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Japan should reflect on war crime first

Posted July. 02, 2014 07:26,   


The Japanese government decided to tolerate exercising the right to collective self-defense by reinterpreting the Constitution at the Cabinet meeting chaired by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday. The Cabinet decision allowed Japan to strengthen its military role around the world, breaking with the post-war scheme based on the pacifist post-war constitution. Japan’s self-defense forces transformed themselves into national defense forces and can be engulfed in a battle against a hostile country, if necessary within the framework of the U.S.-Japan alliance. As a follow-up, the Abe administration plans to revise related laws in the interim parliamentary session in September and the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation in December

The right to collective self-defense allows a country to fight back if its ally is attacked by a third party, even though the country is not attacked directly. The rights are each country’s sovereign rights and recognized by the United Nations Charter. Until now, Japan had the right to collective self-defense like other countries but was not able to exercise the right. It unbarred the gate by using an expedient of reinterpreting the Constitution at the Cabinet meeting. This generated mixed reactions in Japan.

While China protested Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense, the U.S., the EU, the ASEAN, Australia, and Russia supported it. It is true that the stronger alliance between the U.S. and Japan can increase deterrence against North Korea’s provocations. The South Korean government issued a theoretical comment, saying, “Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense should be made transparently.”

Although Japan cannot be blamed for being the revival of militarism, it has something that we need to worry about. Tokyo said, “The self-defense forces will not enter South Korea without the consent of South Korea.” However, it did not give a clear answer whether to send the self-defense forces in case of an emergency in North Korea. An agreement among Korea, the U.S. and Japan is needed to prevent the Japanese self-defense forces from landing on the Korean Peninsula including North Korea without the explicit consent of South Korea.

South Korea and China do not readily accept Japan’s decision because the Korean Peninsula and China were under the Japanese colonial rule and Japan is still reluctant about showing regrets about anti-humanitarian war crime such as comfort women. As Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense is a given, Tokyo should not make its neighbors concern and exercise it in a transparent manner to bring peace and stability to the region. Seoul should not stay complacent about potential risk in tolerating the exercise of collective self-defense, but needs to have a balanced view.