Is Japan once again treading the path of aggressive militarism?

We are pleased to publish the below article about the dangers of revived Japanese militarism, and its historical antecedents, which has been submitted to us by James De Burghe, a British socialist long resident in the People’s Republic of China.

James outlines how Shinzo Abe, a former Japanese Prime Minister assassinated in 2022, imbibed far-right, racist and militarist views from his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who had been in charge of economic policy when the Japanese occupied northeast China. Initially imprisoned as a class A war criminal by the American occupation authorities after Japan’s defeat in World War 2, he was soon released in order to play a key part in setting up the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has largely dominated Japanese politics ever since, eventually serving as Prime Minister, 1957-1960.

Abe, who served as Prime Minister from 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2020, followed in the same path as his notorious grandparent, controversially revising school textbooks, declining to apologize for – or even acknowledge – Japanese war crimes, and seeking to repeal or revise Article 9, the supposed ‘peace clause’ of the post-war Japanese constitution.

These revanchist policies are now being pursued with a vengeance under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leading to fraught relations with Japan’s neighbors, along with increasing resistance from people at home.

There are alarming signs that Japan is once again drifting towards becoming a fascist-led aggressive militaristic state. The legacy of Nobusuke Kishi has borne fruit through the efforts of his grandson, Shinzo Abe, who was Japanese Prime Minister from 2006–2007 and 2012–2020.     

Nobusuke Kishi was the minister who ran Japan’s economic policy in Japanese-occupied Manchuria from 1937 to 1940. He was a convinced supporter of the Yamato race theory that proclaimed Japan as a racially superior nation.  Kishi had nothing but contempt for the Chinese as a people, and he regarded them as “dogs – that need to be trained to obey us without question”. His brutal policies led directly to the deaths of thousands of Chinese civilians forced to work a 120-hour week at gunpoint for meagre food rations. There was no attempt to make working conditions safe, and many slave laborers perished through accidents with molten metals. Thousands more perished from starvation and disease or were executed. Kishi believed there was no point to establishing the rule of law in Manchukuo (as the Japanese called north east China when it was under their occupation) – instead brute force was what was needed to maintain Japanese control.

At the end of WW2 Kishi was imprisoned by the Americans as a class A war criminal. Whilst in prison he complained at the lack of sex, claiming he was used to having sex many times a day. Evidence that came to light later in China alleged that he had raped hundreds of Chinese women and girls when he was stationed in Manchuria. It is a sad feature of the American occupation of Japan in the post war period that Japan, unlike Germany, was never forced to face up to its wartime crimes or made to publicly apologise to the world and its own people. This omission paved the way for the later revsionists in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which, with few interruptions, has ruled Japan for well over half a century.

In 1947, as a result of a petition raised in the US Congress, Kishi was released without trial. He entered into Japanese politics almost immediately and ultimately led the LDP, becoming Japan’s prime minister between 1957-1960.

Kishi led a stealthy programme of historical revisionism within Japan. According to him the Japanese were an honourable nation that had tried to save Asia from western oppression. The war crime allegations were just anti-Japanese propaganda. His grandson, Shinzo Abe, sat at his knee and absorbed and believed all of this nonsense.

When Abe himself became Japan’s Prime Minister he set about realising Kishi’s views. School textbooks were rewritten, and Abe declined to apologise for or to acknowledge Japanese war crimes. He started a campaign to revise the Japanese post war constitution that limited public expenditure on armaments to no more than 1% of GDP. He also tried with less success to change article nine of the constitution in which Japan renounced the act of making war on other nations. Under his leadership the LDP became a wholly nationalistic, fascist-like party, with unpleasant under-currents of the Yamato race theory.

Despite all of this there was sufficient opposition among both the Japanese parliament and the Japanese people to block the removal of article nine from the constitution.

On July 8th, 2022, in the city of Nara, Abe was campaigning for a local LDP candidate in the forthcoming Japanese elections. He was assassinated by a lone gunman who was immediately apprehended by the police. 

Abe’s assassination could not have happened at a better time from the point of view of the LDP. They soared in the polls as a wave of sympathy for Abe and his family swept through the country. In the election that followed the LDP won a very comfortable majority, that has allowed their new, more warlike prime minister, Fumio Kishida, to follow the hard line nationalist approach. This government intends to remove article 9 from the Japanese constitution.

Equally alarming is the Japanese rearmament of its so called defence force. They are rearming with offensive weapons, including long range missiles and have already issued warlike threats to China over Taiwan and other issues.  They occupied Okinari Attol, a lump of rock barely visible above the ocean in the Philippine Sea 800 miles from Japan and declared the surrounding ocean for a radius of 200 miles as an exclusion zone and an exclusive Japanese economic zone. At  huge cost they installed radar systems on this rock to monitor shipping across the South China Sea and Philippine Sea.

They align with the USA at present, just as they aligned with the UK from 1905 to1930 (the UK supported the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan), but don’t be deceived. Then as now, Japan will use any other nation as a pretext for forwarding its own ambitions. In the short term this includes achieving sovereignty over the Kurile islands of Russia and the Chinese islands of the East China Sea. Beyond that who knows, but they have long cast a baleful, hungry eye on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kishida has demonstrated his agreement with US policies in a number of ways, including visiting India to try to persuade that nation to abandon its ties with, and impose US sanctions on, its long time ally Russia.

Kishida has also tried to create an anti-China alliance with South Korea in order to intimidate China and his latest moves seek to decouple the Japanese economy from China. But his policies are also creating divisions within Japan as an increasing tide of anti-war demonstrations testify. The Ryukyu Islands (also known as Okinawa). over which Japan has a very tenuous claim to sovereignty, are starting to demand independence and the removal of all US bases from their territory.

All over east and southeast Asia, the spectacle of the remilitarisation of Japan is looked upon with horror. The memories of WW2 are still fresh in the minds of all the nations occupied by Japan during that period, along with the unspeakable horrors they were subjected too by both the Japanese army and colonial administration.

2 thoughts on “Is Japan once again treading the path of aggressive militarism?”

  1. I am from Vancouver,Canada and i wanted to say that if it wasn’t for the USA making Japan a modern country after the second world war Japan wouldn’t be like it is today. The Yankees always had a reason for giving aid to countries. Look at Latin America and you will see what happens when countries take US Aid. The same in the Middle East.
    That is all changing now with the Belt and Road Initiative. Countries are now getting Aid without any strings attached. Countries know the difference between Blackmail and Real Aid.

    1. Much as I agree with you Stan, there are still enough countries under the US yoke that are used to further the USA hegemonic ambitions. Yes the Belt and road initiative has been a real benefit to helping under developed countries get on their feet without political or economic pre-conditions, BRICS and SCO are helping to undermine the power of the US dollar. But as we see around Taiwan and Ukraine the USA is still hell bent on creating economic chaos as well as proxy warfare.

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