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Land of the Rising Gun
Japan Chipping Away at Pacifism

The leaders of Japan’s ruling coalition are locked in debate over a proposed revision of the strict rules governing when Japanese troops can fire their guns. Stars and Stripes reports

While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party wants to relax restrictions for SDF troops on the use of weapons to expand their activities overseas, its junior coalition partner Komeito remains cautious, wondering if the change complies with the Constitution and if it will bring more danger to SDF members.

According to experts, the use of weapons could be put into two categories: “self-preservation,” namely, minimal use of weapons by SDF members to protect their lives and people under their control; and “mission execution,” or using weapons by SDF members to eliminate resistance in carrying out their mission with warning shots and other actions.

So far, only use of weapons under the self-preservation category has been allowed in principle for SDF members. However, since the Cabinet decided last year to expand SDF activities abroad, expansion of the self-preservation category and creation of the mission execution category are being discussed in the talks between the ruling parties.

At their meeting on Friday, an LDP member insisted that the mission execution category of weapons use should be allowed for SDF units, but a Komeito member retorted that it is totally different from the self-preservation category that has been allowed so far.

For some time, PM Shinzo Abe and his allies have been working to erode the structures of Japan’s pacifist post-war foreign policy. They are having some tentative success. Last year, Abe’s cabinet voted to reinterpret Japan’s constitution to allow for “collective self-defense,” though a parliamentary vote on the matter still looms.

In the meantime, Abe government is pushing through smaller measures to nudge the country off its pacifist course. Japan has recently started to market its military products, especially submarines. In the wake of ISIS’s horrific killings of two Japanese hostages, Tokyo also decided to permit development aid to be provided to foreign militaries for certain non-combat uses. If the rules for discharging weapons change, it will be only the latest sign that Abe is intent on restoring Japanese militarism bit by bit.

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  • Andrew Allison

    There’s a very significant difference between self-defence, whether individual or national, and militarism.

    • Tom Billings

      That is quite true, Andrew. However, having a quiescent Japan to rhetorically bash in public is a big plus for any Chinese government. The very possibility that any Japanese will shoot to defend themselves is anathema to many Chinese, much less shooting to complete a “mission” that is at all military in nature. To remove the present ease of Japan bashing inside China is seen by many having, or hoping for, political power in China as an aggressive act in and of itself. Japanese pols are quite aware of this. Many are not willing to accept the obvious cost in increased Chinese hostility, of seeing their society, *and* its interests on the high seas, as something worth fighting for.

      They are far deeper in the hole on that subject than the most implacable “citizen of the world” in Europe or the US.

      • Andrew Allison

        I completely agree. My comment was a gentle reprimand for the use of hyperbole.

  • Corlyss

    About damn time!

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