Wed, Nov 02, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: A Japan that can say `let's go'

A number of recent developments have highlighted the Japanese government's efforts to play a greater role in regional security, and Taiwan should do everything it can to support these moves.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reshuffled his Cabinet, while Washington and Tokyo on Saturday reached an agreement over realigning US forces stationed in Japan, as well as expanding cooperation between the US military and the Japan Self Defense Force.

As Japan continues its steady march towards becoming a "normal" member of the global com-munity, Taiwan has everything to gain from maintain-ing a robust and balanced relationship with Tokyo.

Critics are wont to describe Japan's efforts to take more responsibility for regional security as a "resurgence" of militarism, but the truth is that the days when Tokyo could survive by buying its way out of security commitments are long gone.

Koizumi's reasonable efforts to revise Japan's Constitution -- which has never been amended since its ratification in 1947 -- do not signal a return to the nationalistic militarism that consumed Japan after the country's first foray into democracy ended 75 years ago this month, when then-prime minister Hamaguchi Osachi was mortally wounded by a right-wing assassin.

What they do signal is the growing awareness in Japan that security and stability require proactive policies, and an understanding that the region's liberal democracies -- Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US -- have a natural confluence of interests.

And although Chinese ultra-nationalists and their "Greater China" lackeys rant about Japan's history of military aggression in World War II, these critics would do well to remember that it is China that has fought in four international conflicts since 1945 -- against South Korea and the UN, India, the Soviet Union and Vietnam -- and is now the world's most rapidly modernizing military power.

The facts simply do not indicate a resurgence of Japanese imperialism. But they do indicate a healthy skepticism about the intentions of the authoritarian regimes in Beijing and Pyongyang.

Japan, for all of its faults, is a liberal democracy with a government that is responsible to the people. Media outlets like to describe prominent Koizumi Cabinet officials -- such as newly appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe -- as hawks, but again, the facts simply do not support such a description.

For instance, Abe is best known for his outspoken criticism of the bloodthirsty North Korean regime -- which is not simply the provenance of hawks. He is also known for demanding an accounting of the num-erous Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang's agents, as well as for his staunch support of the 45-year-old US-Japan security alliance.

It is hardly odd for a Japanese politician to be wary of North Korea. The Japanese shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi was famously alleged to describe the Korean Peninsula as "a dagger pointing at the heart of Japan," and given the bellicosity and open hostility of the North Korean regime, it is little wonder that most modern Japanese still feel this way.

In any other country, criticizing hostile regimes would be considered common sense, not hawkish, but the unforgiving and myopic nature of Chinese and Korean nationalism refuses to countenance a Japan that is anything other than accommodating.

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