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Japan Dreaming of Resurrection of Great Nation

Posted January. 04, 2005 22:17,   


Japan and Russia signed the Treaty of Portsmouth in September 1905 with the arbitration of the U.S. That was the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War, which started in February 1904.

Japan, after defeating the “great nation” Russia, deprived the diplomatic power of Korea’s Yi Dynasty by forcing it to sign the so-called Ulsa Treaty in November that year and pursued imperialism.

The year 2005 marks the 100th year anniversary of the conclusion of the Russo-Japan War and the Ulsa Treaty. Japan’s ambition to re-emerge as the great nation is beginning to form its shape through its Constitution amendment and its attempt to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

The biggest issues are the Constitution Amendment and the Security Council-

I don’t think it is possible to do it within this year or next year,” said Japanese Prime Minister Junichro Koizumi. “I will carry it out after adjusting opinions with the opposition party over a sufficient period of time.”

His remarks seemed to imply that he would not hesitate, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been preparing for a constitutional amendment for quite a long time.

The LDP focuses its capabilities on its plan to release its own amendment bill on November 15, the 50th anniversary of the party’s establishment. Late last year, the ruling party already formed a task force for enacting a new Constitution led by Prime Minister Koizumi and declared entering a new phase for constitutional revision.

At the core of the amendment is raising the status of the Japanese Self Defense Forces to official forces in name and substance by allowing possession of military power and approving the exercise of a collective self-defense right. Keeping public opinion in mind, it showed a converted attitude toward the reign of an empress. It also included the clause that raises the status of a Japanese emperor to a commander-in-chief.

The Houses of Councilors and Representatives will mobilize Constitution examination committees and propose a constitutional amendment bill.

A permanent membership to the U.N. Security Council is considered to be the top priority of Japan’s foreign affairs. The Japanese government, along with 10 odd nations, will submit a revision bill to the U.N. Charter to enlarge the permanent members of the Council. It plans to realize its goal by gaining support from the U.S. government in the G7 Summit held in London, U.K. in early July.

Japan’s huge amount of donation to tsunami-hit nations in South Asia is interpreted as an attempt to create a national image as a big country that fulfills its international duties.

However, it is expected to face conflicts with neighboring countries. The Koizumi administration is more eager to strengthen its military alliance with the U.S. as its relations with China have gone sour. However, when Japan’s move to strengthen its military power takes full swing, relations with neighboring countries, including Korea, China, and Russia, will become more strained.

Sino-Japan Relations will certainly remain poor this year due to the dispute over the gas fields in East China Sea and the prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. The two nations will face another crucial moment if Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama visits Japan in early April as planned.

Conflicts with Russia over the return of the Northern Territories, which were owned by Japan in the past, will remain unsettled. Russia said it was willing to return two out of four islands in the Territories, but Japan did not budge an inch from its demand to return the entire area.

As this year marks the 40th anniversary of normalization of national ties and the 100th anniversary of the Ulsa Treaty, relations with Korea are rather tricky. Although the national ties have become closer thanks to popularity of the Korean pop culture, the issue of distorted Japanese history textbooks may hamper the relations in the process of the Japanese government authorizing new textbooks for the April semester.

Combined with the conservative trend of the Japanese political community, the demand for economic sanctions against North Korea is expected to grow. The Japanese media forecast that although Prime Minister Koizumi is adhering to his North Korea policy of dialogue and pressure, he may take a hard line if his approval rates fall below the current 40 percent range to maintain his power.

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com