Japan Rewards Nuclear Proliferaters
John de Boer (University of Tokyo)
On Friday October 26, the Japanese government announced that it had decided to lift the economic sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan back in 1998 after the two countries carried out nuclear weapons testing. Confusion remains, however, as to whether this decision signified a "suspension" or a complete "discontinuation" of sanctions against these now formerly "rogue" states. The Reuters news agency and the Financial Times both quoted Yasuo Fukuda, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, who characterized the decision as a suspension. However, quoting a statement issued by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs the BBC emphasized that the sanctions had been discontinued. Considering the political significance inherent in this decision and the level of domestic opposition to it, this ambiguity may be more than a misunderstanding.
For Japan, the only country in the world to have ever experienced the horrors of two nuclear bombs, the motivation behind the decision to lift sanctions on Pakistan and India needs to be justified. What is troubling, however, is the fact that the reasons for lifting the sanctions stand in stark contrast to their purpose of being set up in the first place. In anticipation of the decision to lift the sanctions Reuters reported on October 23 ("Japan may lift sanction s on Pakistan and India"), that sanctions were to be lifted mainly as a "way to show Islamabad support during US military strikes in Afghanistan." The same article went on to say that, "they were also aimed at supporting General Pervez Musharraf's government in the face of growing domestic opposition." In an article confirming the decision ("Japan Suspends Sanctions on Pakistan and India" Reuters, Oct. 26), Teruaki Ueno reported that the aim was to promote stability through economic aid. Forget the fact that these sanctions were set up to punish Pakistan and India for conducting nuclear tests with the clear intent of declaring to the world that nuclear proliferation would not be accepted. What Japan has done through this decision is to reward and support an illegal government that was set up in a military coup, which overthrew a democratically elected government in Pakistan.
Was not this war against terrorism supposed to be a war that defended freedom and democracy? Today, Pakistan is considered central in the fight against international terrorism when prior to September 11, 2001 it was characterized as a key contributor to international terrorism. All of a sudden the military dictator, General Musharraf, is being hailed as the cornerstone of stability, when yesterday he was the illegitimate ruler of a rogue state.
These are not the only things that have been turned upside-down in recent days. Economic aid which should contribute to the building of a peaceful society is now characterized by individuals such as Keiko Yoshioka as Japan's diplomatic "weapon" ("Afghan situation a test of Japanese policy of aid diplomacy," Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 25). Similar to the dropping of food by the US, Japan's economic assistance to Afghan refugees is only serving to mitigate the guilt and shame that coalition members may feel for creating another humanitarian disaster.
Finally, there seem to be some who continue to be under the illusion that Japan is a neutral actor and can play a mediating role in this conflict (see Keiko Yoshioka, "Afghan situation a test of Japanese policy of aid diplomacy," Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 25). By choosing to "fly the flag," by sending soldiers and by rewarding military dictators Japan has made a conscious decision to choose sides. It is difficult to understand how certain individuals, including those in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could even consider such a notion of neutrality after having witnessed the diet pass the anti-terrorism bill and having heard PM Koizumi clearly state that Japan was with the US.
Japanese decision makers need to realize that the choices they are making today are not temporary changes or simply a suspension in Japan's long-standing political values. Their concessions regarding nuclear proliferation, their political usage of economic aid and their abandonment of any neutrality that Japan had in that part of the world will have long and enduring consequences.
- Michiyo Nakamoto, "Japan agrees to lift sanctions on India and Pakistan," The Financial Times, October 26, 2001
- "Japan lifts India-Pakistan sanctions," BBC, October 26, 2001
- Teruaki Ueno, "Japan suspends sanctions on Pakistan and India," Reuters, October 26, 2001
- Keiko Yoshioka, "Afghan situation a test of Japanese policy of aid diplomacy," The Asahi Shimbun, October 25, 2001
- "Japan may lift sanctions on Pakistan and India," Reuters, October 23, 2001