Resisting Militarism in Japan

John Feffer, “The Sun Also Rises: Resisting Militarism in Japan,” Truthout, 20 January 2014

… Japan’s current prime minister, however, is not big on apologies. Shinzo Abe is a right-wing nationalist who wants to revive Japan as a “normal” military power. He has been brusque in his rhetoric and his actions. At the end of December, his government announced a major increase in military spending of 5 percent over the next five years, which will include purchases of 28 U.S. F-35s and two Aegis-equipped destroyers. Japan under Abe has more aggressively asserted sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that China also claims, pledging to use force against Chinese patrols and rejecting any compromise on the islands’ status. On the home front, his administration has pushed through textbook revisions that offer the same airbrushed treatment of Japanese history that the Yushukan displays. …

The real reason for Abe’s visit, which elicited predictable outrage from Korea and China, was that he felt that he could get away with it. Japan’s neighbors, after all, have engaged in their own provocations. The month before, China had unilaterally declared its Air Defense Identification Zone. South Korea, under President Park Geun-hye, has reinforced its own claims to the Dokdo/Takeshima islands also claimed by Japan, sending a new coast guard vessel to patrol the waters in that area.

The Yasukuni visit was a signal that Abe would not really take into consideration the sentiments of Japan’s allies — or its adversaries — when developing its own foreign policy. For the last two decades, with the considerable encouragement of Washington, the Japanese foreign policy and military elite has been gradually shrugging off the constraints imposed by the “peace constitution.” Abe knows that the barriers are high for ridding the constitution of its famous Article 9 (by which Japan renounces war as a means of settling disputes). It’s much easier to make an end run around the constitution, as his predecessors have done by knocking out one prohibition after another — against weapons exports, against participation in UN peacekeeping, against the militarization of space, and so on. …

But at the end of December, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima buckled. The pressure from Tokyo — plus 300 billion yen a year for the next eight years for the Okinawan economy — made him break his campaign promise to oppose base relocation on Okinawa. Washington hailed the agreement as the final resolution to the problem. …

And despite the monetary incentives dangled by Tokyo, the vast majority of Okinawans still reject the plan.

All of this leaves the “Pacific pivot” in limbo. Half the Marines at Futenma are slated to move to Guam, Hawaii, and Australia. But it’s the insistence to keep a large contingent of Marines on Okinawa — a parochial obsession of the U.S. Marine Corps that has become an unmovable U.S. demand — that has been the core of the dispute. It doesn’t matter that the Air Force already has a huge base on Okinawa that provides the United States with all the air power it needs. It doesn’t matter that sufficient Marines will be stationed in the region to respond to any contingency. The services are always reluctant to give up anything for fear that they will lose even more when the inevitable belt-tightening begins.

It’s a critical time to support Japanese efforts to oppose Shinzo Abe’s nationalist refashioning of his country. And it’s a critical time to support the plucky Okinawans who have stood up against not just one but two Goliaths in their struggle for self-determination. The Japanese government has learned to say “no.” Now it’s our turn to support the Japanese who say “no” to their government.

Read the full article here.