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Sunday, April 29, 2001

Japan's 'grand strategy' for the new millennium

JAPAN'S SECURITY POLICY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, by Talukder Maniruzzaman. Dhaka: The University Press Limited, 2000, 78 pp., $4.

Japan, the world's second-largest industrial economy, often finds itself labeled an "economic superpower" -- a fulsome category that differs from the traditional "superpower." In terms of scientific attainments and technological innovation, Japan is envied by most other nations and cultures. As Asia's leading economic-technological giant, it has generated a sense of shared pride in the region and is often taken as a developmental model, although there are also concerns and insecurities.

Japan has been increasing its military expenditures over the last couple of decades, albeit reluctantly, emerging in terms of its defense budget as the world's third-largest military power -- although it remains obligingly committed to a "Peace Constitution" framed by American experts in the late 1940s. Hence, in an age of multilevel concern regarding security in the new millennium, it is natural that Japanese security policy would draw academic attention and provoke thought.

Talukder Maniruzzaman is a professor of political science at Dhaka University, Bangladesh. He has an established reputation as a regional security analyst and spent over a year as a visiting Japan Foundation fellow at the Institute of International Relations at Sophia University.

With a single chapter of 45 pages, divided into eight small sections, the book seems unique in the class of scholarly works. In addressing the single question "Will Japan repeat the history of 1940s?," Maniruzzaman has attempted to position himself as a dispassionate analyst, distanced from both the "America bashers" and the "Japan bashers." His analysis seems oriented largely toward asking whether Japan is set to become a responsible power, with "some separate and some shared burdens" of international security, together with the United States. To this end, he appraises Japan's status as a military power, its nuclear aspirations, the "Peace Article" of the Japanese Constitution and the growth of the Self-Defense Forces, Tokyo's notion of "comprehensive security," Japanese foreign aid, Japan's international trade as an element of its security policy and the status of Okinawa. Finally, he takes into account some recent debates on Japanese security policy.

Maniruzzaman's analysis begins with an indexing of Japan's fairly well-known economic superiority in areas such as gross domestic product, its higher rate of GNP, its record aid disbursement and increasing foreign direct investment, the growing size of its defense budget in relation to other East Asian countries and Australia and its state-of-the-art weapons, as well as forces. He also argues that Japan "has already become a major political power" and is poised to become a major military power.

In highlighting Japan's nuclear aspirations, Maniruzzaman brings into focus the country's acquisition of large quantities of plutonium and its nuclear-reactor-based energy policy. Arguing that Japan has the "largest stock of weapons-usable plutonium outside the nuclear-weapons states," he alleges that it is already a de facto nuclear power that could produce a nuclear bomb "within 20 days to two months, despite its adherence to the . . . nuclear nonproliferation treaty and the complete [sic] test ban treaty as well as its commitment not to become a military superpower."

While addressing the pacifist nature of the Japanese Constitution and Japan's economic-oriented postwar security strategy, Maniruzzaman believes that pacifism has been thrust upon Japan by the "traumatic experience of being the first victim of the nuclear holocaust," but that a general consensus is emerging among Japanese political elites for a self-reliant Japanese armed force to serve what he describes as the "grand strategy of Japanese defense."

Addressing the context and content of the Japanese notion of comprehensive security, often associated with the "pragmatist pacifist" Masayoshi Ohira, Maniruzzaman seeks to delink it from the prodding of "Mr. Pressure" -- the U.S. He projects it as Tokyo's attempt "to cast a conceptual cloak over already existing elements in Japan's foreign politics." Thus the Japanese foreign-aid program is seen as a critical way "to bolster its own security interest" or, more specifically, to prop up markets for Japanese products. Similarly, in touching on Japan's capitalist practices and trade regime, Maniruzzaman supports the strictures against Japan's "developmental capitalism" as the "keiretsu system of cross-share-holding" that is aided by "administrative guidance" and structured in such a way as to keep foreign products out of the Japanese market.

On the question of Okinawa, which has strategic proximity to China and Korea and hosts over 50 percent of the U.S. military personnel in Japan, Maniruzzaman identifies the prefecture as "a victim of strategic location" or the "tyranny of geography," although he acknowledges that many Okinawans see themselves "as victims of double occupation, historically by Japan and since World War II by the U.S.A."

Before offering his conclusions, the author makes a comparative appraisal of the debate on Japan's security policy in the leading English-language newspapers and periodicals in Japan and in international journals, initiated by U.S. security specialists, including members of the political establishment as well as "revisionist" scholars. He also analyzes the debate from Japan's point of view and addresses the argument that "the Japan-U.S. military treaty will continue to be the most important treaty in the world 'bar none' in the 21st century."

Maniruzzaman then moves on to draw a remarkable conclusion. Conceding that the Japanese people are still pacifists, as was expected of them by the framers of the 1947 Peace Constitution, being "allergic" to the words "war" and "nuclear," he says they have "now become a responsible nation." Juggling his phrases, he seeks to unfold what he calls the Japanese "myth that they were 'chosen people' and there would always be a 'kami kaze' (divine wind) to save them from foreign aggression," though the real kamikaze, as he suggests, is technological advancement. It was both technology and trade that led the Japanese to the pinnacle of capitalist revolution, the study concludes, and if it is to remain "strong and responsible," Japan requires a security policy that will promote trade in raw materials from other countries. Hence, presumably, Japan has an economic motive not to launch an aggressive war that could mean the destruction of the very international order whose stability Japan needs to survive and prosper.

The exploratory and speculative reasoning used in the study, coupled with elements of academic eccentricity and dramatic rhetorical devices reminiscent of Chalmers Johnson's "revisionist" writings, makes "Japan's Security Policy" interesting to read. But it lacks consistency. In an age of economic globalization, how can one view as "strong and responsible" a nation that is already a major political/military power and a de facto nuclear power, committed to a system designed to exclude foreign products from the Japanese market? Here the study is characterized by more "ambiguity" than the Japanese ruling elite itself. Nor has Japan's policy of storing plutonium to fulfill the requirements of "recessive deterrence" -- or its energy policy in general -- been placed in the correct perspective. The greatest deterrent to Japan's independent rearmament, separate from U.S. pressure, is the moral and psychological one that is largely shared by the watchful Japanese media and the Japanese people.

The author's views on Okinawa are also questionable. While the Okinawans remain strongly resentful of the U.S. bases on their soil, the environmental hazards the bases present and the occasional misbehavior of U.S. Marines, it is barely credible to suggest that they view Japan as an occupying power or resent being a part of one of the most homogenous nations of the world. It seems ironic that in age of multilevel security concerns, the study pays no attention to issues such as democracy, gender, human rights or the environment, which have shaped so much security analysis in the post-Cold War period. The book is highly informative and thought-provoking, yet perhaps a more careful inventory of Japanese official and nonofficial thinking on security matters, not to mention the entire range of the debates surrounding postwar Japanese security, would add more credence, making it richer still.

Abul Kalam is a professor in the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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