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[Opinion] Japan’s Army

Posted January. 11, 2007 07:17,   


George F. Kennon of the U.S. was an advocate of the containment policy during the cold war between east and west. He once said, “Japan should be the utmost front of the Soviet containment barrier.” He was disgruntled about Douglas McArthur as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the occupation of Japan when McArthur precipitated the disarmament (Treaty of Peace with Japan) of Japan, saying, “The role of Japan is to become the Switzerland of the Pacific region.” But when the breakout of the Korean War necessitated the dispatch of four U.S. Army divisions from Japan to Korea, McArthur commanded the cabinet under Shigeru Yoshida to establish a reserve state police consisting of 75,000 persons. This is the founding body of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

The Self-Defense Forces equipped itself with legal systems through the proclamations of the establishment of the Defense Agency and the Act on the Self-Defense Forces in July 1954. A year before that, Prime Minister Yoshida, the chairperson of the Liberal Party, and the chairperson of the Reform Party Mamoru Shigemitsu formally announced the so-called Yoshida-Shigemitsu Agreement. The Agreement was intended “to respond immediately to the gradual reduction of occupation forces and to establish long term self-defense goals that suit national power.” But the Reform Party asserted to establish it as an independent ministry, that is, to establish a ministry of national defense, saying it is not proper to have the commander of the entire military outside the Office of the Premier, while Liberal Party opposed the elevation as a ministry, saying, “It should not take on a characteristic of an army.” The controversy concerned whether it was to be an army or not.

Half a century has passed. With the amendment of law by Japanese Diet at the end of last year, the Defense Agency was upgraded to the Ministry of Self-Defense and changed its signboard. The boundary and the role of the tasks of the Self-Defense Forces, which originally was that “since our nation is insular with a clear border, the boundary of the Self-Defense Forces should not transcend the border,” now transcend the Japanese Islands. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe construed that “It is the first step toward extricating Japan from the post-war system.” In other words, let’s cut the manacles of the defeat in the war 62 years ago and step forward.

That’s how the New Year began in Japan. The Japanese government welcomed the New Year last year by dispatching Foreign Minister Aso Taro to India. It was aimed at establishing a strategic channel for talks to respond to the rise of China. Meanwhile, the year 2007 in Korea began with the “surprise party” given by the president. Resembling a surprise show, the proposition of a constitutional amendment made netizens pour out words like, “He doesn’t know when to stop shuffling.”

Kim Chang-hyeok, Editorial Writer, chang@donga.com