News / Asia

Japan Mulls Security Reform, Prompting Chinese Anger

Japan Mulls Security Reform, Prompting Chinese Angeri
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October 21, 2013 11:57 PM
Japan’s government says it plans to allow its self-defense forces to play a greater role in global security. Currently, Japan's ‘pacifist’ constitution -- written under American supervision after World War II -- allows the country's armed forces to be used only for defensive purposes to preserve national security. But Tokyo's current plans have prompted anger in China, which is engaged in a heated territorial dispute with Japan. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Tokyo.
Henry Ridgwell
Japan’s government says it plans to allow its self-defense forces to play a greater role in global security. Currently Japan's ‘pacifist’ constitution, written under American supervision after World War II, allows the country's armed forces to be used only for defensive purposes to preserve national security. Tokyo's current plans have prompted anger in China, however, which is engaged in a heated territorial dispute with Japan.

On Friday under the glare of the media, a group of more than 100 Japanese lawmakers visited Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including several convicted war criminals.

The visit prompted anger in China. Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, "once again China urges Japan to abide by its commitment and promise to deeply examine history and take real measures to win the trust of Asian neighbors and the international community."

The tension comes as the two countries dispute the ownership of offshore islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Opening a new session of Japan’s parliament last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made national security a central pillar of his policy reform.

Abe said Japan must not look away from the reality of an increasingly severe security situation in the region.

"I will proceed with a realistic security policy and diplomacy," he added.

Japan has developed what it terms "self-defense forces," but relies on its alliance with the United States for its overall security.

Nationalist author Hideaki Kase said that reliance, though, is out of date.

“We are now witnessing rising American isolationism. So we can no longer place 100 percent trust in U.S. willingness to defend us,” he said.

Compared to the U.S., China’s relative military power is expanding rapidly, said Shinichi Kitaoka, Japan's former ambassador to the U.N. and key advisor to Abe.

“Not only the rapid rise of their [China’s] military budget. Their activities are sometimes irregular, and it seems to us challenging to the status quo by force, which is very dangerous,” said Kitaoka.

Japanese warships are currently deployed in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. Should allied warships come under attack, Japan’s constitution forbids its forces from coming to their aid.

Kitaoka said Japan must re-interpret its constitution and lift the self-imposed ban on the right to exercise collective self-defense.

“If we have to respond to all the threats by individual effort alone, then we would probably have to have a big military," he said. "So the collective right of self-defense is not dangerous, rather it is a safer way to peace.”

But recent opinion polls show just half of Japanese voters favor revising the country's pacifist constitution, far less than the 90 percent of lawmakers who desire to do so.  
Tokyo resident Takako Tsuchida is among those who opposes changing the constitution. Tsuchida said she is 100 percent against all war.

"So if you change the constitution," she said, "I worry that there’s a possibility that war would happen again, so that’s why I’m against it."

Abe insists that allowing Japan to play a greater role in global security, however, will promote regional peace. But fear persists among its neighbors that Japan has yet to heed the lessons of its past.

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by: Atlas from: Canada
October 22, 2013 4:46 PM
@Ian If Japan wants to arm itself but bringing US in this conflict showing Japan is lying and using China as an excuse to expand to its military power. Don't forget Abe is from a WWII famous war criminal family and his record is trying to deny all the WWII crimes that they committed: comfort women, mass killing, using chemical weapons, changing shool text...
All these showing is heading to extreme right. Watch out the this evil army return.

by: Atlas from: Canada
October 22, 2013 10:50 AM
Now Japan is heading to extreme right and bring back the imperial army. This is a shame to Japan going this direction. Abe does not need to reform security as Japan is protected by US and Abe using China as an excuse to expand its imperial army. Why? He is one of the famous WWII war criminal family member. Still want to bring back the glory of the evil army.

Talking peace but worship the evil imperial Japan army symbol shrine. Abe claimed himself as an extreme right now offering to the war shrine, the famous WWII criminals burying there. It is an insult to all the victims. Unable to repent to what they did in WWII war crimes and try to hide them. Shame to Abe and watch out the evil returns.
In Response

by: Atlas from: Canada
October 24, 2013 3:19 PM
@Vic When Abe got in power, no body thinks he is an extreme right wing as he admitted in UN. Now, Abe is from the famous WWII war criminal family Nobusuke Kishi who is Abe grand parent showing he is in favor of return imperial Japan army. Why? He denied the comforted women, denied Tokyo Trial, denied mass killing .... All are committed by the evil imperial army in WWII and Abe still says it is not commited even with true edvience. Don't be fool by this cunning fox.
In Response

by: Vic from: US
October 24, 2013 2:41 AM
Atlas, according to the news article, it didn't say that Japan is going back to Imperial Army. It said that they currently have islands dispute with China and they need to protect themselves by building a up-to-date military units for self defense. Also they are not sure if the US will come in aid, if China and Japan gets into war. You need to read the article very well before you can come up with their own theory that is not relevant at all.
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
October 22, 2013 1:35 PM
Because the US is financially so heavily in debt to China, I doubt if any countries can rely on it to help if they are to be attacked by China.
Japan should have the right to the arm itself , why should Japan gamble with its security relying on somebody else's promise of protection (Remember in the past, when the US courting China, it abandoned South Vietnam & dropped Taiwan like a couple sack of sad potatoes)

by: No tonsul from: Japan
October 22, 2013 9:29 AM
This article feels not neutral but so 'left' in Japan now. I think Henry Ridgwell may feel sympathy to China or be taught it by anti-authority Japanese.

by: hb from: Beijing
October 22, 2013 12:00 AM
First, beat China; then USA.
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
October 22, 2013 1:23 PM
Actually, many countries in the region starts to feel the heat not from Japan but China, whose actions are pretty aggressive lately. So I would think we can rephrase the real sentiment from the point of the chinese government's think tank
"first beat Japan, then USA in the not too far future"

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