Japan Pushes for More Active Military Alliance With U.S.

By Dan Parsons

Separated only by a thin strip of ocean from an expansionist China, Japanese officials are pushing to regain the right to fight alongside international allies in the event of a conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since the end of World War II, Japan’s constitution has prohibited the use of military force to wage war against other nations. The role of its armed forces is strictly limited to self-defense in the event an unprovoked attack.

As tensions with China escalate, an effort to amend Japan’s constitution to allow for foreign military cooperation is gaining momentum, officials said.

Shinichi Kitaoka, acting chairman of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, said June 16: “We have to change the system … whenever there is a crisis we should be active.".

Kitaoka submitted a report to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that recommended changes in defense policy. He said the right of collective self-defense should be included in the constitutional interpretation of using military force to the minimum extent necessary.  

Discussion and approval by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet is essential. “The goal is for enactment by the government … but it takes time,” Kitaoka said.  

The Japan Times reported that Abe is in favor of collective self-defense and his administration has already presented a statement to the Cabinet. But revising the Japanese constitution is difficult because the proposal requires a 2/3 majority in both houses and a national referendum.

Although approval of such amendments typically takes months, momentum is ramping up in this case. Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations said, “Some things are actually moving rapidly … many people  in Japan feel that the time has come for changes that are long overdue.”

If collective self-defense is allowed, Kitaoka noted that Japan should only take action when a foreign country of close relations is under attack, or if such a situation has the potential to significantly affect the nation’s security. He also said Japan would need the consent of other countries in order for action to be taken.

“Unless we are invited, we will not join to help any country,” Kitaoka said.

Rising tension with China and North Korea concerns Kitaoka.  He worries about the increased developments in North Korean missile capability and that the Chinese military budget has quadrupled in the last decade. China has also begun to rely on its civilian maritime law enforcement agencies in order to expand its influence in the South China Sea and other disputed territories.

Topics: International

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