Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoichi Shimada

【#397】15th Anniversary of 9/11 and Japan

Yoichi Shimada / 2016.09.15 (Thu)

September 12, 2016

     On September 11, the United States marked the 15th anniversary of terrorist attacks in 2001. Given that 24 Japanese citizens were among the victims of the attacks by the al-Qaeda, Japan should have held a government-sponsored memorial ceremony and a parliamentary session on anti-terrorism measures.
     There is no end to overseas terrorist attacks that kill Japanese citizens. We easily remember that two Japanese citizens were taken hostage and killed by the Islamic State in 2015. In latest incident, seven Japanese citizens were killed in a terrorist attack on a restaurant in the Bangladesh capital of Dacca in July this year.

Problem for someone else?
     The era when states exclusively moved international politics has gone. Now terrorist organizations have become major non-state players. Terrorism has been expanding threats to the international community.
     Nevertheless, some Japanese politicians still see terrorism as a problem for someone else. A typical such politician is Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives. In a television program just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, she said: “Attacked this time was the United States, not Japan.” She in essence called for refraining from making overreaction. Tsujimoto may not have had the Japanese victims in mind. Or she may have intentionally refrained from touching on the Japanese victims because she was reluctant to take any action in response to the attacks. Fifteen years have passed since then. I would like to ask her whether she has changed her opinion.
     In today’s world, cross-border actions are required to protect the lives of Japanese citizens. Any ordinary country may consider a military operation to rescue its citizens abducted by a terrorist organization. (It’s another matter whether such operation is feasible or not.) However, Japan under constitutional constraints did never consider any action against the IS.
     Last month, terrorists attacked an American university in Afghanistan and abducted two professors -- an American and an Australian. U.S. media reports on September 9 said a special unit of the U.S. Navy conducted a series of operations to rescue the hostages, although they were unsuccessful. It is natural for any country to try to protect its citizens.

Japanese rescue operation is only a dream
     Regrettably, Japan has failed to use force to rescue many Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea that can be branded as a giant terrorist organization. Both the IS hostage crisis and the North Korean abduction are significantly grave from the standpoint of protecting the lives of its citizens. Particularly, the North Korean abduction amounts to a state-sponsored terrorism as identified by the United States under the George W. Bush administration.
     In a September 10 column, Kent Gilbert, an American lawyer living in Japan, said of North Korea’s suspected abduction of a young American man who is his junior in a U.S. university: “The United States can send a special unit for a hostage rescue operation. […] Due to the presence of Article 9 of the Constitution, Japan cannot conduct such rescue operation. […] Believers in ‘the Article 9 religion’ might have never thought about feelings of abduction victims and their families.”
     Even the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe interprets overseas hostage rescue operations as unconstitutional. Politicians lack willingness to make effective use of capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces. Unless Japan forcibly tries to rescue the American abductee together with Japanese abductees in North Korea, Japan may not be viewed as a member of the international community fighting against terrorism.

Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.