Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Abe's 'normal state' abnormal

By Yang Bojiang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-21 07:06

By doing so, Abe attempted to divert attention away from his contentious shrine visit, which has not only angered its neighbors, even Washington seems to have lost track of where its long-term ally is heading. Equally important for Abe was naming China as a top threat to Japan's national security in order to justify his country's military buildup and the revising of its pacifist Constitution.

Japan has pursued the goal of a "normal state" status for decades, but the country remains divided concerning what is a "normal state" and how to achieve such a status.

About 15 months after coming back to Japan's top job, Abe's acts have fully demonstrated that his answer to those two questions is Japan must emerge as a "normal" military power. In December, Japan launched a US-style National Security Council to strengthen the leadership of the prime minister's office in steering defense policies. A little while later, Tokyo enacted a state-secrets law toughening the penalties for leaks, despite widespread protest and criticism. Abe defended the law as "necessary" in smoothing the operation of the new council and also in facilitating the sharing of intelligence with foreign countries. That same month, Japan's cabinet approved three security documents, including the country's first-ever national security strategy after WWII, which suggests Japan's further transition from its postwar pacifism toward what Abe disingenuously calls "proactive pacifism".

In his New Year message to the nation, Abe reaffirmed his resolve to change Japan's pacifist Constitution, which limits Japan's military activities to self-defense and forbids the use of force in settling international disputes. "As it has been 68 years since its enactment now, national debate should be further deepened toward a revision of the Constitution to grasp the changing times," Abe said, signaling he is pushing to realize his long-term ambition for making the Self-Defense Forces a full-fledged military.

In August, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Japanese politicians to do some soul-searching over history to resolve historical disputes with neighboring countries. Tokyo immediately voiced irritation over Ban's comments, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressing doubt as to whether Ban was fully aware of the efforts Japan was making to have dialogue with China and South Korea. How true it is that Japan has made great efforts, but not to resolve the disputes, instead it has sought to aggravate them.

China and South Korea now refuse to talk with Japan, and Japan is facing a storm of criticism from peoples around the world. It is to be hoped this will be enough to force its leaders to see reason and realize that if it continues along the path it is currently following it is only distancing itself further and further from the international community.

The author is deputy director of Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily 02/21/2014 page8)

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