The overlapping dreamsThe security law revision by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reminds us of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty revision by his grandfather and former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. It had long been Kishi’s ambition to have a more equal alliance with the U.S. Kishi proclaimed a new age in U.S.-Japan relations and began working to revise the Security Treaty in 1958. The Security Treaty was signed in 1951 and reflected Japan’s status as the defeated and the United States as the victorious. The U.S. Forces could exert power in case of domestic unrest in Japan. In 1960, Kishi removed the clause and stipulated a mutual defense obligation. The amendment was the critical turning point in postwar Japan and Japan’s rearmament.
When the security treaty was amended, unprecedented anti-government and anti-American protests swept up Japan. People were concerned about the possibility of war and Kishi’s history as an A-class war criminal. Japan was divided into the conservative and the liberals. Chair of the Japan Socialist Party Inejiro Asanuma mentioned the security treaty when visiting China and said that American imperialism was the mutual enemy of the people of Japan and China. The Kishi government mobilized the rightist groups and gangsters to suppress protests. As the protests were not subjugated, Kishi resigned in June, 1960 after the instrument of ratification were exchanged. As many as 5.6 million people participated in the protest nationwide. After Kishi’s retirement, the turmoil over the security treaty died out, as the protests had been anti-Kishi as well. This happened before Abe entered elementary school. Kishi laughed as Abe copied the protestors surrounding the residence and shouted, “We oppose security treaty!” (“Shinzo Abe and Nobusuke Kishi” by Eiji Oshita).
Abe’s security bill is the other side of the coin of Kishi’s US-Japan Security Treaty amendment. If Kishi had drawn the blueprints for an equal alliance, Abe made an action plan. It is considered to have opened the door to a true U.S.-Japan alliance. In fact, Abe compares his bill to his grandfather’s amendment. He said that the amendment was criticized for putting Japan at risk of war, but history proves that it was not wrong. A photo of Kishi and U.S. President Eisenhower signing the amendment is hanging on the wall of Abe’s office.
With the security bill, Japan’s security system and defense capacity is upgraded. The bilateral U.S.-Japan alliance through Japan’s active security contribution means that Japan’s standing on its own. Kishi’s duet of self-reliance and cooperation with the United States has been passed on to his grandson. Japan’s politics and society have changed from the days of Kishi. When the security treaty amendment was ratified in 1960, Liberal Democratic Party’s heavyweights Ichiro Kono and Takeo Miki did not vote. But the spectrum is not so wide in today’s ruling party. The lawmakers are tightly gathered around Abe. The opposition party is incompetent, and the civil society is not as influential. An overall conservative swing is evident in the society. We are facing Japan as a normal nation that is more aggressive and opinionated than ever.
*The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 19, Page 26
by OH YOUNG-HWAN