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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #108: February 27, 2003

Japan seeks parasol in shade of US umbrella

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan seeks parasol in shade of US umbrella",,3-591755,00.html
(By Richard Lloyd Parry and Robert Thomson) The Times

Related Article:
"Japan to review defence policy to cope with new threats",,3-591695,00.html
(By Richard Lloyd-Parry and Robert Thomson) The Times


The two articles introduced above apparently form a pair based on an interview with Japan's defense minister Shigeru Ishiba. According to the articles, it was his first time for the defense minister to be interviewed by a Western newspaper.

Of the two articles, the latter seems to be the more formal version that came out as a result of the interview. It briefly explains Japan's unique constitution where only "defense forces" are allowed, and then tries to find the capabilities, or the limitations, of what a defense minister of Japan and his forces could do if an incident occurs. Mr Ishiba explains that according to the constitution, as it is interpreted by the government, Japan is not able to start any action until a missile aiming Japan is actually launched. He goes on to say, however, that he personally does not think it is the intent of the constitution for Japan to just sit still until it is attacked. Although he is careful in adding that the issue needs further discussion among people, it is fairly evident that he is being annoyed, if not frustrated, by being prohibited of any pre-emptive action before an attack is executed, while on the other hand having the responsibility to protect the safety of the citizens of Japan.

On the other hand, while the first article is based on the same interview with Mr Ishiba, it is on a more casual tone and puts it in perspective with the recent missile launch by North Korea.

According to the article, it was literally during the interview when the defense minister was informed of the North Korea's launch, and Mr Ishiba's anxiety was depicted indirectly by the way he smoked. Then the writer excuses his behavior (of smoking) because of the difficulties in carrying out his job as defense minister, where "he lives and breathes the paradoxes and euphemisms that dominate his country's security policy."

The article goes on to explain the constitution, and offers a view that Japan might start reconsidering its constitutional limitations on defense powers out of necessity rather than greed for power. It is an astute observation, however, that the issue will trigger a fierce debate, because past experiences "instilled into many Japanese people a profound and sincerely felt pacifism" and "the 'peace' constitution remains a sacred document." The way the article is written, the writers seem to be a bit annoyed with the way Japanese people are obsessed with the notion of 'peace', and would like to find out the level of tolerance Japanese people could endure before things change.

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