The Japanese autumn: between pacifism and war

(To Denise Serangelo)

While in Europe there is lively debate on how and if to intervene in Syria, Japan quietly awakens after 70 years of slumber.
The time is absolutely ripe for the Japanese giant to set foot in international affairs, becoming once again a political partner.
The signs of awakening have not been lacking, for almost three years now the country has profoundly changed its internal military structure.

Japan, after the Second World War, preferred to exclude itself from international events not only politically but also military.
This has allowed us to concentrate on the economy and on the development of the country that is now used to a lethargic pacifism.
From the 2012, however, the situation began to change and Japan was involved in a very intricate political circuit that led it to review its policy of intervention in the 2015.

After the costly and in some ways unsuccessful military interventions in the Middle East, Obama's United States has put the brakes on overseas operations.
Thanks to this loss of material influence, Obama enunciated his "Left to Behaind" policy, leaving the problem of dispelling Middle Eastern issues to the emerging East (therefore to his Japanese ally).
Japan, after years of inactivity, restored its military machine, which was rusty but still colossal.
This renewed activism has alarmed China, a strong opponent of the United States and its foreign policy, as well as in Japan, a US ally.

The greatest tension between the two eastern powers was seen in the Senkaku archipelago, uninhabited and controlled by Japan, but which China has claimed as its own since the XNUMXs.
The eight islands and some rocks, in addition to being a diplomatic intrigue, are also strategic locations northeast of Taiwan, where trade routes are flourishing and oil and natural gas fields thrive

The dispute, long forgotten, came back up to date in April of 2012, when the Japanese government bought three islands from a private citizen. The move has impatient China, whose ships have encroached on the Senkaku area dozens of times in the following months.

In virtue of the renewed aggressiveness of Beijing aggravated by the loss of power of the United States, Japan has had to begin to revise its military policy starting from the expenses for the latter.
From the 2012 to the present, Japanese military spending has quadrupled.
Only in the last have the net budget increase was of + 2,8% for a total outlay of 4980 billion Yen approximately 36 billion.
The Japanese rigor is rather well known and also the wisdom with which to spend the allocated money follows this intransigence.
The purchase of new equipment and new technologies is nothing more than a mirror of the threats and alliances that Japan has embraced in these 70 years.

The purchase of twenty P-1 ocean patrol vessels suggests that the country will look with increasing suspicion at China's interference on its trade routes.
Not to mention that the Japanese national waters have sadly become protagonists of a new wave of piracy that has moved from the Gulf of Aden with the success of the mission Atalanta.
The country cannot absolutely afford to lose money and time in very costly seizures of ships and goods, it therefore needs active and reactive surveillance.
Under the heading "reactivity" Japan buys five V-22 Osprey and six F-35 stealth fighters.
On the F35 we know almost everything but the real peculiarity is the Osprey.
This rediscovery of military technology is produced by Bell for the US military (not surprisingly!) And ranks as an average convertiplane.
Being a hybrid technology, the Osprey takes advantage of the take-off and landing of a rotor platform but also the speed of the turboprop.

The suitability of this aircraft for the transport and disembarkation of troops and land vehicles makes it perfect for the new role that Japan will play as a logistic hub for American operating theaters.

A real treat for military experts as well as international political experts.
Expenses include, of course, development programs for new materials with technology also applicable to the civil world (the so-called dual use).
One of the major investments will be a missile defense system to be developed together with the United States.
This last point is fundamental because it returns in a rather curious way in the new use that will be made of the Japanese army.

The key to Japanese military policy is the controversial 9 article of the constitution that mentions "[...] The Japanese people forever renounce war as the sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a method to resolve international disputes.
To implement the provisions of the preceding paragraph, the country will never again possess land, air or sea armed forces as well as no other military potential. "

Therefore, the formation of one national army and its consequent use to issue disputes with other sovereign states is expressly forbidden to Japan (even in a rather clear and concise manner).
However, the existence of a National Self-Defense Force (Jietai) is permitted if the security of the country is directly threatened.

Unlike Italy, which repudiates war but envisages the intervention of its armed forces for the maintenance of international security and for self-defense, the Gippone does not provide for derogations.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has supported since the election campaign the need for a revival of Japanese nationalist politics for too many years destroyed by the events of the Second World War.
The prime minister, however, did not have much following, the Japanese population is in fact widely deployed towards convinced pacifism and does not intend to become a pawn in the great international chessboard.

In the parliament he even tried to block the law approval procedure by obstruction, for example a parliamentarian walked very slowly towards the ballot box where to deposit the vote.

A new interpretation of the 9 article in the constitutional text seems to be Abe's great chance to revive nationalism in his country and leave his mark on history.

On the night between 18 and 19 September, the Japanese Parliament passed the controversial law that for the first time since 1947 authorizes the "self-defense forces" to be employed in armed missions outside the country's borders.

But in concrete terms, what will change for Japan and its foreign policy?

Basically Tokyo will be able to intervene alongside its alliances with greater ease, guaranteeing troops and logistics supplies.
Japan will represent a fundamental logistic hub for those "hot" theaters where international forces operate with greater importance.
From fuel to ammunition passing through any useful service to the fulfillment of allied missions, the country will take the field at 360 degrees.
Furthermore, the Japanese security forces will also have the opportunity to make their own contribution to the demolition of ballistic missiles directed towards the allied countries, while up to now this was allowed only if the direct objective of the attack had been Japan.

An important change should also affect Tokyo's participation in military operations conducted under the auspices of the UN.
If, in fact, until now Japan's participation was allowed only for missions considered without fighting risks, with the new law it will also be allowed to use in high-risk situations.
The Japanese troops will be given the opportunity to intervene directly in operations that provide for the release of hostages of Japanese citizenship.
After the kidnapping and killing of Goto Kenji and Yakawa Haruna, Japan tried to minimize the danger of other similar crises: closure of the embassy in Yemen (following the example of the Americans), blocking of travel to war areas, retirement from sporting events such as the Pentathlon World Cup in Cairo or a ping pong tournament in Kuwait.

The brutality with which the two compatriots were killed leads some fringes of Japanese politics to wonder if total neutrality towards world issues was better.
The concept of isolationism is certainly risky but given the Middle Eastern chaos it is the immoderate Japanese desire to throw itself headlong into the fray, someone sees it as an attractive solution.

Everything can be done on paper, but Tokyo will also have to deal with years of inactivity in the international context, it will not be necessary to send its own soldiers to revive Japan, indeed.

Are we sure that the land of the rising sun is ready to take on the duties that derive from the abandonment of the pacifist policy?

It is not enough to rearm a national team and build an army to say that one is ready for war. Young Japanese people do not look favorably on the interventionist fold of their foreign policy and to fight in high-risk theaters they will not only send us drones.
Abe and his team will have to deal with a profound denial of young people for military issues, an army's lack of preparation due to years of inactivity and a delicate regional balance to be preserved.

The opposition argues that due to the new law, Japan will end up involved in war operations along with its main ally, the United States. This is why we intend to pursue a rigid series of legal challenges, invoking the unconstitutionality of the new legislation.

In terms of the fight against terrorism, the Japanese government is certainly not overshadowed.
In January, during his visit to the Middle East, the prime minister gave generous funding to all the countries that were ready to fight the IS and its allies.
200 million dollars have arrived in the coffers of countries like Jordan and Egypt to support and increase the military struggle against Daesh.
The Egyptian government of Al-Sisi will enjoy 43 billion in support of the reconstruction and modernization of the country's airport facilities.
These sums of money, rather than a real concern for the political and infrastructural fate of the countries involved, seem an elegant way to mask an attempt to move away from the sphere of Chinese influence in the Middle East.

It is important to underline that Japan, with admirable foresight, has passed a law that allows export of armament abroad in a legal way.
So far nothing special.
The "case" however wanted the first beneficiary of this rule to be the Qatari government that purchased sensors for the missiles, the price of these sophisticated systems was defined as "favor".
A "favor" already amply repaid by the emirate which has established a sort of privileged partnership with Tokyo built on billionaire deals.
In February, in this context, a contract was signed with the visit of the emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani to Japan, a contract that will give Mitsubishi and other Japanese companies a three billion dollar contract for the construction of the Doha underground .

It is therefore certain that the policy of China and Japan in the Middle East will be played on the basis of which of the two will pay more money without getting too involved in the internal affairs of the individual countries.

Meanwhile in the United States the new Japan is looked upon with joy so much that the budget for military expenses has already been reduced according to the future Japanese military intervention in the main crisis areas.

Japan is saturated with the potential energy that it would like to put on the international scene, the growing domestic discontent, the increasingly less shared internal politics of Abe Shinzo are putting the rising sun in a very delicate situation.

With the arrival of autumn, Tokyo will have to decide which side to take sides if to arm its rifles or put flowers in its guns.

(photo: MoD Japan)