Japan: Staging a come-back? | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

Japan: Staging a come-back?


Japan, leading pre-second world war thespian but post-second world war impotent power, is staging a come-back in the political firmaments of Asia with all its tastes, colors, velocity and comprehensiveness. Japan, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean in East Asia, also termed as a trading nation, is currently holding the standing and status of world third economic power even having negligible natural resources. Japanese post-war economic miracle is a myth indeed. The economy of Japan is the third largest in the world by nominal GDP, the fourth largest by purchasing power parity and is the world’s second largest developed economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s per capita GDP (PPP) was at $36,899, the 22nd-highest in 2013.Also truth is that she is lagging behind from defense perspectives. Question is should Japan at this time as well is ready for her sway over such security issues”. Can economically developed but militarily weak Japan play befitting role in today’s context? Not at all. If so, does SDF (Self-defense Forces) law in 1954 contradict article 9 in the constitution of Japan? Answer unfurls the actuality whether SDF is wall or not depends upon the overall interpretations of article 9 in the constitution in the light of overall threats, security, opportunities, options and dilemmas emanating from bi-lateral, regional and global landscapes, present and/or future. Keeping in mind the conflicting stands of pacifists, mercantilist, normalists and nationalists here the simplest asking is who shall decide it? Is it Parliament(Article 96 of the Constitution provides that an amendment to the Constitution can only be made by a two-thirds affirmative vote in both houses of the Diet and with ratification by a majority of the electorate) or the Supreme Court?
Shinzo Abe administration under the ray of Abe doctrine, unlike Yoshida Doctrine (1951) named after Prime Minister Yoshida, Fukuda Doctrine (1977) following the name of Prime Minister Fukuda and Koizumi Doctrine (christened by the premier’s aides, was based on Koizumi Junichiro’s January 14, 2002 speech in Singapore) originated from the name of Prime Minister Koizumi Junchiro, contends that, as article 9, paragraph 1 does not repudiate the state’s inherent right of self-defense, generating standing forces for the purpose of self-defense does not create the “war potential” barred by  paragraph 2 of article 9.  Abe doctrine explains “war potential” as forces much greater than those forces marginally required for self-defense. So, the SDF is not “war” potential, but “self-defense” potential.  Such an interpretation did not appear meteorically.  This owes to a wide-ranging history for the government’s interpretation in line with nationalistic spirit and profound emotions speaking and heralding of ‘Japan dream’.
At the backdrop of the US–Japan Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement (MSA Agreement), which was contracted on March 8, 1954, and entered into force on May 1, 1954, no option was left for Japan but to strengthen its defense capabilities. To meet with it, SDF law was passed in 1954. At a Budget Committee meeting on December 21, 1954, the Cabinet answered that the SDF was outside the scope of the “war potential” referenced in article 9, paragraph 2 of the Constitution, because the right of self-defense was not prohibited by article 9.  Possession of the necessary force to defend Japan was therefore not prohibited by the Constitution. The next day, at the same committee meeting, the Cabinet expressed its official interpretation of the Constitution as follows:
The Constitution did not deny the self-defense right; Japan renounced war, but did not renounce the right to struggle in order to defend itself;
Establishment of the SDF is not against the Constitution because SDF’s mission is self-defense and its ability is limited to necessary and adequate levels of self-defense.
Although the government was able to establish the SDF, Japan’s right of self-defense is limited because of the constitutional restriction.  The government stated in 1954 that there are three requirements that must be met in order to use the right of self-defense: (1) there is a present and wrongful danger of invasion to Japan; (2) no other appropriate measures exist to defend Japan; and (3) the use of force to defend Japan is limited to the extent only minimally necessary. Therefore, Japan adopted an exclusively defense-oriented policy.  The Cabinet has changed its members frequently, but has not changed its interpretation of article 9 with regard to the right of self-defense.
Interestingly enough, SDF is being strengthened gradually under the caps of more and more new provisions and necessities engulfing emphatically PKO Law in 1992, the Law Concerning Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations (PKO Law), which enabled the dispatch of the SDF overseas, Guidelines and Law Concerning Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan, Antiterrorism Special Measures Law, Three War-Contingency Laws in 2003, Iraq Special Measures Law,  Seven Contingency Laws in 2004 and later setting up of National Security Council. She struck security pacts with Australia and India in 2007 and 2008. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is a regular participant in RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. US-Japan military alliance is still a cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy. One of the G4 nations seeking permanent membership in the UN Security Council, Japan has territorial disputes with Russia, South Korea, China and North Korea and recent Chinese defense exercises in the Pacific and Indian Oceans has furthered Japan’s logic to stand militarily for defensive purposes.
US believe that 21st century belongs to Asia and strategic importance of Indian Ocean is beyond question. Containment of China is further concern since she is moving very fast economically and militarily with Silk Road, string of pearls and China Dream as ‘ignited ethos’ making geo-politics convoluted. Moreover, China’s new approaches to its foreign policy to stand by those who are in need referring in particular the neighbors both ideologically and geographically are clear indications of her re-thought on the past limitations and closed-door policy. It is China that raises head meaningfully in the uni-polar world led by USA. Therefore, concerted efforts against communist China are unavoidable and here Japan’s role is big one. But Japan under article 9 is not matching at all. Rather strong Japan is the only answer and option. And irony of the fate unfolds USA now understand it more pragmatically and mathematically than anybody else.
Japanese leaders and statesmen of diverse backgrounds, natures and dimensions remained water-tight, confused and bewildered for a long since so many minds and intelligences generated so many opinions and options mostly also divergent in nature and approach. Even some hastened to take it to the Supreme Court as well. Curiously enough, Unlike the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, here Supreme Court of Japan was restrained enough to deal with such hottest politico-constitutional issue. Supreme Court did not slip to identify the line of demarcation between political domain and judicial domain. It asserted, affirmed and confirmed that ‘political matter(s) should be handled politically by people’s representatives, Diet, since it is their domain’. In doing so, Supreme Court has taken resort to many doctrines such as ‘state governance’, ‘political domain’ and so on. The state governance theory was chosen and developed among Japanese scholars under the postwar Constitution by referring to the French acte de gouvernement, German Regierungsakt, and United States political-question theory, which prefer and refer to the political branches of government (the executive and legislative branches) for the resolution of certain disputes.
Stands of the Supreme Court of Japan about the interpretation, interpreter and standing of article 9 and SDF in the ongoing constitution advanced and are still advancing a reality of Japan’s staging a come-back more sharply and evocatively. It gives the impression that the Japanese people would like to secure and ensure Japan’s security upholding the messages of the SDF and the Japan-US security agreements whether or not there is a constitutional problem. Should not Diet come forward to do what is needed for Japan of today and tomorrow?
Pursuing asking is what type of Japan is staging a come-back? Definitely it will not be the recurrence of the past one. World would like to see a Japan full of potency, democratic wheels, optimism and encouraging nous of creations and roles coupled with broad-based vision of strengthening the multi-facets baskets of ODA(It is the world’s fifth largest donor donating US$9.2 billion in 2014). Japan having a pro-active mood and mode of neighborhood and cooperation, mutual and/or collective, has, speaking in the superlatives, every opportunity and leap forward to stand by Asia in particular to radiate and pass her brilliance, genius and  flavor under the circumstances, compelling or not. Let Abe doctrine under his kinetic, visionary and overhauling leadership act to suit the very purpose in this widely known ‘Land of Rising Sun’.
In conclusion, Japan is a very good and trustworthy friend of Bangladesh. Her overall cooperation in our development sectors from 1972 down to present time need not to be exaggerated. Let Bangladesh-Japan friendship be a model even in the days ahead of.
(Dr. Sinha MA Sayeed, Chairman of Leadership Studies Foundation, writer and columnist, Bangladesh. He can be reached at sinha_sayeed611@yahoo.com.)


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