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Special> China Responds to Yasukuni Shrine Controversy> Exclusive
UPDATED: November 11, 2013 NO. 46 NOVEMBER 14, 2013
What Does Abe Want?
Japan's mixed signals and provocations are not conducive to peace
By Shi Yongming

Abe did not give a detailed explanation of his proactive pacifism, merely labeling it as a way to strengthen international coordination. However, from Abe's overall security strategy, the real implication of this new slogan emerges: On one hand, it exercises the right to collective self-defense in order to be capable of fighting alongside its security ally, the United States; on the other hand, it aims to build a force in East Asia to contain China, by which Japan could expand its right to collective self-defense over the entire area. Abe's so-called proactive pacifism has thereby put China into the position of an adversary. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Abe said that one way in which Japan would "contribute" to the world would be countering China in Asia.

The key word in Abe's security initiatives is "proactive." The word has explicitly expressed Japan's military-based aggressiveness. The core of the strategy is to seek political and economic interests through a three dimensional approach of "seeking an adversary, forging an alliance and engaging in confrontation."

In fact, Abe has actively sought to imitate the U.S. political system domestically in order to make Japan's foreign and security systems more compatible with its powerful ally. While Abe clamors over the "China threat" and intends to play a larger role in the international community, he has actively advocated the establishment of a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council (NSC). The Japanese NSC would be headed by the prime minister, and include three other ministers—the minister of foreign affairs, defense chief and Chief Cabinet Secretary. The institutional arrangement has brought the prime minister a firm grip on the country's diplomatic and defense policy machinery, while enhancing the voice of Japan's military brass in foreign policy. The resulting decision-making apparatus is certain to endow Japan's foreign policy with more militaristic undertones.

In addition, the militarization of Japan's Self Defense Force (SDF) is also progressing. The establishment of the Ministry of Defense has reinforced the political status of Japan's military force in the country. Japan has also renovated its armed forces headquarters and completed a systematic transformation and systematic upgrade of the SDF command system. At present, Japan has employed 34,000 of its armed forces to take part in a large-scale drill on and around the uninhabited atoll of Okidaito-jima, simulating the retaking of an island. The purpose of this action is to test the effects of its SDF transformation as well as mobilize the whole military in preparing for war, despite Abe's claims of using the military for peace purposes.

More harm than help

Abe's right-wing practices have intensified risk in that he needs to maintain a tense confrontation between Japan and its "enemy" to achieve his political goals. Abe has thus taken every opportunity to create such an atmosphere, especially over the Diaoyu Islands and other maritime disputes. Abe's policy is marked by military adventurism. Japan continually interfered with the routine offshore drills of the Chinese Navy by taking dangerous military actions. More recently, Japan has sent war crafts to spy on China's naval exercise for two days, which could have easily caused miscalculations or even conflict between the two armies.

The political foundation of Abe's adventurism lies in the far right deviation of Japanese politics. After the Cold War, as the United States promoted the U.S.-Japanese military alliance to both a regional and global scale, the Japanese right wing saw an opportunity to gain influence.

But the fundamental philosophy of the Japan rightists has been met with resistance from the international community. Though Japan hopes to take advantage of its alliance with the United States to enhance its military might, its role will be limited to that of a pawn of the United States. If Japan wants to force the United States to become involved in its conflict with China, its plans would likely end in disappointment.

The Japanese rightists are fighting a losing battle, and their retrograde movement has also weakened their ethical foundation. In an era wherein problems can only be solved through dialogue, there is no place for militarism and hegemony.

The author is an associate research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies

Email us at: liuyunyun@bjreview.com

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