Rebuild international order that does not allow aggression / Defense capabilities to contain threats are essential

The postwar international order has been shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is hoped that this day will serve as an opportunity to rethink the role that Japan should play in order to eliminate the ravages of war.

The day marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II has arrived. The national memorial service for the war dead will be held by the government at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual ceremony will again be scaled down this year. The significance of mourning the 3.1 million victims remains unchanged.

Crisis posed by Russia

The international order established after World War II is based on respect for sovereignty and territory as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes — principles set out under the U.N. Charter. Japan has been committed to maintaining world stability by bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse over the war and faithfully adhering to the charter.

Russia, as if it mocks such efforts, has unilaterally invaded Ukraine, massacred people and even threatened to use nuclear weapons. These acts undeniably violate international law.

A U.N. Security Council resolution calling for Moscow to immediately end the use of force in Ukraine was rejected because Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, vetoed it.

The U.N. Charter presupposes cooperation among the great powers that won World War II. It does not envision permanent Security Council members committing aggressive acts on their own. The postwar order is now in danger of collapse. Russia bears all the blame.

The world has become increasingly divided over how to deal with Russia.

The Group of Seven countries and members of the European Union, which share the values of freedom and democracy, have supported Ukraine and imposed sanctions on Russia at the expense of harming their own economies.

In response, Russia is trying to strengthen its ties with former Soviet republics, such as Belarus, as well as China, Iran and other countries that are at odds with the United States.

Among emerging and developing countries, many have tried to remain neutral by keeping a certain distance from the United States and the EU, as well as from Russia and China.

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proves successful, that could allow the status quo to be changed by force and bring back a world of survival of the fittest. Forcing Moscow’s aggression to end in failure will be the first step toward restoring the damaged international order.

To this end, sanctions against Russia must be strengthened to make the situation more difficult for the country to wage war, while support must continue for Ukraine, which is inferior in military strength.

Japan will become a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council next year. It should actively work on Asian and African countries to rebuild the international order.

Learn from history

Before World War II, Japan was a country that challenged the international order like Russia does today. The Manchurian Incident in 1931 became an opportunity to overthrow the stability brought about by the end of World War I. The international community was slow in responding to the incident, allowing Japan to go down the path to war as a result.

In Europe, Nazi Germany broke an international agreement by occupying a demilitarized zone in 1936, and Britain and France initially tolerated this action. When Germany annexed the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Britain and France also responded with appeasement.

Prepare for worst-case scenario

The failure to stand firm against Germany’s aggression led to the collapse of the international order and the outbreak of World War II. It is a lesson to learn from history.

Since the end of the war, Japan has enjoyed peace and prosperity based on the Japan-U.S. alliance and as a member of the liberal camp without ever fighting a war.

The preamble of the Constitution states that “we [the Japanese people] have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.” This is based on an assumption that world peace will be preserved if Japan does not engage in war.

Russia’s brutality has clearly demonstrated this premise is far from reality.

The security environment surrounding Japan is unprecedentedly severe.

The primary threat is China. The country has continued unilateral attempts to change the status quo by repeatedly intruding into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. It also conducted large-scale military exercises in the vicinity of Taiwan, strengthening its readiness to invade the island. An emergency in Taiwan is directly linked to Japan’s national security.

Russia has also increased its military activities in the northern territories, while North Korea has continued its nuclear and missile development.

A survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun in June found that about 50% of respondents supported an increase in Japan’s defense spending. The survey results indicate that public concerns are growing over the security environment.

Ukraine’s resistance, which has continued for nearly six months, vividly illustrates the importance of building up deterrence in preparation for a worst-case scenario.

While maintaining its alliance with the United States and the current security system, Japan must enhance its own defense capabilities to protect its sovereignty, territory and the safety of its people. What is needed to achieve this purpose? Discussions should be deepened on matters including the state of the Constitution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2022)