Japan at a crossroads

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Japan at a crossroads

The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday approved the controversial right to “collective self-defense.” In an arbitrary re-interpretation of its decades-old pacifist Constitution, the administration now has the right to counterattack countries when they strike nations that have close ties with Japan.

The revision includes three conditions for Japan’s use of military force, including when its people’s rights are threatened by other countries. When the Abe government revises related laws in the Diet, including the Self-Defense Law, Japan can fully exercise its collective self-defense.

The revision marks an epochal change in Japan’s security policy as it enables Self-defense Forces to wage war or battles overseas in defiance of its cherished principle of self-defense. That’s a cataclysmic transformation in line with Abe’s catchphrase of departure from postwar politics. If Japan is geared up to use its military strength overseas, it will have a significant impact on the power balance in the Asia-Pacific region.

When asked what he meant by “countries with close ties to Japan,” Abe said it could mean the United States. But he added that Japan will determine what countries to support depending on the situation, hinting at the possibility of expanding the scope of countries with close relations to the island nation, including the Philippines and Vietnam. The Abe administration began to export patrol boats and other military equipment to the two countries earlier this year after scrapping its self-enforced ban on arms exports.

Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense will raise the level of the Washington-Tokyo alliance further. But neighboring countries increasingly worry about the alarming development ahead of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. Japan must transparently exercise the collective right to self-defense for peace and stability in the region. It cannot lead to distrust or confrontation. Japan’s postwar pacifism is at a crossroads.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 2, Page 30

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