Japanese Imperial Army soldiers in Tokyo, 1936
Long before the end of Pacific War, American Cold Warriors had decided Japan and Okinawa would serve as the launchpads for new wars in Asia that would begin in Korea and Vietnam. However, they were up against the Japanese and Okinawan people who wanted to rebuild their lives in peace. The vast majority of citizens, including liberal political leaders who had opposed Japan's wars in the Asia-Pacific, supported the postwar Peace Constitution, which outlawed war as a means of conflict resolution between nations.
General Douglas MacArthur attributed Article 9, the Peace Clause, to Kijuro Shidehara, who was Japan's prime minister during the drafting of the new constitution. During the 1920s, Shidehara was known for his attempts to counter the rise of militarists, promote disarmament and enact the 1928 General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy (Kellogg Briand Pact) that required member nations to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. The statesman was finally able to achieve his aim in the postwar Japanese constitution.
However, under the terms of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and Security Treaty, PM Shigeru Yoshida acquiesced to some U.S. military bases on the mainland and the division of Japan and Okinawa in exchange for the end of the U.S. Occupation. Thereafter the U.S. instituted a brutal military regime in Okinawa: soldiers seized tens of thousands of acres of private property and bulldozed entire villages, to build the military complexes throughout Okinawa; residents were afforded no property or human rights protections. The Japanese government sacrifice of Okinawa to US military aims allowed Yoshida and subsequent prime ministers, from Ichiro Hatoyama to Ishibashi Tanzan, for over a decade, for the most part, to resist US pressure to violate Article 9 and remilitarize Japan.
This changed in February 1957, when Nobusuke Kishi, wartime minister of commerce and industry under General Tojo, became prime minister, with support from the U.S. Government. Classified as a Class-A war crime (participation in a joint conspiracy to wage aggressive war) suspect, Kishi had been detained at Sugamo prison only 9 years prior to becoming the head of the Japanese state. However, on the same day in 1948 that the U.S. executed Tojo and six other convicted war criminals, the U.S. released Kishi and the other remaining Class-A suspects. All, with the CIA backing, resumed positions of power, after promising to support US military aims in Japan, Okinawa, and East Asia.
In 1960, as millions of Japanese citizens protested, Kishi repaid the U.S. government for his release: he sacrificed his political career by ramming through a new US-Japan Security Treaty (AMPO) through the Diet. The treaty allowed for continued US military bases in Japan and military occupation of Okinawa. However, Kishi was unable to achieve his wish to amend Article 9, to allow Japanese remilitarization in service of US wars abroad. His grandson, PM Shinzo Abe, modeling Kishi's method, is now trying to achieve this goal by ramming through a unilateral radical"reinterpretation" of the constitution, instead of following legal methods of constitutional revision. Almost all Japanese constitutional law scholars say this violates constitutional rule of law.
Before his November 25, 1970 ritual suicide in protest of the Japanese Peace Constitution, Yukio Mishima barricaded himself at the Ichigaya Japanese Self Defense Force camp in Ichigaya, Tokyo. Speaking to the soldiers from a balcony, Mishima cried out, "Where is the national spirit today? You will just be American mercenaries! American troops!" What would the Japanese ultranationalist author think today, as the constitution he despised is under threat of "reinterpretation," precisely for that aim?
Parliamentarians protest forced passage of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1960
Tim Shorrock's "Could Japan Become America’s New Proxy Army? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to alter a key provision of Japan’s constitution to lift the country’s 70-year ban on foreign deployments," published at The Nation on July 27, analyzes the Abe administration's radical move to "reinterpret" the Japanese Peace Constitution within the context of postwar US-Japanese history:
Over the last month, Japan has been shaken by the largest anti-war demonstrations since the late 1960s, when millions of students, workers, and ordinary citizens turned out to try to block their govt’s collaboration with the US war in Vietnam. The issue this time is the plan by PM Shinzo Abe to alter a key provision of Japan’s peace constitution to allow Japan’s “Self Defense Forces” to take part in overseas military operations for the first time since WW II...
Abe’s victory will transform Japan—with its surprisingly large, tech-driven military-industrial complex—into America’s new proxy army...
So who is this prime minister who has won the trust of the Obama administration while earning the enmity of the growing majority of its own citizens? Here’s everything you need to know about “our guy” in Tokyo:
• ABE’S LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS PUT IN POWER WITH THE HELP OF THE CIA AND BECAME ONE OF THE MOST SUBSERVIENT POLITICAL ALLIES THE US HAS EVER HAD.
...This was an easy shift for the corporate and financial conglomerates who backed Japan’s cruel war, according to Muto Ichiyo, a Japanese writer and activist who worked closely with the US anti-war movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The part of Japanese imperialism which was made powerless after the defeat in the war wanted, of course, to revive itself,” Muto once explained to me in Tokyo. “But they knew perfectly well that the situation had changed. They knew also that fighting against America again would be both impossible and purposeless. So they adopted a very clear-cut strategy: Japan will concentrate on the buildup of the economic base structure of imperialism, while America will practically rule Asia through its military forces.”
• ABE, WHO WAS PREVIOUSLY PM FROM 2006 TO 2007, REPRESENTS THE MOST RIGHT-WING FACTION OF THE PRO-AMERICAN LDP, AND SPEAKS FOR A VIRULENT MINORITY OF POLITICIANS AND CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS WHO IDEALIZE JAPAN’S WW II EMPIRE IN EAST ASIA AND WANT TO RESTORE ITS GREATNESS IN A MILITARY ALLIANCE WITH THE UNITED STATES...
• THE “UNFINISHED BUSINESS” OF AN EXPANDED US-JAPAN MILITARY ALLIANCE HAS BEEN PUSHED HEAVILY BY US NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS FROM BOTH THE DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTIES FOR DECADES...
Parliamentarians protest forced passage of Abe's War Bill.
Photo: KYODO via The Japan Times
Christopher W. Hughes' "An ‘Abe Doctrine’ as Japan’s Grand Strategy: New Dynamism or Dead-End?", published at The Asia-Pacific Journal on July 21, 2015, describes the loss of Japanese sovereignty under the radical Abe doctrine. The current administration signals the end of relative peace and prosperity that Japan enjoyed [albeit at the expense of Okinawan suffering] in the conservative postwar period:
Abe’s diplomatic agenda...might be labeled as a doctrine capable...displacing, the doctrine of PM Yoshida Shigeru that has famously charted Japan’s entire post-war international trajectory. In contrast to Abe’s more muscular international agenda, the Yoshida Doctrine’...has long emphasized for Japan the need for a pragmatic and low-profile foreign policy, a highly constrained defense posture, reliance but not over-dependence on the US-Japan security treaty, and the expedient rebuilding of economic and diplomatic ties with East Asian neighbors...
Abe has only served two and half years as PM in this stint and may enjoy several more years...to continue to pursue his radical agenda. But the probability is that the Abe Doctrine, whilst making substantive differences to Japan’s foreign and security policy, will continue to fall short of its ambitions, and perhaps ultimately run into the sand. This is because of three fundamental inherent and irreconcilable contradictions. Essentially, these result from the fixation of the Abe Doctrine on attempting to escape the post-war order and the humiliations to national pride and sovereignty imposed during that period, and the fact that this in many ways only leads to Japan becoming further entrapped in the past with resultant tensions for the implementation of current policies and relations....
Abe’s hopes for more equal ties with the US cannot by definition materalize as long as Japan continues to lock itself into dependency on the US in a range of political, economic and security affairs. Abe’s attempts to strengthen Japan’s great power profile through deepening integration into the military alliance can only really spell dependency...the reality is that the Abe Doctrine is in many ways reducing Japan’s autonomy in international affairs, and this will only be compounded as its revisionism leaves it more isolated in East Asia with a limited range of other feasible regional partners.
One of many July rallies against the Abe war bill & forced military base construction in Okinawa.