중앙데일리

Modern arms give Japan a lethal edge

July 17,2006
[Second of two articles] Japan’s muttering about a pre-emptive attack on North Korea in extremis may not be realistic right now, analysts in Seoul suggest, but Tokyo’s restiveness with a military posture that does not match its economic clout chafes a significant number of Japanese. These analysts say, however, that Seoul should have been more alert to the many signs over the past years about Japan’s attempts to increase its military prowess. Although the media and the administration here seem to treat Tokyo’s response to North Korean missiles as having come out of the blue and as being itself destabilizing, these analysts agree that there is nothing surprising coming out of Tokyo. Japan, they agree, did not suddenly seize on the North’s missile tests to justify its transformation. Seoul will just have to get used to it and find a better response than just complaining.
“Becoming a ‘normal’ country cannot be achieved overnight,” said Yun Duk-min, a security and international political analyst at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. “If we look a bit more closely, Japan’s efforts have been visible since the Gulf War.”
Mr. Yun said Japan was an “abnormal” country in three ways: It has rejected offensive military power, it has a pacifist constitution and it depends on another country, the United States, for its defense. The first of those policies has been changing ever since its self-defense forces were allowed to participate in international peacekeeping and other military operations around the globe.
“The U.S.-Japan alliance has also been altered significantly from its past role of defense and deterrence to a more aggressive role after 9/11,” Mr. Yun said. “Since then, the United States has sought a partner that can join its pre-emption, and Japan has been keeping up with that.” Mr. Yun said the pacific constitution is the last element which makes Japan an abnormal country, but changes there are already being discussed.
Japan’s efforts to become a “normal country” emerged visibly in November, when Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party proposed to end the constitutional ban on a military establishment and to allow its armed forces to serve in international forces.
Lee Myun-woo, an analyst at the Sejong Institute’s Japan Center, agreed with that point. “Japan has been talking about reinforcing its military power for some time,” Mr. Lee said. “The discussion has been low-key, but has surfaced with the missile crisis.” He advised Seoul to calm down. “In Japan, the majority believes in maintaining the pacifist constitution,” Mr. Lee said, adding that the current debate is only one about a new form of defense.
Speaking of the North’s missiles, he added, “South Korea reacted rather passively, and that may have prompted Japan to speak strongly.”
Japan’s efforts to strengthen its military, he said, were natural. North Korea and other uncertainties ― China and energy supplies, for example ― encouraged Tokyo to think about more military power.
While Japan’s transformation was destined to come sooner or later, Mr. Yun at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said, Tokyo has to work harder to ease the concerns of its neighbors. “Tokyo should have spent more time persuading its neighbors, but it tried to justify its change only as a transformation of its alliance with the United States,” he said. “Such an attitude makes Korea and China uneasy. Japan should learn the importance of its diplomacy in Asia.”
He also said the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s recent barrage of criticism toward Japan was understandable even if somewhat misguided. “The direction of Japan’s change is nothing surprising, because more than 60 years have passed since World War II ended,” Mr. Yun said. “If there were something discomfiting about Japan’s changes, the South Korean government should have raised the matter every time something occurred. Past administrations sat idle, postponing such discussions, and the Roh administration happened to be the one to speak up.”
Mr. Yun said although the South Korean public has a long-held animosity toward Japan, the two countries are actually close in civilian exchanges. “I think checking Japan’s growing military power by cooperating with China or beefing up Korea’s own military power is unrealistic,” Mr. Yun said. “What is needed is smart diplomacy and confidence-building measures between the two countries so that Korea will not be afraid of Japan as a ‘normal’ country.”
In an interview with the Joong-Ang Ilbo last week, Shigeru Ishiba, Japan’s former minister of state for defense, also said South Korea and Japan should build confidence in each other. He was asked about South Korea’s concerns that Japan was using the missile crisis as a justification for its military transformation,
“Please trust Japan’s democracy,” Mr. Ishiba replied. “The Japan that started a war 70 years ago and the Japan of today are different. I can assure you that Japan will never start a war again. The Japanese people would not accept it.”
He continued, “Constitutional revision and an aggressive country are two different things. We are seeking rights as an independent nation, and we know very well that we need to pay more attention to earning trust from our neighbors.”


by Ser Myo-ja, Brian Lee


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