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Mon. October 02, 2023
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IA-Forum Interview: Prof. Kenneth Pyle
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IA Forum: Japan is looking at amending its constitution, including rewriting war-renouncing Article 9. Do you think it will do so and if so, how quickly will this happen? Prof. Pyle: My guess is that it's going to take some time, and how long it will be is going to be unpredictable because the timing will be determined a great deal by events. If the international situation in the region remains quiet it could take longer. But if there were problems, that would speed up the process. But at the moment it looks like it will be a gradual process. Some Asian countries are concerned about Japan's past militarism, are worried by talk of it rewriting Article 9. Is there anything Japan can do to ease these concerns? I think the countries in North East Asia - China and the Korea's - are concerned about it. But on the other hand, my sense is that in countries in South East Asia such as Singapore, there isn't a problem. And of course they have just signed a security agreement with Australia and also have a developing relationship with India. So their opposition mainly comes from their immediate neighbors and that is more or less inevitable. I don't see them changing positions because changing the constitution would indicate a more assertive Japan, which is not comfortable either to China or the Koreas. Japan's constitution was drawn up 60 years ago by the U.S. occupying forces, in less than a week. Are you surprised it has lasted as long as it has without any amendments? In the abstract, yes. But when you understand the Japanese strategy during the Cold War it all makes a great deal of sense. Several chapters in my book about Japan's grand strategy during the cold war explain why constitutional revision was not broached, and why the issue was not terribly disturbing to the Japanese themselves. In a nutshell, it was because the Japanese preferred to take a low stance in terms of political military strategic affairs and preferred to pursue economic goals and leave the Americans in charge of their security. So from the point of view of Article 9, the desire to revise was not really there, even among most conservatives. Of course Nakasone and the political conservatives, as opposed to the mainstream conservatives, were more in favor of constitutional revision. But of course if you read the constitution's preamble it has a strongly American flavor and one might have thought they might have revised other parts of the constitution. But through the Cold War period there was a strong socialist party. Not strong enough to com to power, but strong enough to prevent revisions of the constitution. And revising of the constitution is not easily accomplished - you have to have the support of two thirds of both houses of the Diet and a majority of the population, and that simply was not possible during the Cold War. The situation is quite different now - the socialist party is on life support and there is a much stronger conservative tide running. What implications would rewriting have for the U.S. Japan relationship? In the first place it means a much tighter alliance, and a much more reciprocal alliance than they had during the Cold War, when even the use of the term alliance was shunned by the Japanese leadership. But now with the rising in japan, they've just appointed a committee to reconsider collective defense, and so that will help to provide for a greater reciprocity in the alliance. And the ballistic missile defense agreement from 2003 on will lead to a closer relationship. So in many ways it is developing a greater balance than it had in the Cold War when it was pretty much a one-way affair. There has been controversy recently about remarks Abe made apparently downplaying the comfort women issue from World War II. How damaging are these kind of history issues to the U.S.-Japan relationship? That's an interesting question because up until recently the Americans had stayed out of the history wars pretty much - the history wars had been between Japan and its neighbors in Asia. But the introduction of this congressional resolution by Rep. [Mike] Honda has given it more attention in this country, and the ambiguous response from the Japanese government kept the issue alive. So it is something that has made, for example, the visit of the prime minister rather difficult. His reception in Washington recently was much more low key than Koizumi's visit to Washington, despite the Yasukuni issue, which Koizumi had taken a very hard stand on. So the history issue I think is one that the Japanese do need to find a consensus on that will satisfy their need for pride in their past, but at the same time not stoke the nationalism of their neighbors and not create international problems for them. Your book talks about a rising Japan. What are its biggest challenges, and could anything undermine this rise? Of course there is the history issues. But what is really called for, aside from over the history issues, is a clear consensus in Japan about its new role and its strategy and purpose. That is evolving slowly, incrementally, and as I describe in the book it is shaped very much by events. But the Japanese are being very cautious because the international order is so uncertain. It is not clear what kind of foreign policy China will have in the future. It is not clear what is going to happen to the Korean peninsula. So until the international picture becomes clear, the Japanese by the nature of their strategic approach to foreign policy are very much adapting to their external environment. They have done this four or five times in their modern history and they have always organized themselves internally to succeed externally. By that I mean they have developed a foreign policy that is adapted to the international order, and then they adapt their domestic institutions to the success of that foreign policy. And you can already see that at work in the post Cold War period with the unravelling of the Yoshida doctrine and the various self-binding resolutions that the Japanese took during the Cold War period like one percent of GNP for defense spending, no dispatch of the self defense forces - all of those were self binding policies that the Japanese took during the Cold War period. but they are incrementally moving away from those. But the pace and eventual outcome will depend very much on what happens in the region, and more broadly the rest of the world. Kenneth Pyle is a professor in the Department of History and The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at Washington University and author of the book 'Japan Rising.'

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