Communist China's Ambassador to Canada, Mr. Zhang Junsai, has raised some sobering points about the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and this one, coming as it does in the form of articulate and informed criticism of the culture and attitude of postwar Japan and its various governments, and in the context of growing Chinese-Japanese tension over disputed islands, and in the context of rising Japanese defense expenditures and quiet, but definite, rearmament, should give one pause:
China, like Russia, suffered horribly during World War Two at the hands of Axis aggression, and one need only invoke the phrase "The Rape of Nanking" to recall just how horrific it was. In that context, Mr. Junsai's remarks in these two paragraphs should give one pause:
"This is not alarmism. After the Second World War, Japan accepted the verdict of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Trials, and enacted a pacifist constitution that renounces war as a sovereign right. But since taking office a year ago, Mr. Abe has taken a series of calculated moves to deny the war’s outcome and challenge the postwar international order in the name of building a “normal country.”
"These moves include questioning the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials, claiming that the “definition of aggression” has yet to be established, strengthening Japan’s military and loosening self-imposed bans on weapons exports. Mr. Abe has even advocated revising the postwar constitution to allow Japan to regain the right to wage war and officially maintain a standing army.
"By choosing to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine on the first anniversary of his inauguration, Mr. Abe displayed the depth of this determination to implement this extremist agenda. He is steering his country in a very dangerous direction – Japan’s neighbours and the rest of the international community have every reason to show their concern."
Mr. Junsai is right and justified, both as a Chinese citizen, as an ambassador to a wartime ally, and, apparently, as a moral man to raise such concerns.
But, respectfully, I would suggest that Mr. Abe's Japan is in an extremely difficult position, and under severe internal and external pressure to embark on this course. China is under no direct or immediate threat from Japan, but the latter is from China's erstwhile ally, North Korea, which has done its fair share to destabilize the region with its nuclear and conventional swords. In a world were American power is waning, no self-respecting Japanese government can afford to miscalculate by over-reliance on the American umbrella. We'll return to this point presently. For this factor constitutes but one aspect of the external pressure.
There is an internal pressure, and it is directly related to the other external one. I have suggested in blogs that appeared on this site in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and tragedy, that the disaster may have been deliberate. After all, the then-Japanese government had formally and politely requested the USA remove its Okinawa base, and there was quiet talk of formal visits of the Japanese head of state to China, in an effort to begin healing old wounds. That was abruptly halted by words from the USA secretary of Defense at the time, Robert Gates, in words to Japan - a US ally - that can be considered to be little more than a direct threat to that nation, words that can have had little other effect in that country other than to remind its elite that it is but a satrapy of the American Empire.
In the wake of the decline of American power and its "pivot to the Pacific," and in the wake of recent revelations by China of its plan to nuke selected American cities in the event of conflict, Japanese rearmament may also be something that has been quietly forced upon Tokyo, as well as something that emerges from its own independent strategic calculations.
Howsoever one parses Tokyo's recent moves, Japanese rearmament was probably inevitable. What amazes is rather how long it took. After all, Germany has been rearmed (and a major exporter of sophisticated armaments), since 1955, and builds submarine launched ICBMs for France, and no one seems to be complaining. Nonetheless, Mr. Junsai's concerns are legitimate, and the story bears careful watching.
See you on the flip side.