Military Support, The Only Real Contribution?
John de Boer (University of Tokyo)
"Japan gets serious about its global role" was the caption of an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News on November 12. The focus of analysis was purely military as the article proceeded to commend Japan's long awaited decision to send its self-defense forces (SDF) abroad for the first time since World War II. The message put forward was that the Japanese are finally beginning to understand that meaningful leadership needs military muscle.
The US call to war immediately after September 11th has reinforced this belief. By demanding that Japan fly the flag the US has made clear that the only contribution it would recognize from Japan was a military one. Japan has responded by passing the anti-terrorism bill and sending its troops to the Indian Ocean. In total, the Reuters news agency reports that 1,500 Japanese soldiers will be dispatched to aid the war effort.
Highlighting Japan's recognition of the need for a military contribution, Linda Sieg of the Reuters news agency reported the Japanese government's allocation of $124.2 billion to the Defense agency for counter-terrorism steps in an extra budget enacted on Friday (Nov. 15). According to her, the Defense agency could also draw on a 50 billion-yen reserve fund to pay for an operation that could cost up to $163.7 billion if it lasts one year.
The Yomiuri Shimbun has been actively pushing for an increased military role for Japan and has attempted to demonstrate Japan's military readiness by documenting the fact that the SDF is one of the most sophisticated and advanced forces in the world. To its disapproval, the government has decided against sending Aegis equipped warships to participate in the war. The Aegis system is a sophisticated air-defense technology only possessed by Japan and the US.
Proponents of Japan's increased military role have also gained ground in recent days with politicians such as Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki's leading the way in promoting a "maximum role for the SDF in the anti-terrorism fight". In the process some senior SDF officers have voiced complaints over their lack of say in judgements by politicians (Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov.19).
Although, as Linda Sieg's has pointed out, Japan is hoping to play a key role in the multinational effort to combat terrorism, the emphasis has been placed on Japan's military contribution. For a country that renounced the right to go to war after learning the hard way that military power only brings destruction, Japan's decision to send troops is an important precedent.
Japan's military commitment will be pushed to greater levels as the United States finishes off Afghanistan and moves on to attack other states presumed to be harboring terrorists such as Iraq and Somalia. How far will Japan go? This is the question that many journalists, academics and politicians are asking. Are there alternatives to military bombardment? Unfortunately, too few are explaining that there most certainly are. One of the most obvious being the full use of our international system of justice. These terrorists should be tried and sentenced for their heinous crimes just like Milosovec will be made to pay for his.
- "Yamasaki's Aegis battle lost to LDP 'pacifists'", Yomiuri Shimbun, November 19, 2001
- "Japan will aid in Anti-Terror Campaign," The Associated Press, November 15, 2001
- Linda Sieg, "Japan poised to approve US strike support plan," November 15, 2001
- "Japan gets serious about its global role", San Jose Mercury News, November 12, 2001