Written by Susumu Imaizumi*
Translated by Aki Tanaka**
It would not be a misinterpretation if we understand this newly developed Japanese “right to collective self-defense” as the right to join in a war. Some Japanese people are concerned about the safety of Japan and believe that our country needs the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima (The Liancourt Rocks) because we will soon be going to war, and this off-shore terrain could be essential to protecting the main islands. Even this is to some degree an overreaction it is clear to almost everybody that Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and China consider each other as “potential enemies” or something akin to that. Along with many countries, China and Korea were invaded by Japan in the past, and they see the adjustment of the Japanese pacifist law as a threat (e.g. Martin & Sekiguchi, 2014).
However, we actually cannot say whether or not war will soon break-out in this East Asian region despite the increasing tension and international attention. Japan will be careful how it uses its defense forces in East Asia because of the painful history and the geographical proximity among East Asian countries.
On the other hand, Japan can easily join Western security initiatives, especially those organized by the United States or the United Nations (e.g. Magosaki & Junkerman, 2014). As long as it is in alliance with the United States, the Japanese government will place worldwide “Islamic extremists” or other organizations considered “international threats” as substantial opponents. In other words, the government will probably send its defense forces to Arab and African countries, much more quickly and willingly than to East Asian countries.
In fact, Japanese Self-Defense Forces have already been sent to South Sudan and off the coast of Somalia, supposedly for those countries’ stability (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 2014a, 2014b), but are troops really being deployed for this purpose or for some other hidden agenda? In my observation, the deployment is largely due to Japan’s cultural and geographical distance from those areas and the available option of conveying the operations as peace keeping. Even if Japan has not yet officially exercised its “right to collective self-defense,” the people in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are already discharging their duties. By doing so, they are endangering people’s lives, including their own.
Taylor and Walsh (2014) accuse Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan, and Also, the 92nd Prime Minister of Japan, of using the defense forces, under the guise of UN Security Council resolutions in Africa, to gain public support for promoting military normalization in Japan. The authors also claim that Aso’s previous actions, especially that of pushing the antipiracy law, “provided the legal basis for the Japanese military to escort foreign ships and employ deadly force as part of global counterpiracy operations” (Taylor & Walsh, 2014, para. 2). Though the Japanese government participates in African issues possibly to improve its image in the West, this involvement of armed forces could be dangerous if not handled carefully.
Accordingly, over these past few years I have seen Japanese people demonstrating against their government’s use of defense forces in foreign lands. They display placards saying “Don’t kill.” Although I appreciate and their efforts resonate with me, the question of “Don’t kill who?” occurs to me. The Japanese people who write those words probably mean, “Don’t kill Japanese people,” but I strongly believe that the subject should refer to all human beings. An episode like this echoes the inhumane treatment of the Chinese and Koreans during World War II.
This edited article was written by Susumu Imaizumi, primarily for a Japanese audience. It was first published in the Huffington Post in association with the Asahi Shimbun on July 4, 2014, from a reprinted piece of Imaizumi’s personal blog and travelogue, Africa Saruku Kikou.
*Susumu Imaizumi is a columnist for the Nagasaki Newspaper and a student at Osaka University School of Foreign Studies. He is majoring in African History and Swahili. His present research is on African slavery in Nagasaki, Japan, during the Edo Period (1603-1868).
**Aki Tanaka is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at Ohio University. She has a master’s degree in African Studies, focusing on anthropology.
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Imaizumi, S. (2014, July 4). Nagasaki-to-Africa-kara-kangaeru-shyudanteki-jieiken [Rethinking the Japanese government’s newly adopted “right to collective self-defense” the perspectives from Nagasaki and Africa]. The Huffington Post: In Association with the Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/susumu-imaizumi/nagasaki-africa-self-defense_b_5557489.html
Magosaki, U., & Junkerman, J. (2014). Japan’s “collective self-defense” and American strategic policy: Everything starts from the US-Japan alliance. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 11(28). Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/japans-collective-self-defense-and-american-strategic-policy-everything-starts-from-the-us-japan-alliance/5391277
Martin, A., & Sekiguchi, T. (2014, July 1). Japan policy shift to ease restrictions on military. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/articles/japan-policy-shift-to-ease-restrictions-on-military-1404211813
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, (2014a, June 25). Japan’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations (PKO). Retrieved from http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/un/pko/
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, (2014b, June 25). Japan’s actions against piracy off the coast of Somalia. Retrieved from http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/piracy/ja_somalia_1210.html
Taylor, J., & Walsh, M. E. (2014, January 7). UN operations in Africa provide a mechanism for Japan’s military normalization agenda. The National Bureau of Asian Research. Retrieved from http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=392