Japanese Government Admits it has No Option but to Support War
John de Boer (GLOCOM Platform)
As millions around the world took to the street in opposition to a US-led war against Iraq this weekend, the Japanese government continued to mull its options for justifying its unconditional support of military action against Iraq with or without a second UN resolution. While, as J. Sean Curtin has pointed out in his commentary on the issue, Prime Minister Koizumi has not come out forthright in stating that he endorses US plans to attack and occupy Iraq, a survey of Japanese media sources over the past week clearly indicates that the Koizumi administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) are actively preparing to support the US whenever it decides to launch a war. The only problem that the Japanese government sees with this position is that it may have difficulty explaining its stance in the face of a majority opinion (both among governments and the populace throughout the world) that is overwhelmingly in opposition to a military campaign against Iraq (see Curtin's article above, Weekly Media Review #83 & EU Report #42 for more on this).
Sources close to the Prime Minister, high profile Ministers, former Prime Ministers, coalition members and an Liberal Democratic Party committee on foreign affairs have come out publicly to state that the Japanese government is with the United States no matter what. On 15 February, the Yomiuri quoted a representative from the LDP Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs as stating that, "from the perspective of the US-Japan alliance, there is no option but to support US action" (in "Nihon Seifu, Ampori Ketsugi Ni Mukete Hijounin Riji Koku Settoku He", Yomiuri). A week earlier the Asahi newspaper (English version) cited an unnamed senior MOFA official as stating that, "political reality shows there is little else Japan can do. If we did not express support, the US could accuse Japan of taking the same line as China and Russia" ("Politiking on Iraq war comes down to timing", Asahi, 8 February).
The truth of the matter, as Japan fully recognizes, is that the anti-war position is not only represented by China and Russia, but also by nine additional Security Council members. For this reason, the Japanese government, headed by the Foreign Ministry, has already embarked on a lobbying effort to convince all non-permanent UNSC members, with the exception of Spain, to support a second resolution "legitimizing" the immediate use of force against Iraq. The Yomiuri reports that Koizumi already brought up the issue with the Chilean President on the 14th, his government has paid visits to Ambassadors from Cameroon and Guinea, and the former PM Hashimoto will discuss the matter with President Fox of Mexico when he meets him this week. On Saturday, the Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi indicated that this was policy when she stated that, "we would like to start lobbying non-permanent members. It is extremely important that the international community comes together and responds by creating a new resolution" ("Nihon Seifu, Ampori Ketsugi Ni Mukete Hijounin Riji Koku Settoku He", Yomiuri, 15 February).
As was revealed in a separate Yomiuri article the following day, the motive behind efforts to secure a second resolution are not to give inspectors more time, to consider the consequences of war more carefully and to carry out a debate on the case for going to war, but to "justify Japan's support for the use of force to its public" (in, "Seifu, Shin Ketsugi Nashi No Buryoku Koushi Shiji de Setsumei Kento", Yomiuri, 16 February).
For the Koizumi administration, MOFA and practically all LDP politicians (with the exception of Nonaka who is against the war), the objective of their lobbying is to create the mirage that it is the international community versus Iraq and not the US and its subservient allies against Iraq. As it stands now, the motives of a US-led war against Iraq cannot but be challenged as suspect because the international community, with the exception of four or five countries, is overtly against a war (which, by no means should be taken as anti-American or as being pro-Hussein).
Given the fact that the Koizumi administration is convinced that it has "no option" but to support the US government, its sole preoccupation is to create an "international" consensus that would serve as a shield behind which it could hide from criticism. In fact, there exists no justification for Japan's unconditional support of the US, particularly considering that most Japanese oppose the war. Coalition members such as, Mr. Kanzaki of the Komeito have forcefully argued that, "nothing good will result from a continuation of the inspections" ("Seifu No Iraku Mondai No Taiou Wo Meguri, Yoyatou No Sanpi Ryouron Aitsugu", Yomiuri, 16 February). However, there is nothing worse than a betrayal of majority opinion and the forfeiting of independent policy in favor of a war that will serve the interests of the few and result in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians; the creation of millions of refugees; the birth of more terrorists and the establishment of another puppet regime (similar to that of Saddam Hussein twenty years ago) that will perpetuate violence and neo-colonialism.
As was spelled out in the Yomiuri a day after the largest anti-war protests in modern history, the Japanese government recognizes that the chances of securing a second resolution are uncertain. Nevertheless, in addition to its lobbying of non-permanent members it is considering ways to justify their support for the war in the case of no second resolution (Seifu, Shin Ketsugi Nashi No Buryoku Koushi Shiji de Setsumei Kentou", Yomiuri, 16 February). What all of the reports mentioned above reveal is that the Koizumi administration is intent on supporting a war against Iraq. At the end of the day, as far as the government is concerned, Japan has "no option". Meanwhile, as the former Secretary General of the LDP Nonaka stated over the weekend in connection to Japan's supply of over 10 billion yen worth of fuel to US and UK troops in the Indian ocean, "when some 35,000 people have committed suicide (in Japan, as a result of the recession), when people are suffering, does Japan really have to do so much? Isn't there something wrong with this picture?" ("Nonaka-shi, Indoyou No Jieikan Kyoyu Kakudai De Shinchou Taiou Motomeru", Yomiuri, 15 February).
Koizumi's stance is all the more disturbing when his aides are quoted a few days earlier as stating (after PM Koizumi witnessed Japan destroy its last stockpile of anti-personnel mines) that, "Tokyo is sending a message to nations with large stockpiles of mines that Japan has abided by the treaty and is contributing to peace" ("Mine removal: Junichiro Koizumi urges military powers to follow Japan's anti-mine example", Asahi Shimbun, 11 February). When Japanese leaders argue that they have no option but to support war against Iraq, how can they claim to be contributing to peace?