69 years after war, Japan still walks path of peace

The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

This is the day we renew our pledge of peace and our determination not to engage in war, while also quietly paying tribute to the memory of those who died in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration decided in July on a new constitutional interpretation that acknowledged the country’s limited ability to exercise the right of collective self-defense. In connection with this, Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki expressed “anxiety and apprehension” in the Peace Declaration of Nagasaki on the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of that city on Aug. 9, stating that “the rushed debate over collective self-defense has given rise to the concern that this principle (of pacifism) is wavering.” Others are also averse to the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution, making such claims as that the new government view could “pave the way for Japan to again take part in a war.”

Gov’t Not Seeking War The new government view, however, is by no means an attempt to make it easier for Japan to take part in a war. On the contrary, it is aimed at minimizing that possibility by strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan’s cooperation with the international community to enhance the nation’s deterrent against war. The security environment surrounding Japan has been deteriorating rapidly in recent years. North Korea has been pushing ahead with nuclear weapons and missile development programs, while China has been bolstering its armaments and repeatedly conducting self-righteous maritime advances. The menace of international terrorism has also been surging. It is urgent for this nation to firmly establish a system capable of coping effectively with new security situations. During the 69 years since the war’s end, Japan has seen the benefits of peace and prosperity, having never attacked any other country or been subject to invasion from abroad. Peace cannot be maintained simply by chanting the slogan, “Let’s defend Article 9 of the Constitution.” It is of major significance that this country, in the years after the war, founded the Self-Defense Forces and built up its defense capabilities in a manner suited to changes in the times, while concluding the Japan-U.S. security treaty and steadily strengthening the bilateral ties of the alliance. Although no SDF personnel have been killed in war, more than 1,800 have so far died in the line of duty from such causes as accidents and illness. We must always remember that Japan’s security is ensured through the inconspicuous day-to-day efforts of the SDF. When the Japan-U.S. security treaty came under revision in 1960, emotional objections erupted based on the claim that Japan would be drawn into war, splitting public opinion in two. It has been historically proven, however, that the Japan-U.S. alliance functioned effectively both during the Cold War between East and West, when there was a military threat from the Soviet Union, and under the fluid circumstances in East Asia after the Cold War ended. The Japan-U.S. alliance is now acknowledged by many countries as “a public asset” needed for the stability of Asia. The government used the SDF in a restrained way in the initial days of its existence, but has since expanded its role in stages to include such fields as international peacekeeping activities. This progress by Japan as a peace-loving country ever since the war’s end has been highly praised by the international community.