The "Defense of Japan 2013" annual white paper issued on July 9 by Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera justifies the first increase in Japan's defense budget in 11 years by depicting East Asia as a region on the brink of war, where everybody's beefing up their military capacities: North Korea's nuclear threats got more serious than ever, "China’s activities in the sea/air area surrounding Japan involve its intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters, its violation of Japan's airspace and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency situation", "Russia continues to intensify its military activities", and even Southeast Asian countries are forced to modernize their military forces.
Diplomacy is not an option. Obviously, Shinzo Abe is not familiar with that weapon, and his arsenal wish list certainly doesn't include it.
Needless to say, Japan's neighbors didn't like the document. Particularly since the Abe government made sure to pour more oil on the fire by reviving, on the side, tensions around Dokdo, Senkaku, or Kuril islands: the expected anger and outrage will once more be used to prove to the quiet Japanese public that indeed, their neighbors are nothing but hot tempered barbarians.
The Chinese did receive a special treatment. Miscellaneous:
- "In regard to the issues of conflicting interests with its surrounding countries, including Japan, China has attempted to change the status quo by force based on its own assertion which is incompatible with the existing order of international law. The attempts have been criticized as assertive and include risky behavior that could cause contingencies"
- "China has been broadly and rapidly modernizing its military forces, and has been rapidly expanding and intensifying its activities in its surrounding waters and airspace. These moves, together with the lack of transparency in its military affairs and security issues, are a matter of concern for the region and the international community, including Japan"
- "Some of China’s activities in the sea/air area surrounding Japan involve its intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters, its violation of Japan's airspace and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency situation, which are extremely regrettable. China should accept and stick to the international norms."
- "In the South China Sea, there are territorial disputes between Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and China over the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands"
- "In FY2012, the number of scrambles exceeded 500 times for the first time in 22 years. The number of scrambles against Chinese aircraft exceeded the number of those against Russian aircraft for the first time"
- ... and what to make of this surreal pearl?: "the environment surrounding the Xi government would not be rosy."
I find quite interesting the map the MOD chose to represent Japan under China's threat. Look at the vast mass of China on the bottom, hardly contained by the thin archipelago barrier and particularly Okinawa, protecting the US territory of Guam in the distance (Korea almost obliterated by the captions). I love this horizontal view, with these solar eruptions of yellow arrows transpiercing poor Japan... whose leaders would probably love to restore the infamous War Flag of Imperial Japan (Rising Sun Flag):
- "If signs of attack are detected in advance, SDF troops will be concentrated in the area expected to be attacked ahead of the deployment of enemy units, thereby trying to deter attacks by the enemy.
- If the enemy shows no sign of refraining from launching an attack, operations will be conducted to prevent it. If no signs of aggression are detected in advance and islands are occupied, operations will be conducted to regain the islands by defeating the enemy with air-to-ground and ship-to-ground firing and by landing GSDF units."
Many sections didn't change, starting with the core principles Abe wants to change along with the Constitution... even if I doubt he'll drop the controversial "boost nationalism" part in the "Basic Policy for National Defense". The document states that "there is no established definition for the term 'military power'", but be assured he has something in mind, something consistent with the "right of belligerency" he's been advocating.
What we'd like to hear is Shinzo Abe be very specific, loud and clear, ubi et orbi, about his vision and his ultimate goals, how he would rewrite the Constitution, redefine the nation, what would be allowed and not allowed for its defense of the nation (NB: for info, I put below* the DoJ 2013 WP's section "The Constitution and the Right of Self-Defense"). But the National Defense Program Guidelines will only be reviewed after the elections, and to get these specifics we'll have to wait until the end of this year.
Well. According to The Asahi Shimbun (BTW speaking of the Rising Sun flag, I wonder when these guys will change their logo), expected changes include the capacity, for Self Defense Forces, "of striking military targets in enemy countries" ("White paper echoes Abe's plans to strengthen Japan’s defense" - Asahi Shimbun 20130710)
Anyway, unlike Toru Hashimoto, Abe always comes short of speaking his mind out. If he never leaves any room for misinterpretations, he knows how to use symbols and circular references when he's venturing into the most outrageous territories (see exhibit A: "Can't top that? Shinzo Abe posing as Shiro Ishii, the Josef Mengele of Imperial Japan").
Yesterday, The Asahi Shimbun also feigned to point out potential sources of misunderstanding (this time in "EDITORIAL: Defense white paper underlines threats, ignores diplomatic efforts" - Asahi Shimbun 20130710):
- "This is precisely the time for Japan to act responsibly and make its policy clearly understood. In that sense, "Defense of Japan 2013" is hardly lucid.
For instance, it says the government is not allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense in line with the existing government view. On the other hand, the white paper refers elsewhere to a government advisory panel set up to review interpretations of the Constitution and notes that "the government will first wait for the conclusion of the panel."
Taken together, the two statements only serve to muddle the government's position. It is hardly in Japan's interest to invite unnecessary suspicion" (...) "The government must not neglect to explain its position clearly at home as well as to the rest of the world."
NB: as far as explanations are concerned, the DoJ 2013 WP specifies mere propaganda at the local level: "Regional Defense Bureaus hold seminars on defense issues for local residents and give briefings on the defense white papers to local public entities, with an aim of gaining the understanding of defense policies from the general public".
And the main question remains: will the people of Japan keep letting Shinzo Abe say and do what he wants, and follow him along this suicidal path?
Seoul Village 2013
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* From "Defense of Japan 2013":
|Section 2 The Constitution and the Right of Self-Defense
1 The Constitution and the Right of Self-Defense
Since the end of World War II, Japan has worked hard to build a peace-loving nation far from the miseries of war. The Japanese people desire lasting peace, and the principle of pacifism is enshrined in the Constitution, of which Article 9 renounces war, the possession of war potential, and the right of belligerency by the state. Nonetheless, since Japan is an independent nation, these provisions do not deny Japan’s inherent right of self-defense as a sovereign state. Since the right of self-defense is not denied, the Government interprets this to mean that the Constitution allows Japan to possess the minimum level of armed force needed to exercise that right. Therefore, the Government, as part of its exclusively national defense-oriented policy under the Constitution, maintains the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) as an armed organization, and continues to keep it equipped and ready for operations.
2 The Government’s View on Article 9 of the Constitution
1 The Permitted Self-Defense Capability
Under the Constitution, Japan is permitted to possess the minimum necessary level of self-defense capability. The specific limit may vary with the prevailing international situation, the technologies available, and various other factors, and it is discussed and decided according to annual budgets and other factors by the Diet on behalf of the people. Whether such capability constitutes a “war potential” that is prohibited by Article 9, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution must be considered within the context of Japan’s overall military strength. Therefore, whether the SDF should be allowed to possess certain armaments depends on whether such possession would cause its total military strength to exceed the constitutional limit. The possession of armaments deemed to be offensive weapons designed to be used only for the mass destruction of another country, which would, by definition, exceed the minimum necessary level, is not permissible under any circumstances. For example, the SDF is not allowed to possess intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), long-range strategic bombers, or attack aircraft carriers.
2 Requirements for Exercising the Right of Self-Defense
The Government interprets Article 9 of the Constitution to mean that armed force can be used to exercise the right of self-defense only when the following three conditions are met:
(1) When there is an imminent and illegitimate act of aggression against Japan;
(2) When there is no appropriate means to deal with such aggression other than by resorting to the right of self-defense; and
(3) When the use of armed force is confined to be the minimum necessary level.
3 Geographic Boundaries within which the Right of Self-Defense may be Exercised
The use of the minimum necessary force to defend Japan under the right of self-defense is not necessarily confined to the geographic boundaries of Japanese territory, territorial waters and airspace. However, it is difficult to give a general definition of the actual extent to which it may be used, as this would vary with the situation. Nevertheless, the Government interprets that the Constitution does not permit armed troops to be dispatched to the land, sea, or airspace of other countries with the aim of using force; such overseas deployment of troops would exceed the definition of the minimum necessary level of self-defense.
4 The Right of Collective Self-Defense
International law permits a state to have the right of collective self-defense, which is the right to use force to stop an armed attack on a foreign country with which the state has close relations, even if the state itself is not under direct attack. Since Japan is a sovereign state, it naturally has the right of collective self-defense under international law. Nevertheless, the Japanese Government believes that the exercise of the right of collective self-defense exceeds the minimum necessary level of self-defense authorized under Article 9 of the Constitution and is not permissible.
5 The Right of Belligerency
Article 9, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution prescribes that “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” However, the “right of belligerency” does not mean the right to engage in battle; rather, it is a general term for various rights that a belligerent nation has under international law, including the authority to inflict casualties and damage upon the enemy’s military force and to occupy enemy territory. On the other hand, Japan may of course use the minimum level of force necessary to defend itself. For example, if Japan inflicts casualties and damage upon the enemy’s military force in exercising its right of self-defense, this is conceptually distinguished from the exercise of the right of belligerency, even though those actions do not appear to be different. Occupation of enemy territory, however, would exceed the minimum necessary level of self-defense and is not permissible.
PS: on a more "positive" (?) note, activists from Africa and Asia joined the weekly Wednesday Demonstration demanding justice for victims of sexual slavery under Imperial Japan rule ("Comfort Women"), the extremist Nobuyuki Suzuki was convicted for defaming the Pyeonghwabi statue inaugurated during the rally's thousandth edition (see "One Thousand Wednesdays"), and the Seoul High Court ordered Nippon Steel to compensate victims of forced labor during the occupation, since the company "committed crimes against humanity by mobilizing forced labor for the sake of the war of aggression by the Japanese government".