Japan Plays a Vital Role in Maintaining Peace

Seiji Fuji

The China issue was raised for the first time at the NATO Leaders Meeting

 On December 5, The Nikkei newspaper printed an article in the news section entitled, “NATO Leaders Meeting Closes With Major Differences Between United States and Europe, Discussions Held on China’s Ascension” It read:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Leaders Meeting marking the organization’s 70th anniversary ended on December 4. The attendees agreed on the need to strengthen space defense and deal with the Chinese threat. However, there is still conflict between the U.S. and Europe, including the U.S. asking European powers to increase their military spending. China and Russia could take advantage of any cracks in the NATO security framework.
The London Declaration was released on December 4. This was the first meeting that included full-scale discussions about China. Based on Chinese investment in European infrastructure and other circumstances, the declaration clearly states China must be addressed “together as an Alliance.” It positions space as an operational domain after land, sea, air, and cyberspace. The leaders also set forth a policy for jointly coping with issues such as cyberattacks on satellites.
At a press conference after the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We must find ways to encourage China to participate in arms control arrangements.”
NATO is putting on a show of outward unity, but there are still points of conflict between the U.S. and Europe. On December 3, U.S. President Donald Trump was asked about the American obligation to defend NATO member states with military budgets less than 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP). He replied that this is an “interesting question.”
NATO’s target is for member states to set military budgets exceeding 2% of their GDP by 2024. Trump criticized Germany and other countries that are not meeting this target as “unfair,” and did not clearly state that the U.S. will fulfill its obligation.

 There were several clear points of conflict at this meeting between Trump, who espouses an “America First” policy, and other leaders. According to the article, “The U.S. firmly insisted that military spending should be increased to 2% of the GDP.” Trump “hinted at a stance of not placing absolute trust” in joint defense. On the topic of Russia policy, “The most significant issue for European security is what to do after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is suspended.” On Syria policy, “Criticisms were heard from European powers, mainly regarding Turkey’s military attacks on Syria.” The first two items in particular clarified Trump’s stance that countries should defend themselves. Bringing China up in the discussion shows the U.S. sees Asia as posing the most serious risk of future war, and believes this hinges on how to stop the expanding China.

Japan must increase its military spending and gain nuclear deterrence

 Since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, China has fought with all of its land neighbors to determine its own borders. Today it is building military bases on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea to establish marine hegemony in the Pacific Ocean, based on a strategy of expanding its territorial waters as much as possible. China still powerfully desires unification with Taiwan. Although it is struggling with how to handle the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, I think China will start striving in earnest for Taiwan once Hong Kong is successfully stabilized. It would certainly move to the Senkaku Islands and Okinawa after that, and it makes sense that some people are asking for Japan’s military budget – currently limited to 1% of the GDP – to be upped to 2%.
 However, many Japanese people and media outlets hold the optimistic view that Japan will never be attacked by a foreign power because the U.S. would protect us according to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and also because of our peace constitution. Ridiculous discussions on the prime minister’s cherry blossom viewing parties are continuing endlessly in the National Diet. We do not have time to discuss this topic – we must decide how Japan will deal with China as it steadily attempts to expand its influence into our country. It is a mistake to believe Trump’s stance at the NATO Leaders Meeting is limited to the European countries. In fact, I think even stronger pressure will be aimed at Japan. Some people are already requesting Japan to pay more financial support for the U.S. Armed Forces stationed here, and it has been reported that an American high official asked for the amount to be increased by four times. I am sure Trump will also call on Japan to increase its own military expenditures.
 Japan is completely surrounded by nuclear states: Russia, China, and North Korea. The U.S. withdrew from the INF Treaty in August 2019 because it judged that having no way to oppose China is risky – it had to adhere to the treaty with Russia while China, which is not bound by the treaty, is deploying intermediate-range ballistic missiles at a rapid pace. This NATO Leaders Meating further clarified that the U.S. is viewing China as an even greater threat. It is extremely dangerous for Japan to have no nuclear deterrence in these circumstances. To ensure security without depending on the American forces, Japan should first amend the constitution so we can have a national army. Next, we should abolish the Three Non-Nuclear Principles and enter into a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S., like its arrangement with four NATO countries to maintain a nuclear balance in Europe. This would bring a stable nuclear balance to East Asia. Now is the time to revise the constitution and conclude a nuclear sharing agreement to safeguard Japan’s people and territories. This is a critical moment, yet Diet members are unconcerned about constitutional change and are responding sluggishly. Some Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Diet members are even saying constitutional change is premature and are attempting to avoid actual discussions. But is it really too soon to revise the constitution? The current East Asian situation is a significant threat to Japan, and we must achieve peace based on a balance of power as soon as possible.

Japan should increase its public investment without wavering over the Chinese economic slowdown

 We must not feel peace of mind because of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Treaties can be voided, and there are countless examples in the past of countries easily breaking treaties that are not in their own interests. Furthermore, the U.S. is a democratic nation, and despite this treaty it could not make soldiers shed blood to protect another country if the people were against it. I think this is even truer regarding one-sided treaties like the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Speaking of the public opinion, a self-defense structure must be constructed in Japan. We should make the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a bilateral treaty like the past Anglo-Japanese Alliance so Trump does not say Japan is merely watching America being attacked on Sony TVs. We must have even closer collaboration and make efforts to curb China’s hegemony. If not, I think Japan will end up as an autonomous region of China. I find it deplorable that there are Diet members and media outlets with no sense of this danger.
 In today’s world, Trump is focused on “America First,” while French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are together drawing a line against the U.S. Germany and France are working together to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine issue, and they are wary about the closeness between Russia and China, believing that isolating Russia will simply force it closer to China.
 The December 5 issue of The Nikkei newspaper also included an article entitled, “Bank Runs at Chinese Local Financial Institutions.”

Bank runs are occurring at local financial institutions in China. Huge amounts of cash were withdrawn from Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank at the end of October and from Yingkou Coastal Bank in Liaoning in early December. After Baoshang Bank was in essence nationalized, elderly people are overreacting to rumors and mistaken information, mainly spread online, about financial troubles. The economy is also slowing down, inspiring more concern about regional financial institutions.

 We are starting to see the limits of the Chinese economy, which grew by the government issuing local bonds, taking on huge amounts of debt, and pouring this money into regional infrastructure building. I think people are highly alert to signs of a collapse, which is why these bank runs are occurring. The Chinese economy is also facing difficulties due to its economic conflict with the U.S. These effects are even spreading to Japan, but Japan should not waver about investing in public-works projects for this reason. There are many projects in Japan that should be undertaken with national funding.
 First, I believe we should increase the defense budget. Upping it to 2% like the NATO target would expand the current budget of about five trillion yen to 10 trillion. This would create an additional five trillion yen of demand that should be applied to developing and deploying Japanese-made offensive weapons. I also think we should invest in infrastructure for disaster planning. Japan has been struck by many natural disasters over the past few years, including earthquakes, typhoons, and torrential rainfall, and there is insufficient infrastructure to handle these disasters that are of an entirely different scale than the past. The government should shelve its concern about achieving a primary balance for the immediate future, and should use the abnormally ultra-low interest rates to issue enormous quantities of construction bonds and implement many public-works projects. The government should create demand to invigorate the economy and bring prosperity, then redeem the national bonds.

We must revise the constitution, gain a national army, and transform the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a bilateral agreement

 Trump has asked NATO member states to increase their defense spending to 2% of their GDP, yet this is currently only achieved by nine of the 29 states. Even Germany, the largest economic power in Europe, is not close to meeting this goal. Although Trump criticized Germany at the Leaders Meeting, the German defense budget is over 5.3 trillion yen, and a plan is in place to further increase the amount. Japan and Germany have about the same military expenditures, and I suspect Trump will step up his criticisms of Japan as well. Accordingly, Japan must quickly revise its constitution so it can have an equal relationship with the U.S. Even if the role of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) was clearly added to the constitution like the LDP advocates, the JDSF would still be limited to having police powers – it would not be a true army. Constitutional change must take place in two stages to remove the second paragraph of Article 9 so we can establish an army and create a structure for independent self-defense. However, Shinzo Abe’s term of office only lasts until 2021, which is not enough time. I believe the LDP regulations should be revised again to allow a fourth presidential term, which would likely extend Abe’s term until 2024. It is highly probable that Trump will be re-elected as well, and these two leaders will be in power until 2024, five years from now. Japan must revise the constitution twice before then to become a decent country. It has been 75 years since the end of World War II and 68 years since Japan regained independence through the Treaty of San Francisco. Japan should have immediately amended the constitution – which was forced on us by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) – into one that is suitable for an independent state. However, Japan has been unable to achieve constitutional change. Trump’s sense of unfairness, and his threats that the U.S. will do nothing if Japan were attacked, are actually an opportunity for Japan. We must take this chance to make the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a bilateral agreement. The first step is constitutional revision.

December 12 (Thursday), 6:00 p.m.