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2009.04.23 (Thu) Print

Visit of JINF delegation to Washington, D.C.

 The Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF) sent a delegation headed by   President Yoshiko Sakurai to Washington, D.C., from April 12 to 18, 2009. On April 14, the delegation attended a symposium hosted by Hudson Institute. Ms. Sakurai made a following speech to express JINF’s basic position on rising China and the future of Japan-U.S. alliance.


 Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

 I thank the Hudson Institute, one of the most prestigious research institutes in the United States, for giving me this opportunity. It is not only an honor for myself, but a landmark event for the completely privately-funded think tank I have recently helped establish, JINF, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. I believe today’s symposium will contribute significantly to furthering Japan-U.S. relations.

 Next year, the current Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will mark its 50th anniversary. A half century ago, the leader of Japan at that time, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, began the process of revising the previous treaty into its present form. He believed that as long as Japan depended on a foreign military to maintain its domestic security, Japan could never be a truly independent state. He therefore proposed revisions in the hope that the previously one-sided treaty could become more reciprocal in nature. Although mainstream media and the opposition parties in Japan fiercely opposed this new treaty, I believe that Prime Minister Kishi was fundamentally correct. Japan should indeed do its part to share the burden and the responsibility with the United States, so that we can move closer to establishing a truly reciprocal U.S.-Japan relationship.

 But, successive Japanese administrations have failed to put forward to the public this simple, self-evident idea. I believe there are two reasons for this.

 The first reason is that the Constitution of Japan, a document that was in effect imposed upon Japan by the GHQ, or the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces that were occupying Japan at that time, was an extremely effective constitution. The Constitution is also, from a procedural point of view, very difficult to amend. Any constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of the Diet (Japan’s Congress), as well as approval by a majority of people in a national referendum. These requirements present such high hurdles that the constitution has never been amended, a situation that presents many challenges.

 For example, because the Constitution prohibits Japan from maintaining military forces, our Self-Defense Forces---which were created in response to the Korean War---are not military forces in the conventional sense of the term. The legal structure and the operating system of the SDF are extremely different from those of their foreign counterparts. There are no rules of engagement for the SDF, and they may act only within the limits of the Police Law—the law that governs the domestic police forces in Japan. The SDF are constrained by the SDF Law, the Ministry of Defense Establishment Law, and a multitude of other restrictions which are based on Article 9 of the Constitution. These restrictions include the rule that Japan can maintain only an exclusively defense-oriented policy, and that Japan must follow the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” of not possessing, producing or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons to the country. In addition, the official government interpretation of the Constitution, as determined by the Legislation Bureau of the Cabinet, prohibits Japan from exercising the right of collective self-defense, which imposes even further limitations on the activities of the SDF.

 The second reason is that during the half-century the current U.S.-Japan alliance has been in effect, the Japanese people have grown so dependent on the U.S. military that their spirit of independence and self-respect has been diminished. Symbolic of this is an often heard Japanese claim that, “based on the Japan-U.S. Security Pact, it is the United States that bears the responsibility of defending Japanese territory”. People make this kind of statement in spite of the fact that the territory in question is our own nation’s land, our own nation’s soil. It is ironic that the end result of the Japan-U.S. alliance has been the emergence of a complacent Japanese population, one that is oblivious to the rapidly- changing international situation that surrounds them. The Japanese people must be awakened to see the realities of the world today. One of the objectives for establishing JINF is to rouse the people of Japan, a people who have fallen into a deep, decades-long sleep called pacifism.

 Given the current political situation in Japan, it will not be an easy task to realize the kinds of constitutional amendments that will be necessary to reinvigorate Japan. Still, within both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, there are a significant number of politicians who do aspire to amend the Constitution. I have high expectations that a new kind of politics led by these politicians will eventually emerge, but in the meantime, I believe that the greatest focus should be placed on making it possible for our nation to exercise its right of collective self-defense.

 As many of you know, the Cabinet Legislation Bureau has long maintained its interpretation that “although Japan does in fact have the right of collective self defense, the Constitution forbids it to exercise that right.” Several years ago, in a fresh attempt to re-examine this illogical interpretation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited a panel of experts to join a newly-created “Council for the Reconstruction of the Legal Foundation for National Security”. In June 2008, this council presented a report that showed how Japan could eventually exercise its right of collective self-defense. Unfortunately, however, Prime Minister Abe fell ill around this time, and his successor, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was evidently unwilling to implement the recommendations given in the report. The current Prime Minister, Mr. Taro Aso, also diplays no sign of wishing to address this problem anytime soon. The JINF, therefore, intends to continuously offer proposals and to engage in discussions, so that Japan could exercise this self-evident right as early as possible.

 It is embarrassing for me to say that Japanese government and the Okinawa Prefectural government, have been unable to reach agreement on the transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, a matter that has been pending for the past 13 years. Regarding the more recent issue of defending merchant ships from pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia, Japan lagged seriously behind China in sending escort ships for this task. In addition, the distorted interpretation of Japan’s constitutional right of collective self-defense is forcing the SDF ships to escort only Japanese ships, at least until a new law can be enacted to expand their operations. At present, even if pirates were to strike, the SDF would be limited in their response to actions allowed only by the Criminal Code of Japan, in other words, to either act in legitimate self-defense, or to engage in emergency evacuations. These actions of Japan, an “abnormal (not-permitted-to-be-normal) nation” will, I fear, be very difficult for most Americans to understand.

 A big challenge for us is how best to respond to a rising China. The way in which we respond, after all, will seriously affect Japan’s future. On the one hand, the mutual dependence between China and Japan will basically continue to grow, as the flow of people, goods and money expands in an increasingly borderless world. The same will be true for the relationship between China and the U.S., and between China and Taiwan. The most pressing question, however, is how we should regard the essential nature, the fundamental realities of China—the fact that it is a single-party dictatorship, that it suppresses human rights, that it is engaged in an unrelenting buildup of its military. This last issue is a particularly grave concern for Japan. For Japan, China’s military buildup is nothing but a threat.

 China’s military spending has maintained double-digit growth for the past 21 years. The Pentagon, Britain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies and other organizations have persistently criticized China’s military spending for being opaque. It has probably been difficult for China to understand such European and American concerns. After all, in 1996, the Chinese Ambassador to Japan Xu Dunxin stated that, “although China was invaded by the major powers of the world, it was Japan that inflicted the gravest wounds on our nation. From this pain-filled history,” he added, “the Chinese people have learned that if a country is weak, it can be easily bullied.” Further, at a regular press conference last December, the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Huang Xueping unveiled China’s plan to build aircraft carriers, and explained that carriers such as these were an indication, or a symbol, of a country’s overall might.

 As you can see, for China, military buildup is a goal in itself. The Chinese understand all too well that military power is directly reflected in diplomatic power. China has simply been following the advice of the late U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who famously said that one should: “Speak softly, while carrying a big stick.” China’s military buildup over the past decades is, from China’s point of view, quite natural and not opaque about its military buildup.

 However, we, the Japanese, cannot help but have grave concerns. Let me give you some examples. How many times has the Chinese Navy violated Japanese territorial waters? How many natural gas fields around the median-line has China aggressively developed in the East China Sea, backed by its military presence, ignoring Japan’s offer for cooperative development? How many times has China threatened to dispatch military ships if Japan tries to develop natural gas fields in this water? China has unilaterally made a territorial claim on the Senkaku Islands, islands that have historically been under the effective control of Japan, and islands that have been recognized by international law as territory belonging to Japan. In 1992, China suddenly promulgated a” law for territorial waters” in the name of its president, and declared that it would use force to expel any foreign ships that invaded Chinese territorial waters. Are these the actions of a normal country?

 Regrettably, here, I must admit that the Japanese are extremely naïve in terms of diplomacy. Japan has repeatedly given in and apologized, much too easily. On August 15th, 1995, at a time when Japan-China relations had deteriorated considerably, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who was also then the chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, issued what has come to be known as the Murayama Statement to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. He apologized as follows: “I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology.”

 In the years since, this statement has repeatedly been used by China and South Korea, to their advantage. At summit meetings, Chinese and South Korean leaders have made blatant demands, insisting Japan “take actions to demonstrate the feelings of remorse and apology described by Prime Minister Murayama.” Such demands have caused an enormous amount of frustration to build up within the Japanese. The Japanese politicians and government officials who prepared the Murayama Statement bear, I believe, a grave responsibility for their actions.

 I do not believe that Americans may be able to fully imagine the kind of geopolitical tensions that can arise between a nation which rests on a continent, such as China, and a country that is basically an island nation, such as Japan. Most Japanese regard the long post-war history of the Japan-U.S. alliance as fundamentally different from the relationship between the U.S. and China. Backed by its economic and military might, China has often behaved as if they were the representative of all of Asia. It has blatantly intervened in the issue of textbooks in Japan, the visits of our Prime Ministers to Yasukuni Shrine, and various territorial rights matters. The way China is perceived in Japan differs greatly from the way it is viewed in the U.S.

 We have no wish to cause unnecessary discord with China, nor do we intend to take an aggressive stance with our neighboring country. I believe every Japanese longs for establishing a friendly, normal relationship with a democratic and peace-loving China. We cannot help, however, but to take a strong stance against a hegemonic China.

 For Japan, China’s relationship with the U.S. is also a matter of concern. Robert Zoellick, the Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration, stated that the U.S. was prepared to play a role in helping to ease any frictions that might arise between Japan and China. He also called upon China to become a “responsible stakeholder.” As U.S. administrations increasingly lean politically towards China, I cannot help but feel that the Washington-Beijing relationship differs considerably from the relationship between Tokyo and Beijing.

 Japan is faced with three choices for its future. First, Japan could further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, and in addition, Japan could work to strengthen its own role within this alliance. Second, Japan could move to establish closer relationships with China, diluting the alliance with the U.S. Third, Japan could choose to dissolve the Japan-U.S. alliance, and decide to pursue an independent defense policy on its own.

 Most Japanese, including the members of JINF, will definitely pursue the first option (that is, to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance with the eventual goal of increasing Japan’s role in the alliance). However, some who support this option are nonetheless opposed to any moves to revise the constitution, and firmly believe that Japan’s military role should not be expanded beyond what it is today. Even with these differences, as I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the Japanese fundamentally support this option.

 However, when we study political trends in the U.S., and take into consideration remarks such as the one made by Mr. Zoellick, then we are left with the impression that the United States wishes Japan to follow the second option, the option where Japan establishes ever closer relationships with China, diluting the alliance with the U.S.

 In her contribution to a periodical, Foreign Affairs in 2007, Mrs. Clinton wrote: “Our relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world in this century.” This is most certainly true. Given how interdependent the U.S. and China are economically, they are now beginning to expand their strategic dialogue covering political and security areas as well. In fact, during her visit to Beijing, Secretary of State Clinton agreed with the Chinese to upgrade the U.S.-China strategic economic dialogue to a higher level of talks on overall strategy.

 Further, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also wrote in the Foreign Affairs and proposed that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear development be transformed into a permanent forum. And she named this the "Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism (NAPSM)". She also proposed that this organization could become "a first step towards establishing a security forum in the region." Although we do not know how far her proposals reflected the thinking of the U.S. government, we must ask: what would be the relationship between Ms. Rice’s proposal and the Japan-U.S. alliance? I cannot help but recall with apprehension the disarmament conference that took place here, in Washington, some 88 years ago, from 1921 to 1922. At that conference, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was abrogated and replaced with a much less effective Four-Power Pact.

 During the occupation, the GHQ had an Intelligence Section that was headed by Maj. Gen. Charles A. Willoughby, and a Government Section led by Maj. Gen. Courtney A. Whitney. The Intelligence Section became known as the “Strong Japan” faction, because it argued that Japan should be left with a certain amount of military power. In contrast, the Government Section, which was centered around Col. Charles L. Kades and eventually drafted the Constitution of Japan, and was called the “Weak Japan” faction, because it placed great emphasis on the importance of Article 9, the article that prohibits Japan from maintaining any military forces.

 The difference between the two factions lies in their widely divergent views about the danger posed by international communism, and about the nature of the Japanese. The “Strong Japan” faction believed that the correct choice would be to welcome Japan into the free world as a fully-independent member. The “Weak Japan” faction, harboring a deep distrust of Japan, adamantly opposed giving any independent status, and sought to place Japan under the complete protection of the United States. History has proven, however, that the “Strong Japan” faction was correct. After regaining its sovereignty in April 1952, Japan chose to join the community of free world as a viable member along with the United States, a role it continues to play even today.

 In spite of Japan having proven itself to be a peaceful and responsible nation, however, there was an incident recently in which the Chief of Staff of the Air Self-Defense Forces was relieved of his post for having publicly expressed an opinion counter to the Murayama Statement. The essence of his beliefs was that if the SDF members who are entrusted with the task of protecting their country cannot feel pride and respect for their own nation’s history, they will not be able to discharge their responsibilities well. Further, the Japan-U.S. alliance itself will not be able to function correctly under these circumstances.

 Domestic opinion within Japan has been widely split about this Chief of Staff’s dismissal. Advocates of his dismissal are the people who belong to the “Weak Japan” faction; they are the ones who support the Murayama Statement. On the other hand, the people who regard his dismissal with great concern are those who have grave reservations about the Murayama Statement. They are the part of the “Strong Japan” faction. We are firm believers in the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and we are convinced that Japan should shoulder greater responsibilities in the future.

 It may never be possible for nations as well as individuals to come to a completely unified view of history. As you well know, it took so long for the United States and Britain to establish their very “special relationship.” George Washington is regarded as a founding father of the Unite States. Yet in the U.K., he was viewed as simply the leader of a rebel army in a British colony. The United States and Britain fought two wars against each other, and clashed in regions throughout the world. The term, “Anglophobia” continued to be used in the United States as late as the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, it was not until 20th century was well under way that the both nations began to view each other as an indispensable partner.

 Americans are a people filled with the spirit of open-mindedness and fairness. If more and more Americans begin to say that “there may be truth in the assertion of the Japanese who are opposed to the Murayama Statement,” then I believe that the Japan-U.S. relationship will get closer to the kind of special relationship that unites the U.S. and Britain.

 I am of course very aware of the fact that the “Weak Japan” faction still has influence in the U.S. I remember well the remarks of the head of the U.S. Marine forces in Okinawa in 1990, when the Cold War was ending, who stated that one of the goals of the U.S. forces in Japan was to serve as a “cap on a bottle,” in other words, to curb the rise of the military in Japan. More recently, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, known for her influence over foreign policy in Democratic administrations, published her memoirs last year, entitled “Memo to the President Elect.” In it, she clearly stated her opposition to any military buildup by Japan as follows:

 “America's military presence in the Asia Pacific has rarely been contested, even by the Chinese. This is because our forces - although in Asia to protect Japan - are also credited with restraining Japan. The lifting of restrictions on that country's military would likely spur China into an even more rapid buildup of its own, while pushing both Koreas into a closer relationship with Beijing. We cannot assume, moreover, that an independent Japanese military would always be responsive to U.S. interests. Abe's main selling point for a new constitution was less pro-alliance than nationalist, the new document, he emphasized, would be truly Japanese, replacing the one forced upon the country by the American occupation.”

 I dare say that people advocating these views are unaware how abnormal post-war Japan has been, compared with other countries. The term, “abnormal” may sound a bit extreme. But, let’s assume the United States, South Korea and China keep condemning Japan in terms of history and virtually containing it, and subsequently Japan would fail to become a normal country. I think it’s obvious whether it is constructive or not for the future Japan-U.S. relations

 Thank you very much for your kind attention.