Excerpt from online Yomiuri Shinbun Story, Jan. 11, 2000:

 

Seeking true independence

 

In a slight departure from interviews with and discussions among prominent figures from around the world, this special installment of this series offers a unique roundtable attended by three key political leaders in this country: Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone; Koichi Kato, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party; and Yukio Hatoyama, president of Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan). The three legislators put 20th-century Japan into perspective while discussing what kinds of goals, principles and obligations the nation should pursue in the upcoming century.

 

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Nakasone: In the 20th century, the five major trends were: industrialization, democracy, nationalism, recently emerged regionalism and finally globalism. In the 21st century, these trends will be found side by side. The challenge of this era will be how to develop and harmonize them.

 

In the fields of environment, information, science and technology, academic studies and finance, the trend is toward transcending national boundaries. The advance of the Internet will lead to a global network, creating an "Internet global citizens alliance." Such an entity may possess a considerable say over issues and threaten to dissolve national sovereignty.

 

Japan, for its part, should solidify its foundation, by which I mean the Constitution. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the nation, and solidifying this constitutional basis will lead to development of civilization in the 21st century and reconfirm and reunify national awareness.

 

Kato: Since then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty (with the United States and other noncommunist countries) in 1951, Japan has experienced a lot. After Japan's aligning itself with nations pursuing liberalism proved to be the right path, Japanese politicians have been unable to solve certain disputes. Nationalism is said to have been emerging in certain quarters. Constitutional controversy has begun amid uncertain prospects of whether nationalism will lead to international contributions or public contributions to domestic regional communities.

 

Given these circumstances, a dispute over the Constitution has emerged. This dispute might, in one respect, bring about the first important change since the Jomon period (ca 10,000 B.C.-ca 300 B.C.) because it touches on core issues of the individual versus the whole, as well as the principle of equality.

 

Hatoyama: It was just pointed out that the tragedy of war has occurred repeatedly. There has been a transition from a multipolar world to a bipolar world after World War II and then to a unipolar one after the Cold War, rather than a transition from war to peace. In short, with the United States having unparalleled power, the rest of the world is in a multipolar structure. I wonder if this power structure should remain unchanged. I think the 21st century will be a difficult era, in which people are pressed to solve the extremely difficult problem of how to establish peace in an era of economic globalism and an era of multilateral and multipolar political frameworks.

 

Considering what role Japan has pursued within this framework, I think answer is the principle of independence. After Japan was defeated in the war, Japanese adopted a mentality of dependence on the United States and other advanced nations and created a society that is extremely dependent on bureaucrats. In the process, Japan was not able to foster a true democracy. Japan's biggest challenge in the 21st century will be establishing a true democracy and liberalism and paving the way for individuals and the state to become independence.

 

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3 political leaders exchange opinions over The Last 100 years

 

It can be said that Japan has constantly pursued goals. It pursued wealth and military strength before World War II. Then it tried to catch up economically with Western nations. Could you sum up Japan's last 100 years?

 

Nakasone: During the last 100 years, Japan opened its doors to the world twice. The first time was during the Meiji Restoration (1868) and the second time was during (the Occupation led by) Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

 

A half century later, Japan has entered a phase of opening itself to the world for a third time, but Japan is not fully ready for it. Japan doesn't have a blueprint or the strength for it.

 

At the time of the first opening, there was a blueprint for creating a nation-state and there were mighty powers of the Satsuma and Choshu clans. Because of these factors, Japan was able towin the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

 

The second opening of Japan was propelled by a blueprint for a U.S.-style democracy.

 

Reflecting on the past, I think the Meiji era was a period of progress. The Taisho (1912-1926) and early Showa (1926-1989) eras marked a period of derailment starting with the 1915 Twenty-one Demands (claims made by the Japanese government for special privileges in China during World War I). That deepened Chinese distrust of Japan. Furthermore, Japan made the blunder of taking no action (to stop arbitrary actions made by the military), citing "the independence of the supreme command." That caused the despotism of the military and led to the Greater East Asia War.

 

After Japan was defeated in the war and Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the Allied Powers, came to Japan, the nation was awakened in many ways.

 

A thorough analysis of the 50 years since the war is necessary. Reflecting on these past developments, one would find the pressing issue of security, which is Japan's particular headache and is linked to its character. The issue of the Constitution has emerged at a time when we have realized that we will have to review and revise it ourselves this time around, rather than leaving it to MacArthur. Article 9 of the Constitution is ambiguous and subject to changes in its interpretation with Japan's changing situation. It is an extremely dangerous situation. At the dawn of the 21st century, we need to build a national consensus on such an ambiguous matter as soon as possible.

 

We do not expect major changes until the House of Representatives election is held this year.

After the election, we need to map out Japan's future course and have the power to realize it.

Constitutional research panels will be established in the Diet. In the area of education, proposals have been made to revise the Fundamentals of Education Law. Those trying to give momentum to these sorts of national movements should unify. It is a good thing to have political consolidation in accordance with politicians' thinking toward policies.

Kato: Japan has actually opened itself up to the world for the third time. It is the liberalization of the financial sector, which brought on a revolution that jolted the Japanese economy and society in its foundations.

Japan originally had egalitarian cultures and traditions. After the war, the Liberal Democratic Party went along to a great extent with the demands of the Japan Socialist Party in particular to maintain its monolithic rule. Japan has become a high-level welfare state, or a socialist state.

Japan had the so-called convoy protection system and a uniform educational system. Japan felt there were limits to such systems, and the Hashimoto Cabinet launched the financial Big Bang.

What has specifically turned Japan topsy-turvy is the full liberalization of foreign exchange dealings.

The question of what form a nation should take in this borderless society has been put forward.

What is the significance of traditional Japanese culture at a time when the economy is becoming increasingly borderless and individuals' sense of values is being globalized?

From a comprehensive point of view, I believe there is a sense of coexistence with nature at its most basic. Some people say love of family is at the root of Japanese culture and tradition. There are also people's views on the Imperial family.

 

Hatoyama: Speaking of the "third opening" of the nation, let me point out that Japan was forced to open its doors in the face of external pressures as represented by the "kurofune" black ships (before the Meiji Restoration) and MacArthur.

If you say that now is the time for the third opening, that is an idea based on the theory that Japan is always influenced by external pressures. Fundamentally, a nation should not be forced to take actions by such external pressures. Japan should be equipped with an ability to change on its own initiative and adapt to changing situations.

Looking back over the past 100 years, Japan adopted the policy of enriching and strengthening the nation to catch up with the United States and European powers. As Japan had to enrich the nation and build a strong military force, Japan pursued what we call invasive wars. Even that era was not based on an independent Japanese initiative. Rather this was a kind of "catch-up"militarism following a certain model. Japan tried to emulate that model as closely as possible.

But even after MacArthur completely wiped out that type of militarism, Japan tried to follow an economic model based on a philosophy of following in the footsteps of other major countries.

To realize that goal, a strong leadership, mainly consisting of bureaucrats, has always guided the economy and politics. Politicians have not exercised an active role to a full extent.

 

The Constitution

Discussion of the Constitution would chart Japan's course in the 21st century. Let us hear your opinions on the issue of the Constitution.

 

Hatoyama: Japanese lawmakers have been reluctant to discuss, from a long-range and broader point of view, how this country should stand today and in the future. We should hold more discussions on the way the state should be. If we do so, we cannot avoid discussing the Constitution.

 

Some have harbored erroneous ideas such as discussion of a constitutional revision would put the nation in danger or would pose a threat for the peace of the nation. And these ideas have been associated with a stereotyped notion that keeping the Constitution intact is a manifestation of the pacifism.

 

On the other hand, there are those who assert that the Constitution must be amended because it is one "borrowed" from the United States.

 

We should stop basing our arguments on these notions and discuss the matter from a new perspective.

 

Kato: We often hear people speak of the way the state should be. In this regard, the most important issues are where Japan should position itself in a globalized world, what form Japanese culture and traditions should take, and how Japan has been up to the present day and what it will be like in the future.

 

From this point of view, it may be said we (Japanese) have maintained our own philosophy when it comes to dealing with nature. The important point is that we should search for our national identity by returning to that philosophy.

 

The next important point in discussing how Japan should be as a nation-state is whether Japan should defend itself on its own or rely on other countries.

 

There is some confusion over these issues because there are those who advocate that Japan should defend itself on its own while at the same time arguing in favor of maintaining the

Japan-U.S. security treaty. These positions are contradictory. Even the United States considers ensuring its national security in an international context.

 

We should firmly take it to heart that our national security should be considered within the context of Japan-U.S. relations, or rather within the context of the relations between Japan, the United States and China.

 

As for the revision of Article 9 of the Constitution, I believe we should propose revisions to the public if the international situation changes in the following three ways.

 

The first is if bilateralism becomes a condition for maintenance of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, meaning that the United States demands bilateralism in the treaty.

The second is if countries around the world agree to have the United Nations establish standing forces.

The third case is if a "collective security organization for Asia" is established, and Japan, in accordance with its obligations as a member, is asked to provide its police and armed forces.

Article 9 contains some phrases that are incomprehensible in light of the right to individual self-defense. Therefore, we would be able to win understanding from China and South Korea over the article's revision if we explained this issue even now.

The most crucial issue is the right to collective self-defense, which rests on the issue with which country Japan should conclude a military alliance on the basis of the right to collective self-defense.

South Korea will not want such an alliance in the next 10 to 20 years, nor will China. Thus, there is little likelihood for such an alliance to be formed as a practical theory.

The issue we have to discuss at most depth is whether we should continue letting the United States alone act as the international police. As far as this issue is concerned, the international situation has yet to be ripe for our neighboring countries to approve Japan's dispatching its armed unit abroad.

We should create favorable diplomatic and political situations, including the solution of issues left pending in the postwar period.

 

Nakasone: It seems odd when Mr. Kato cited three conditions for amending the Constitution.

If we amend the Constitution only in relation to actions taken by foreign countries, it shows a lack of independence. This could run counter to Article 1 of the Constitution, which stipulates the sovereignity is in the people, and the people are entitled to enact the Constitution. Democracy is what puts this right into action.

When considering how the present Constitution was enacted and the fact that various things have happened since the enactment, democracy's first step should be that we Japanese will create and own our own constitution. It is unreasonable to discuss whether we should or should not amend the Constitution in view of the nation's relations with foreign countries.

Kato: I would like to refute Mr. Nakasone's viewpoint. I think that Article 9 of the Constitution was characterized as the nation's statement to the world about Japan's postwar diplomacy and national security.

Mr. Nakasone just said that Japan should make a unilateral judgment on that particular issue. As a matter of fact, even before the formation of the Nakasone Cabinet, you had been advocating constitutional revisions, just as you do now.

But once you assumed the post of prime minister, you had no choice but to state that your cabinet would not propose constitutional revisions, in light of international relations.

We should take full consideration of Article 9's significance as Japan's statement to other countries.

Nakasone: There are priorities once one comes into power. In my case, I undertook the major project of carrying out the administrative and fiscal reforms in which I had been involved since I was the director general of the now-defunct Administrative Management Agency. That came first. Next came educational reform. Meanwhile, constitutional revision was considered a long-term project, while public opinion was not yet ripe for revision.

If the cabinet had embarked on revision, it could have caused major disruptions to the higher-priority projects of administrative and education reforms. I had my strategies, which was a matter of choice from the viewpoint of a politician. Differentiating between principle and strategy is realpolitik.

 

Another important issue is that of the right of collective self-defense. I have long asserted that it is absurd to argue that even though Japan has the right of individual self-defense, it cannot exercise the right of collective self-defense.

The right of collective self-defense means that a country joins hands with its allies because it cannot defend itself single-handedly. As long as a country has the right to defend itself and exercises that right, the country should be allowed, as a matter of course, to exercise that right even if it does so jointly with other countries.

Paragraph 1 of Article 9 can stay in place, but I think we should revise Paragraph 2.

 

Hatoyama: The most insecure element as far as Article 9 is concerned is the tendency of top government leaders to often read between the lines to their own advantage.

Both in the Constitution and laws, we should discuss what should or should not be written and should stipulate what should be.

If we have forces which are apparently considered armed forces under international law, we should admit that we have military forces. And then we should make an international declaration of what they cannot do. While doing so, I think it is possible to revise Article 9 for Japan'snational security in such a way as to win full approval from our neighboring countries.

 

Foreign policy

 

As to Japan's foreign policy, Mr. Kato insists that the Japan-U.S.-China relationship should be in the form of equilateral triangle in terms of power balance, while Mr. Hatoyama argues in favor of maintaining the Japan-U.S. security treaty without U.S. troops stationed permanently in

Japan. What basic diplomatic stance do you think Japan should adopt for its future foreign policies on Japan-U.S. relations and other relations?

 

Kato: Japan must give urgent and serious thought to why the United States has long maintained the Japan-U.S. security treaty. This is because Japan has sufficient diplomatic channels with China--the country with the strongest political influence in Asia--and is the nation that the United States gives most weight when implementing its international strategy.

Therefore, the United States wants to firmly maintain the Japan-U.S. security treaty, because otherwise its national interests will be undermined.

When forecasting the prospective circumstances in Asia over a 15-year span, I come to the conclusion that Japan, the United States and China should maintain a firmly triangular relationship. From a comprehensive multilateral perspective, we should recognize the necessity of the three nations' forming the relationship of an equilateral triangle. Unless such a triangle is maintained, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and southwest Asian nations will develop serious anxiety concerning the future of the entire region.

 

Hatoyama: It is a big problem that the sides of the triangle are not equilateral. While I am very aware of the importance of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, I am of the opinion that Japan should keep some distance from the United States when it comes to security.

We should make more efforts to reinforce China's confidence in Japan because we are not certain what the future holds for U.S.-China relations.

In this light, it cannot completely be ruled out that Washington and Beijing will not compete with each other over hegemony. Thus, it is potentially somewhat dangerous to consider it safe to always side with the United States.

I agree with Mr. Kato's opinion that it is contradictory to advocate independent self-defense while calling for augmenting the Japan-U.S. security treaty. My argument for a security treaty without the permanent presence of U.S. troops is quite similar to that in favor of independent self-defense.

I am not saying, however, that will happen. Practically speaking, it is impossible. In making that argument, I would rather propose that the nation gradually shift its national security policy from reinforcing the bilateral security treaty to establishing a framework of multilateral security arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

Nakasone: Listening to both of your arguments, I feel that your awareness of international affairs is too naive. I think it is particularly mistaken to place equal weight on the nation's relations with the United States and China.

We share almost identical values and systems with the United States in terms of freedom, democracy, human rights and the market economy. On the contrary, China is a communist country that is equipped with a powerful military whose composition is not necessarily clear to the outside, and the country has developed different values. It is basically an error to use the same approach in dealing with the two nations.

There were many problems with the ratification of the Japan-U.S. security treaty at the time.

Nonetheless, peace and stability have been fundamentally maintained in the Asia-Pacific region.

It would not be necessary for us to destroy the basic framework of such security arrangements now. The Japan-U.S. security treaty, though its effect is invisible, has played an extremely important role in maintaining Japan's national security.

Also in view of the 21st century, we should keep the security treaty intact as an axis for national security. The maintenance of peace in the Asia-Pacific region can be sustained by a network of bilateral alliance treaties, such as the Japan-U.S. security treaty and similar alliance treaties concluded by the United States vis-a-vis South Korea and Australia.

It will be much more desirable, however, if Japan, using the Japan-U.S. security treaty as a basis, can establish a security mechanism designed to help concerned countries communicate with each other, build up confidence in each other and jointly prevent and stop conflicts&emdash;by forming a multilateral network of security in northeast Asia in cooperation with such countries as Russia, China, North and South Korea, and the United States. It is important for Japan to carry out its national security and diplomatic strategies with the Japan-U.S. security treaty and the multilateral security cooperation framework as the main pillars in the 21st century.

 

Copyright 1999 The Yomiuri Shimbun