Japan on the march
What is Japan up to -- especially now that China is reminding it of its horrible deeds in the 2nd World War?
'When Robert Kagan famously wrote that, in their approach to power and security, Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus, what might he have said about Japan? In most respects, post-modern Japan has been more like Europe than America in preferring diplomacy to force, persuasion to coercion and multilateralism to unilateralism. Indeed, it might be said that Japan is even further towards the Venusian end of the celestial spectrum in its aversion to the instruments ofmilitary power. No other country in the world explicitly renounces war as a sovereign right; or eschews the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes; or proscribes land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential. This deeply ingrained pacifism is all the more remarkable when one considers that Japan is not an Asian Costa Rica, but the world's second-largest economy, a major financial power and a favored candidate for a permanent seat on an expanded United Nations Security Council.
But there is another Japan--one with a long martial tradition, embodied in the ancient samurai of legend, which in the first half of the 20th century destroyed Russia's Baltic fleet, colonized Korea, invaded China and subjugated Southeast Asia before its eventual catastrophic defeat in 1945. Today, Japan is once again a leading military power, with the world's third-largest defense budget (after the United States and China) and a quarter million men and women under arms. Its Self-Defense Force (SDF) is deployed on peacekeeping operations around the world, for tsunami relief in Southeast Asia and in support of U.S.-led coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq. More and more politicians chafe at the self-imposed constitutional restrictions on the military and believe that Japan must be more resolute and assertive in defending its vital interests, including taking pre-emptive military action, when necessary. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has talked up constitutional reform and declared his desire to see Japan become a "normal country." He has even dared to call the SDF what it really is--a modern army, navy and air force. Is this a dangerous reawakening of Japan's martial instincts and desire for hegemony, as critics maintain? Or are we seeing the emergence of a pragmatic new realism that is a natural and long-overdue readjustment to the nation's much altered and more foreboding external environment?" More here.