often the case, society is more peace-oriented than the elected leadership, and when party politics endows those in control of the government a capacity to defy the values and opinions of the citizenry, a crisis for democracy becomes embedded in what is put forward as a revision of security policy in light of changed circumstances.

The last question contained in such reflections is whether changed regional and international circumstances justify abandoning Article 9 and the peace mentality associated with it. Although Prime Minister Abe promises to carry forward Japan postwar tradition of ‘peace and prosperity’ this effort to normalize Japan is a deliberate policy rupture, especially when tied so indiscreetly to a more active geopolitical partnership with the United States. From my perspective, Japanese abnormality remains a most precious reality, a beacon pointing toward the kind of ‘new realism’ that the 21st century urgently requires.


Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, an international relations scholar, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, author, co-author or editor of 40 books, and a speaker and activist on world affairs. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies, and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His most recent book is Achieving Human Rights (2009).

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One Response to “Jeopardizing Japanese ‘Abnormality’: Rejoining the War System”

  1. satoshi says:

    Sometimes the name or title of the thing or matter works as a smoking gun. The auto-focus system of Canon’s camera is called, “Ultra-sonic motor” (USM) system. However, Canon’s auto-focus motor is rotated by ultra-high frequency magnetic waves, not by ultra-high frequency sound. Nikon’s auto-focus motor system is called, “Silent Wave Motor” (SWM) system. However, it is not silent sound waves that rotates Nikon’s auto-focus motor. It is, as the same as Canon’s, ultra-high frequency magnetic waves that rotates Nikon camera’s auto-focus motor.

    The same thing can be said of the “Treaty on Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan” (a.k.a. “Ampo”). It is essentially and actually a “US Military Base Agreement between the United States and Japan”. Ampo is the treaty that ensures the right of the United States to use the land of Japan for the military and other relevant purposes of the United States.

    In February 1946 when a “new constitution of Japan” (called, a “Peace Constitution” later) was still under preparation, John Foster Dulles, as a US negotiator, (who also served as the US Secretary of State from 1953 to 1959) reportedly told the-then Prime Minister of Japan, Shigeru Yoshida, that the United States would put the Japanese military under control of the United States although the Japanese Imperial Military Forces were being dissolved then. Upon the “encouragement” by the United States, the National Police Reserve (NPR) of Japan was established. NPR became Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JSDFs), which are allegedly the world number five military forces now.

    Over the decades, the United States government has “encouraged” the Japanese government to let JSDFs work with the US military forces. However, those Japanese politicians who experienced WWII persistently opposed the “encouragement” by the United States government.

    Time has passed since then. Time has come at last for the United States to implement this long term plan – “to put the Japanese military forces or JSDFs under control of the United States military forces.”After nearly 70 years of Dulles’ statement, almost all of those old generations of Japanese politicians are gone – either retired or passed away.


    Note that Dulles was one of the members who worked for the preparation of the UN Charter at the San Francisco Conference in 1945. In this regard, let’s read Articles 107 and 53 of the UN Charter. A glance at these articles seems to bring about an understanding that what the United States have done to Japan over the decades has been nothing wrong in terms of these articles although some people might consider such understanding highly disputable.

    Article 107:
    Nothing in the present Charter shall invalidate or preclude action, in relation to any state which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory to the present Charter, taken or authorized as a result of that war by the Governments having responsibility for such action.

    Article 53:
    1. The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority. But no enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council, with the exception of measures against any enemy state, as defined in paragraph 2 of this Article, provided for pursuant to Article 107 or in regional arrangements directed against renewal of aggressive policy on the part of any such state, until such time as the Organization may, on request of the Governments concerned, be charged with the responsibility for preventing further aggression by such a state.

    2. The term enemy state as used in paragraph 1 of this Article applies to any state which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any signatory of the present Charter.


    • Remember: It is not ultra-sonic; it is magnetic waves. Silent waves? No, it is also magnetic waves.

    • Remember: It is not mutual cooperation; it is the right of the United States to use the land and military of Japan. Mutual cooperation and (collective) security? Hardly, even if it is not necessarily completely “no”. It is, as mentioned above, essentially and primarily for the right of the United States to use the land of Japan whenever necessary and as much as the United States needs in accordance with the foreign and military policies of the United States.

    The preparation for the US military and JSDFs to work together takes time. A huge amount of preparation and coordination for it may be necessary. Therefore, the newly enacted law might not be invoked immediately. However, in ten or fifteen years from now, the US military forces might be commanding JSDFs somewhere in a war-zone in the world.

    For whom Ampo was concluded? For whom JSDFs were established? For whom the newly enacted law that enables JSDFs work (under the command of the US military forces) outside Japan? For Whom the Bell Tolls?