Japan must sharpen diplomacy, defense capabilities to maintain peace

Postwar peace was built on the precious sacrifices of the 3.1 million war dead. To maintain it, Japan must be proactive.

The government-sponsored national memorial service for the war dead was held at the Nippon Budokan hall with the Emperor and Empress in attendance. Seventy-seven years have passed since the end of the war, and the families of those who died are aging. Seventy percent of such families in attendance were in their 70s or older, and only one wife of a soldier killed in the war attended the ceremony.

In his memorial address, Kenichi Otsuki, 83, the representative of the families, said, “Conflicts are still raging, and bereaved families like us continue to arise.” People who have fallen victim to the ravages of war must be remembered and pledges for peace must be passed on to the next generation.

Diplomacy is essential to maintaining peace. Since the end of World War II, Japan has used the Japan-U.S. alliance as the basis of its diplomacy.

The Diplomatic Archives of the Foreign Ministry is holding a special exhibition of the original copy of the first Japan-U.S. Security Treaty signed in 1951. Looking at the signatures on the document, there are four from the U.S. side, including that of then Secretary of State Dean Acheson, while there is only one signature from Japan, that of then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

Article 1 of the former treaty stipulated the deployment of U.S. forces in Japan. There was opposition to the stationing of U.S. forces, not only from the opposition parties but also from the public.

According to the chief of the Treaty Bureau of the ministry at that time, who accompanied Yoshida for the signing of the original treaty, the prime minister said: “The Security Treaty is very unpopular. I will sign it alone.”

Despite the strong criticism, Yoshida must have judged that signing the treaty was necessary for Japan to survive the Cold War after its defeat. Looking at history, the correctness of this decision is indisputable.

However, has Japan made sufficient efforts to protect itself while relying on the deterrence effect of the U.S. military?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown the world that a peaceful daily life can be lost in the blink of an eye. The greatest deterrence is to enhance the ability to respond to contingencies. At the same time that the Japan-U.S. alliance should be strengthened, the equipment and capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces should be steadily improved.

Another pillar of postwar diplomacy is the principle of international cooperation. Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) and yen loans to developing countries have been highly regarded by the international community. It is important to effectively use such programs.

In recent years, China, with its Belt and Road Initiative that aims to create a huge economic zone, has been expanding its investments in Asia and other regions. However, there are concerns that this is a “debt trap” in which developing countries are saddled with debts and China obtains the rights to use infrastructure and other assets.

Japan is striving to make high-quality infrastructure investments that take into account the financial situations and levels of development of recipient countries. Japan must broaden its cooperation to include developing countries through fair and transparent support.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2022)