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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

'Why is Japan provoking its neighbours?' pt I

I promised that I would post a translation of Kim Yong-uk's excellent article on Japan and East Asian geopolitics from the latest issue of Ta Hamkke. So here it is, well the first half anyway:

Why is Japan provoking its neighbours?
Kim Yong-uk
Ta Hamkke no. 53

The Japanese state is currently making East Asia’s instability more severe. Japan is also having territorial disputes with the majority of its neighbours – Russia, China, South Korea and so on.

In addition it is carrying out a strengthening of its defence forces. This year it has launched a major procurement programme for military equipment, such as aircraft carriers and midair refuelling aircraft, which go beyond weapons of self defence and are required when attacking the territory of an enemy nation.

While arming the country in this way, the leaders of Japan have been constantly using the threat of North Korea and China as an excuse.

But in the early nineties, even before the threat from China appeared, Japan’s average annual military spending was already the second in the world.

One of the factors behind Japan’s militarisation is the movement of the country’s mainstream politics towards the right. For almost 40 years from the mid-1950s Japanese politics has been controlled by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, but the Socialist Party and the Communist Party played a restraining role.

However, this configuration was broken by the economic crisis of the 1990s and the rightward drift of the Socialist and Communist Parties. In this context, when Koizumi came to power in 2001, the rightward shift of the whole political sphere was accelerated.

In fact, Koizumi and Abe Shinzo, the general secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party, and others have been called the Japanese Neocons. They are leading the drive to revise the Japanese constitution and carry out the policy of remilitarisation.

The support of the US is also playing a considerable role in the country’s militarisation. But it is a miscalculation to think that Japan’s increase in military expenditure has only come about because the US wants it.

Japan has felt the need for increased military spending since the 1970s. The opportunity to start this in earnest came with the end of the Cold War and, particularly, with the Gulf War of 1990-91.

Although Japan contributed some $13 billion to the Gulf war, it continued to be excluded from rights over Middle East oil. The majority of Japan’s ruling class was shocked by this and felt that they had to strengthen the country’s military power.

These moves for hegemony were mainly directed toward Asia. Already by the early 1970s Japan had overtaken the US to become the largest investor in the region. The ‘stability’ of the adjacent region is also one of the necessary basic conditions for Japan to stretch toward becoming a hegemonic state.

But Japan’s ambitions are not limited to East Asia. A preparatory document for the December 2004 “Outline of a new defence plan” entitled “Report on security and war capability”, published in October 2004, makes this clear:

“Japan’s current prosperity is founded on global interdependence. But if one looks at this the other way around, it means that disturbances that arise in other parts of the world can weaken Japan.

“Because Japan relies on other countries for the majority of its energy and resources, if the region that encompasses the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia becomes unstable or traffic through shipping routes becomes impossible the consequences could be massive.”

Part II


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