(Yomiuri: July 19, 2015 – p. 4)
[Interview with Makoto Iokobe, chancellor of Prefectural University of Kumamoto and former president of National Defense Academy, by senior writer Tatsuya Fukumoto]
The debate on the security bills has now moved to the House of Councillors. Based on the Diet deliberations so far, we asked experts about the points that still need to be discussed or the remaining issues.
Q: What do you think of the debate in the House of Representatives?
Iokobe: Despite over 110 hours of deliberation at the special committee, two key issues were not fully discussed. First, how to deal with the harsh reality of China’s rise, and second, how Japan should be involved in and take responsibility for international security. I am dissatisfied with the inadequate debate on these two issues.
Q: What is the significance of the security bills?
Iokobe: All countries have the rights to individual and collective self-defense. It is significant for Japan to be actively involved with international operations and to do what it can for world peace and security. This will also serve as the basis for other countries to support Japan.
Japan’s Constitution has not been amended at all in the past 70 years. The environment changes every 10 years, so many inadequacies will emerge after half a century. It is truly abnormal that no change has been made at all. No other country in the world is like that.
In the prewar period, Japan also regarded the Constitution of the Empire of Japan as a code of laws that would remain effective forever and this was never revised. With a constitution under which the political authorities had no control over the military, Japan was doomed. If the constitution had been amended, it might not have plunged into one war after another.
The present constitution was promulgated soon after Japan was defeated in World War II from the standpoint of never fighting another war. Today’s Japan has neither the intent nor the capability to invade another country. Yet, some people still seize on any change in the legal system to say “Japan will wage another war of aggression.” They are fixated on outdated notions and fail to see reality. It is wrong to deify a legal system created by man. This used to be called “pettifogging” in the past. It is easy to resist legal amendments to meet the needs of reality and claim any change is a violation. The important thing is to have a flexible imagination to determine whether old legal systems are appropriate or not.
Q: What does Japan need to do?
Iokobe: After the Cold War, North Korea is threatening with its nuclear arms and missiles, and China is charging ahead with its military buildup. China is taking action to seize Japan’s territory, the Senkaku Islands. It is also pushing for effective control in the South China Sea. The question now is how to contain such actions. To declare “I will not fight any war” is not the answer. Peace cannot be maintained without finding a way to make China exercise restraint.
China is extending its control, beginning with the Philippines and Vietnam and other countries of lesser resistance. While Japan will not be aggressive, it should become a country that cannot be taken lightly through its self-help efforts.
It should strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and make China understand that Japan and the U.S. are inseparable. In addition, it is important to have many friends in the international community.
Authorizing Japan’s limited exercise of the right to collective self-defense is a manifestation of the system of Japan-U.S. cooperation. It is important that if something happens to U.S. ships in the region, Japan will not just stand by helplessly but will join efforts to protect the ships. The Self-Defense Forces’ turning a blind eye to such a situation will mean the death of the security alliance in the eyes of the American public. On the contrary, Japan will show that it is deeply bound to the U.S. This will be a powerful way to safeguard Japan’s security and make China exercise restraint.
Becoming embroiled in a U.S. war is a dilemma every country faces. As the most peace-loving country in the world, Japan will make its sound judgment on each conflict. It should provide logistic support if a conflict is judged to have international legitimacy and indispensable for Japan’s survival and national interest. Otherwise, it should refuse to get involved.