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Monday, Sept. 6, 2010


Risks of a more active defense

A private advisory panel to Prime Minister Naoto Kan submitted a report Aug. 27 calling for changing Japan from a "passive peace-loving nation" to a "proactive peace-loving nation." The panel was formed in view of a planned revision of the defense program outline — a guideline for building up defense capabilities.

The panel says that while the current situation does not warrant relaxation of Japan's nonnuclear principle, it would not be wise to bind the hands of the United States with the principle. It also calls for relaxing Japan's arms export ban to let Japanese firms take part in international weapons development projects.

As for Japan's basic defense posture under which Japan limits the buildup of defense capabilities to the minimum level needed to cope with "limited, small-scale invasion" while depending on the Japan-U.S. security arrangement to deal with larger threats, the panel terms it a "thing of the past."

The panel is trying to discard long-standing principles that have restrained Japan's defense power and epitomized Japan's defense-only posture. It may be necessary to improve training or equipment to cope with new types of threats, but panel members appear to have forgotten that the defense-only policy has helped Japan gain the international community's trust and contributed to the stabilization of Northeast Asia.

The panel calls for changing the traditional constitutional interpretation banning the exercise of the right to collective self-defense. It wants Japan to defend U.S. naval ships taking part in a joint operation with Japan from an enemy attack, and to shoot down a ballistic missile headed for the United States. It is inconceivable that any country would attack U.S. naval ships, or the U.S. itself, and thereby invite massive retaliation.

The report calls attention to China's military buildup and increased naval presence. But a Japanese buildup of defense systems as a tit-for-tat response to China would only increase tension. The government should continue to uphold the nonnuclear principle, the weapons export ban and the nonexercise of the right to collective self-defense.

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