By former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ryozo Kato
Recently, I came across a public opinion poll saying, “73.9% of Japanese are satisfied with their present lives.”
According to a similar public opinion poll I saw a few years ago, 83% of Japanese said, “I want to be born a Japanese again in the next life” (in this connection, more than 70% of Japanese said, “I don’t want to be born a Korean in the next life” in another poll). To the question, “Are you ready to fight for your country if it came under attack by another country, only 11% said “yes,” which was the lowest among 64 countries and regions. 42% of Koreans said “yes” to the same question.
What we can discern from these figures is that no country in the world is more vulnerable to political intimidation than Japan. This is because instead of feeling “there is nothing to lose,” the Japanese people feel “there’s a lot to lose.”
This psychological state of the Japanese people has significantly hampered the government’s security and defense policies. One example is missile defense. Missile defense (MD) and ballistic missile defense (BMD) are typical self-defense weapons. Despite that fact, some countries and Japan’s pacifists have strongly opposed the introduction of MD and BMD to Japan. However, the people eventually realized that the MD was a means of defense to counter political intimidation and the government was able to introduce it. But Japan introduced MD for a political reason to counter political intimidation, so it remains uncertain whether the system will be militarily and objectively effective in intercepting incoming missiles.
As we often hear news about North Korea’s repeated missile launches and nuclear tests, we should seriously discuss this point. I hope the people’s awareness of this point will grow.
In the face of North Korea’s reckless acts, it appears that debate on whether Japan should be armed with nuclear weapons is emerging in the U.S. Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and William Perry have been extraordinarily interested in a nuclear-armed Japan for quite some time. Senior officials under the 43rd U.S. President, George W. Bush, took an unconcerned attitude about the matter.
Regardless of the U.S. stance, it seems premature for Japan to be armed with nuclear weapons. The media noisily reports on the possibility of a nuclear-armed Japan, but the media is responsible for explaining the specific hurdles Japan must clear to arm the country with nuclear weapons. As a matter of fact, realizing a nuclear-armed Japan would be a very long process requiring patience and determination. It would also provide an opportunity to discuss and review the basis of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Spirit or will alone would be insufficient to accomplish such a goal. After all, who could deny the fact that we are enjoying our present affluent life the protection of the U.S.?
Let’s take a look at the three non-nuclear principles once again.
The first and second principles are not possessing and not producing weapons; these principles are an adequate expression of the ideals of a country that endured atomic bombings. On the other hand, the third principle of not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons is actually a restriction imposed by our ally the U.S. Realistically, is there any country other than the U.S. that could understand Japan’s position and stand together with it?
If Japan is really a country that endured atomic bombings, shouldn’t the third principle be “not allowing itself to receive a nuclear attack,” or “not allowing another country to launch a nuclear attack against it?” So we should debate whether the current third principle of “not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons” is a reasonable option.
The Diet adopted a resolution on the three non-nuclear principles, which constitute a national policy. The government has maintained that the principles are a policy, not a law.
This sort of discussion is commonly held in the West. If we want to maintain our present lifestyle which the people feel they have a lot to lose, we need to have discussions on these points. If we are unable to have such a discussion, that is because in Japan there is a taboo against such discussion which runs counter to the basis of democracy.
In order for Japan to be more independent, it is necessary not only to prepare for a military threat posed by another country but also to strengthen our tolerance of political intimidation. It is said that the more taboos a country has, the less civilized it is. (Slightly Abridged)