Viewing Japan's New Security Act from the Perspective of Regional Order Construction

Peace and Development, NO.6, December 2015 | 作者: Shi Yongming | 时间: 2016-05-10 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Shi Yongming 

The year of 2015 witnessed the fundamental change of Japan’s state nature. With the strong promotion of the Abe government, Japan has developed a new security system, which, taking the socalled “proactive pacifism” as its core, has changed Japan’s passive purely defensive defense into an active and pushy defense policy, making Japan an important military force that affects the development direction of the regional order and even the world order. Given that Abe’s “proactive pacifism” rests on historical revisionist ideology, the New Security Act has completely subverted Japan’s basic structure as a pacifist state, which not only makes Japan an uncertain factor in regional order, but also makes the Japan-US alliance more dangerous.


I. The New Security Act has divorced Japan from a pacifist state


A. Japan’s pursuance of a “normal state” status. 

In the postwar order, Japan stood out as a special state. It is classed as special because: first of all, Japan was a defeated country as a payoff for starting an aggressive war; secondly, unlike Germany and Italy, Japan’s society and political forces had never been brought to book for starting the war; and thirdly, Japan had to reconcile itself to two arrangements: the U.S. stationing troops in Japan as a victor, and a constitution hatched primarily by the U.S. The said Constitution deprived Japan of the right of possessing any means of war and armaments, and the U.S. troops stationing in Japan objectively saved Japan the need of having its own military forces. These two arrangements conditioned post-war Japan to be a pacifist state. So, it turns out that the logo of “Japan being a pacifist state” does not mean that Japan’s aloof detachment from any war in the post-war 70 years was out of its love of peace, but because of the fact that the post-war order sheared Japan of its right and capacity to seek a settlement of international dispute with military means; besides, it had no such objective need neither.

The key pillar bolstering Japan’s status as a “pacifist state” is its Pacifist Constitution. For the sake of highlighting its peaceful motive, the Constitution specially devoted the second chapter to “War Renouncement”. From mankind peace point of view, Japan’s Pacifist Constitution did pioneered in relinquishing the right of war, in not owning an army and in abolishing armaments, an honest reflection of the pacifist thinking dawning in the post-war world. This kind of peace frees itself from reliance on forces and entrusts the national security to the trust of peace-loving peoples of all countries. The spirit of Japan’s Pacifist Constitution does not only incorporate the will of the American occupation forces, but also epitomized the pacifism and democratic lines represented by Japan’s reformers that mushroomed in the wake of the Second World War. Thanks to the spirit of complete pacifism set forth by its Constitution, Japan has been able to brag about its peaceful status in the post-war 70 years.

However, as the Cold War dragged on in the aftermath of WWII, the US-Japan alliance came into being and with it came the time for Japan’s political reality to drift continuously away from the spirit of its Pacifist Constitution. The conservative forces in Japan constantly questioned the complete peaceful spirit advocated by its Constitution by reciting the following three arguments: a) The Pacifist Constitution was something that the victors imposed on Japan and it was the very Constitution that deprived Japan its normal sovereign right. b) The spirit of complete peace did not fit in with the complicated international political and security environments. c) To them, the Pacifist Constitution stood for passive pacifism. Since it denied Japan the right of having and using military forces as normal states do, Japan was hamstrung by it to play its role in upholding international peace. So, beginning from 1980s when Japan quickly became the second largest economy in the world, Japan started to talk about becoming a “major political power” and indicated explicitly that Japan would bring its dream of becoming a “normal state” to pass.


B. Abe is pushing for “proactive pacifism” with the advocacy of military strength as its centerpiece.

As a representative figure of the contemporary right wing conservative forces in Japan, Abe took over the political mantle of his maternal grandfather Kishi Nobusuke. On his arrival in the office for the second time, Abe stated repeatedly that his governing motive was to free Japan from the post-war system, and he even claimed that this also spelled the mission of Party Building of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Accordingly, amending the Pacifist Constitution has become the central goal of Abe administration. To excite the public opinion to this end, he came up with two immediate needs for amending the Constitution: a) to cope with the external threats; and b) to play a role in safeguarding the international peace.

To this end, Abe chose to embrace a revisionist approach on the issues of history and war, to start with. In Sept. 2013, Abe floated the so-called 21st century strategy for Japan, popularly known as “proactive pacifism”, when churning out a national security strategy for Japan. It was also part of the plan to incorporate the strategy into the “New National Defense Program”. The core ideas of “proactive pacifism” is that Japan has evolved from an occupied nation into an economic power after WWII, while the international situation has evolved from the Cold War period to the post-Cold War stage and further to the post-post-Cold War stage. For a long time, Japan had been enjoying peace and economic development thanks to the Japan-US alliance, and now the time has come for Japan to play a bigger role. For this reason, Japan is obliged to amend the security act; and should be allowed to exercise the right of collective self-defense, and to enhance its ties with Southeast Asian countries, Australia and India on the precondition of Japan-US cooperation versus China. In brief, Abe stands for Japan playing a bigger role in regional security by way of lifting the ban on collective self-defense.

On December 17, 2013, Japan’s newly founded Ensuring National Security Conference approved Japan’s first post-war national security strategy, which unequivocally makes proactive pacifism based on international coordination the guideline of Japan’s national security strategy. It sets three objectives for Japan’s security strategy, to wit, Japan’s own security, Asia-Pacific security and global security. The so-called international coordination is no more than making stepped-up cooperation within the frame of Japan-US military alliance as the basis and bringing to pass its aim of containing and suppressing its rivals by way of manipulating various international forces. As for the term of “proactive”, it does not only suggest that Japan is determined to make “contributions” to international security, but also indicates clearly that Japan wants to play a leading role in solving international disputes. The aggressive nature of its policy is more revealing in its English version. The statement made by Japan’s International Tribune sounds more prudent in choosing its words and the term of “positive pacifism” is used, while the National Security Strategy used “proactive contribution to peace” in its English translation when quoting Abe. The point is that it’s not only confined to the fact that these two versions spell unequivocal differences in the mode of action, but clearly the terms of “peace”and “pacifism” also differ considerably in connotations.

In the following legal system overhaul under the guidance of Abe’s “proactive pacifism”, the term of “pacifism” used in the “Pacifism Constitution” was simply dropped out. On July 1, 2014, the interim meeting of Japan’s cabinet adopted a resolution on issues related to overhauling the legal system of ensuring national security, revised the interpretation of Constitution and lifted the ban on collective self-defense. The said resolution meant to set the basic policy for effectuating international coordination based on “proactive pacifism” and for conducting war-related legal system overhaul. The above-mentioned policy further clearly epitomizes the idea of taking proactive action implied in Abe’s “proactive pacifism”. Moreover, the resolution also suggested that when Japan’s survival is threatened, necessary and minimum application of military forces should be permitted, and on top of that, Japan’s self-defense forces should feel free to get involved in overseas wars if it is for the purpose of stymieing attacks on countries that enjoy close relations with Japan. So, it is most pronounced that Abe’s “proactive pacifism” means to free Japan from the restrictions imposed on its developing and using military forces by its Pacifist Constitution, and therefore, it is in essence a military doctrine highlighting the use of military might.


C. The New Security Act heralds the demise of Japan’s status as a peaceful state.

On May 14 2015, Abe’s cabinet adopted the New Security Act known as “peaceful security legal system”. The staples of the New Security Act are: a) measures to address issues in relation to protecting the lives and peace of Japanese nationals; and b) bragging about the so-called “proactive pacifism” that will make further contributions to the peace and stability of the international community. The New Security Act declares, before all others, that Japan’s defense ideology has shifted from basically native-land defense to curbing threatening factors, even to using force overseas to defuse threats against Japan. While the Act indicates that Japan will not budge from its practice of “being a peaceful country and limiting its defense to its own territory and coastal waters”; that Japan will keep on attaching importance to diplomatic efforts; and that the Act only means to prepare Japan for all eventualities, Japan’s defense has been framed to target overseas threats and attacks yet to happen, as well as the so-called “gray zones” of non-military encroach. As to the means of defense, Japan lays particular stress on improving its “preclusive capability” by resorting to such ways of Japan-US alliance so as to deny the likeliness of launching attacks against Japan. For this reason, Japan should offer support to other countries’ forces when events in eruption will have a vital impact on Japan’s peace and security, and will endanger international peace and security.


II. A so-called “normal state” status of Japan spells danger for regional peace

Japan’s transformation from a post-war special “pacifist state” to a “normal state” is by no means a transition from a post-war order to a normal order but a challenge to the normal order shaped up in the wake of WWII. This argument rests on the fact that this change is not the outcome of historical progress but a result of compromising the constitutional system of the state, the failing partisan check-and-balance mechanism, and most of all, the ruling party’s desertion of historical justice.


A. The constitutionalism was violated.

In the wake of the Cold War, the U.S. started to devote energetic efforts to promote global democracy. To serve this purpose, it put forth the socalled “democratic peace”, claiming that no war will pop up between democratic sates. After ushering in the new century, Japan echoed the U.S. to push vigorously for “value diplomacy” in order to highlight its international position. However, Japan’s New Security Act basically violated the constitutionalism on which rests the democratic value system hyped about by the Western world. In fact, Japan’s Pacifist Constitution is not something that the U.S. imposed on the Japanese people but the reflection of the fact that pacifism made the leading trend of Japan’s society then. The then Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida once offered the following interpretation: Given that all the previous aggressive wars were launched in the name of unleashing self-defense, so the renouncing war provision in article 9 of the Constitution meant to renounce even the rights to unfold a war of self-defense and to be a party to war.

This speaks of the fact that the relevant provisions of “collective self-defense” anchoring on the central concept of helping other country’s national defense with military forces, as it is stipulated in the New Security Act, is a stark-naked violation of the provisions of renouncing war as it is laid down in article 9 of the “Pacifist Constitution”, regardless of all the implausible arguments by the Abe administration. While Abe was denied the chance of amending the Constitution, he ventured the way of hatching the New Security Act in violation of the key spirit of the Pacifist Constitution, and with that to make the Constitution existing only in name, hence a more dangerous move than lifting the ban on collective self-defense. It is more dangerous because it’ll turn Japan’s Constitution into a dead letter and will negate Japan’s constitutional government system. Japan’s abnormal cabinet system renders its government a position to do whatever it likes so long as it controls the majority of the parliament. When the Pacifist Constitution is denied its binding power, any promise and interpretation offered by Japan’s parliament or the Prime Minister in the process of legal debate carries no legal effect or credibility. So, it can be safely said that Japan’s constitutional crisis generated by the New Security Act will downgrade Japan to a major unpredictable element in the international community.


B. Historical revisionism challenges human justice.

Abe’s aim of pressing for enacting the New Security Act does not stop at the sheer purpose of turning Japan from a defeated nation of WWII into a so-called “normal state”. As a representative of Japan’s rightleaning political force, Abe nourishes two ways of helping Japan to free itself from the “post-war” status, to wit, to overhaul Japan’s political and military systems as a defeated nation by virtue of amending the Constitution; and spiritually, to free Japan from the self-tormenting concept of reflecting on its aggressive history by way of promoting historical revisionism.

The historical revisionism promoted by the Japanese rightwing is reflected in the following respects: a) to lessen Japan’s sense of disgrace by denying the historical facts; b) to express its spiritual sustenance through allowing groups after groups of political heavyweights and members of its Diet to pay homage to the Yasukuni Shine where the spirit tablets of Japanese class A war criminals were enshrined; c) to foster the sense of national pride among youngsters by means of distorting or holding back the historical facts in the history textbooks for middle and primary schools. In addition to these practices, Abe has gone a step further by posing a pointblank challenge to historical justice, and has shamelessly suggested that aggression is not clearly defined. He even questioned the post-war Tokyo trial and called it a trial manipulated by victors.

The historical revisionism strategy practiced by Abe aims at denying Japan’s history of aggression and on that basis, putting an end to its obligation of reflecting on its history of aggression and apologizing to the peoples of the victimized countries, and turning Japan into a so-called “normal state”. Upon entering office, Abe aired his demand of giving a “talk” to super cede the “Tomiichi Murayama statement” which offered an apology to the Asian countries for what Japan did in its history. Defying much criticism of the international community on Abe’s stance, his talks presented on this year’s anniversary of Japan’s defeat stubbornly voiced his position on the historical issue by way of juggling with words. He did mentioned aggression in his speech but in a way of disconnecting it with Japan’s history. His also talked about “apology” but the real message he delivered is that the Japanese government has already apologized on many occasions and the Japanese off-springs who have nothing to do with the war should not be cursed with the fate of keeping on apologizing. The key word Abe used on many international occasions in 2015 when talking about the historical issue is “regret”. What is more, the word “regret” was not used by Abe to reflect on Japan’s historical crimes but to reflect on the lessons that Japan should learn from its defeat in the war. “Abe’s speech” has beautified a host of carefully orchestrated acts of aggression in that part of Japan’s history as passive conducts led to by a number of events. The thought provoking part is that the New Security Act also based on the same philosophy, to wit, that whether Japan should use force depends on its subjective judgment on the “crisis situation of survival”. This brings us back again to the above-mentioned situation observed by Shigeru Yoshida: All the previous aggressive wars were staged in the name of unleashing the right of self-defense. So, a careful reading on Abe’s history-related speeches will reveal that the New Security Act has mapped out a perfect course of action that will lead Japan to the same old trap.


C. An unbalanced political landscape in Japan will make the country more dangerous.

The key part of the New Security Act is that it has activated the Japanese government’s right of war, while the decision to go to war rests with the Prime Minister. It is true that the law says a procedure of parliamentary deliberation should be observed under the normal circumstance, and yet, in a cabinet system like Japan, when the majority party is in power, the Diet is not likely to be a check on the Prime Minister, which has been vindicated by what happened since Abe came to the office.

The true issue here is that the stubborn insistence of the ruling party on forcing the New Security Act through by turning a deaf ear to the opposition of all other parties is a tip on that the danger of an unbalanced political landscape is on the horizon for Japan. As a mater of fact, the survival of Japan’s Pacifism Constitution in the past depends mightily on the political check by the external forces. Now, due to the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, the American policy has veered from putting a check on Japan’s development of military might and use of forces toward encouraging Japan to play a military role internationally and to exercise collective self-defense. As a consequence, the conservative forces in Japan have not only cast off the shackles of a powerful inhibiting force but have even become a tiger with wing added, so to speak.

As far as Japan’s political system is concerned, the real check-and-balance system is almost absent. Because of the fact that the leader of the ruling party enjoys the two principal powers of legislation and administration, the check-and-balance relation

between the Diet and the administrative body is next to nothing. Ever since Abe’s arrival in office, the so-called “distorted Diet” phenomenon that dominated Japan for a long time has been reversed by the Liberal Democratic Party which succeeded in carrying the majority both in the House of Councilors and in the House of Representatives. The demise of the check-and-balance mechanism in Japan’s power structure renders it possible for Abe to realize his long-cherished dream of doing things in his own way.

To view the political landscape from the parties’ check-and-balance perspective, the support of the U.S. secured the heavily conservative Liberal Democratic Party the position as a dominating party all along. In a sense, Japan’s Democratic Party is the product of Koizumi’s effort to establish his absolute authority in the Liberal Democratic Party and to suppress those who hold different views. Given that the mainstay of the Democratic Party is made up of former members of the Liberal Democratic Party, and worse still, a cohesive core concept is absent; the Democratic Party has eventually been reduced to a secondary Liberal Democratic Party, thus making the two-party-rule mechanism a short-lived phenomenon in Japan. Besides, all the minor parties, the Communist Party apart, are becoming marginalized parties as a result of the growing right-leaning tendency in the Japanese society as a whole.

While inside the Liberal Democratic Party which used to be characterized by consisting of powerful factions and groups, the inner-party check-and-balance situation has been disrupted as a result of Koizumi’s efforts to undermine the powerful political factions and groups, which effort was paid off since the influence of those parliament members representing different factions and clans has been weakened. Upon taking office, Abe took a leaf from Koizumi’s book. By way of excluding those who entertain different views through cabinet reshuffles and through interest distribution, Abe has further weakened the faction-and-group politics inside the Party. In the meantime, Abe steps up efforts to rope in those rising stars with no faction affiliation, paving the way for the party leader to be the only dominating figure. As a consequence, nobody inside the Liberal Democratic Party dares to challenge the Party leader now. Thanks to that, Abe was re-elected President of the Liberal Democratic Party on Sept.8 this year without going through the voting procedure.

In the context that Japan’s mainstream mentality represented by its ruling party is getting increasingly aggressive, that the national security system is becoming progressively centralized, and that the legal system has paved the way for war, the absence of check-and-balance in Japan’s internal politics will naturally turn Japan into a nation of rising danger.


III. Japan’s choice of international role


A. Seeking to secure the leading position in Asia.

The key Viewing Japan’s New Security Act from the Perspective of Regional objective of Japan’s right wing in seeking for a “normal state” lies in securing a position for Japan as a major political power internationally. Just in time, the Obama administration advanced the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy and has designated the US-Japan military alliance to be the key pillar for effectuating this strategy, thus handing over a vital strategic opportunity to the Abe administration. Abe’s motive of lifting the ban on collective self-defense is to ride on the US-Japan military integration to reach the aim of playing a major role in Asia-Pacific by virtue of the American influence. Obama’s 2014 visit to Japan was highlighted by the signing of a summit Joint Statement to the effect that both the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy and Japan’s “proactive pacifism” have attributed to secure the (Japan-US) alliance’s leading position in ensuring peace and prosperity in Asia-Pacific, which sets off a concept, to wit, “the leading role of the Japan-US alliance in Asia-Pacific”. This concept implies that a major power shift in Asia-Pacific has been completed and in the statement, Obama has relinquished the U.S. leading position in Asia-Pacific to the Japan-US alliance. As a follow-up to the very statement, Japan and the U.S. have incorporated the collective self-defense into the New Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines. On his part, Abe maneuvered the Diet into adopting the New Security Act for the sake of implementing the New Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines.

What we can see today in this part of the world is that Japan and the U.S. are closely engaged in consultation and coordination of their activities in Asia-Pacific while stepping up their military integration. Abe’s practice of tailing closely behind the U.S. enables him to secure Japan the leading position in Asia.


B. Seeking to have the edge on China in the competition.

Apart from seeking for international position, Abe also has his eyes primarily on China, in which rests his true intention of tailing closely behind the U.S. In fact, Abe is not stint on stating it openly. Upon entering office, Abe preceded his whole range of security policies with the China-Japan dispute over Diaoyu Islands, which resulted in making the so-called “promoting restraining China capability” the frequently seen headline of Japanese papers. Abe’s so-called “overlooking the globe” diplomacy is in essence a move to besiege China. However, there was a tangible economic motive underlying Abe’s diplomatic move with security as a façade.

As a matter of fact, the utmost challenge to Abe’s rule is how to help Japan to win back the “lost 10 even 20 years”. In response to the reality that China has outgrown Japan in economic aggregate, Abe came up with numerous catch-phrases such as “aiming at becoming number one in the world and to ensure that Japan plays a dynamic role at the hub of the world” and “bringing back a powerful Japan”. And yet, the so-called “Abenomics” spell no effective recipe besides replacing “unlimited quantitative easing” with “super quantitative easing”. Accordingly, to squeeze China’s coming-out capital by virtue of political means so as to make way for outstretching the international investment market for Japan has become Abe’s vital strategy to rescue the Japanese economy. On top of that, Abe also exploited the strategy of vigorously promoting the export of Japan’s infrastructure construction to counter what China is long on. That Abe will never fail to mention China when talking about diplomacy is already an open secret. Under the guise of the virtue topic of “security cooperation and shared value”, what Abe is really after is a lion share of the infrastructure construction market and to boost the political brand of Japan’s commodities.



The author is Research Fellow of China Institute of International Studies. This article was finished on Nov. 9, 2015.


Source: Peace and Development, NO.6, December 2015.