Thus, during the night of 18–19 September 2015, in situation of extreme nervousness the upper house of the Japanese parliament finally ratified a number of laws in the defense sphere, which were approved two months earlier by the lower house, that could have far-reaching consequences for the situation in the region and for Japan itself.
During the period of debates in the upper house about these laws, in Tokyo and other major cities in the country, thousand strong demonstrations of their opponents were held. Street actions fully reflect the general negative attitude of the majority of the population in Japan to the long time outlined new trends in the defense policy of the country, which are now getting a legitimate justification.
Public moods were bound to be reflected on the environment, in which the discussions and the adoption of laws in the upper house of parliament took place. The final episode of this procedure were filled with vivid drama, which was created by the action that unfolded not only in the premises of Parliament, but also on the surrounding streets. Passion was already strained to the limit the day before the scheduled vote in the upper house. On September 17, the day prior to approval of the text of the laws by the special committee of the upper house, the opposition has moved “from words to deeds.”
The contents of several episodes of the dumping ground in the committee meeting room and adjoining corridors (which began in the second half of the 17th of September and continued throughout the night of 18th of September) was not immediately understood even by witnesses from the leading Japanese media. The common extra photographs show only contacts of someone’s fists with someone else’s faces. Apparently, the central element of the violent confrontation between supporters and opponents of the new law was an attempt to break the blockade of the doors of the committee meeting room organized at this time by the chain of Ladies opposition, shouting slogans in unison: “Do not touch us!”
The attack in the forehead of this original version of “Maginot Line” was apparently hopeless, and, therefore, like once in Europe, a successful workaround was held by members of the committee. All of them gathered in the office of the chairman of the committee, where the ill-fated laws were approved. This has caused a genuine fury of MPs opposition, which demanded the resignation of the Chairman of the Committee and the upper house in whole, as well as the imposition of a vote of no confidence to the defense minister and the prime minister. Quite expectedly, these proposals have not been approved by the deputies from the ruling coalition.
The emergence of the information that the planning of the new face of the US-Japan military cooperation (signed by the leaders of the two countries in April 2015 went through the entire previous year and, in the format “as if “, the Japan’s defence law has undergone the necessary changes, poured fuel to the fire erupted in the parliament opposition.
It should be noted that the externally “violent” acts of the opposition in parliament had quite a rational content. The fact that the ruling coalition passed new laws through the upper house of parliament, as chess players saying “on the checkbox” (at the last moment).
The two months period provided by the Regulations to ratify the law, which was passed by the lower house of parliament, expired on September 14. On September 27, parliament generally goes into recess.
In these circumstances, the use by the opposition of any reasons to sabotage the passage of the procedure prescribed by the Regulations, threatened the government the prospect of being in a situation of “a bast on the stick”. And what about the already signed new format of cooperation with the key military and political ally?
It is important to note that for the Japanese the evidence of negative trends in the defense policy of the country is not a growing (mostly imaginary) defense expenditure.
The budget of the Ministry of Defence for decades fluctuates up and down around a volume of less than 1% of national GDP. This is the lowest level of military expenditure among all the leading countries of the world, in which Japan lags behind them not by tens of percent, but two or three times.
The Japanese’s concerns about the consequences of adoption of new laws in the defense sphere are not at all related to the total volume of its funding. It comes to the fact that at the same relatively low military spending fundamental changes may happen, first, to the appearance of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and, secondly, to the range of their tasks.
From predominantly defensive the Japanese Self-Defense Forces can become a predominantly offensive, and carrying out military actions abroad will now be based on the legislative framework.
Thus, the damage may be caused to the image conquered by Japan through not easy postwar labour as a peaceful prosperous country, which helped the economic development of other countries, such as the “Asian tigers of the first wave”.
This image is a very significant foreign capital of the country, which allows it (without a shot being fired and the casualties) to move towards achieving the goals that were set during the war in the Pacific. In this case, the irony of history has proved in a positive way (though, as with Germany).
One of the most important evidences of this positive activity becomes Japan’s occupying the first line among the leading countries of the “new wave”, which claim for membership in the UN Security Council as a permanent member. This can and should contribute to the fact that Japan is the second (after the USA) donor of the UN budget.
And yet this is capable of jeopardizing the well potential adverse effects of the drastic breaking of the said image. – Did anyone assess the nature of these various effects of the new format behaviour of Japan in the international arena? Both for the situation in the region, as well as for Japan itself?
As noted earlier, given the severity of the issues and uncertainties arising from the responses to them it may well be that the next domestic political victory for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) this time would be a Pyrrhic victory for her.
Adoption (with all imaginable procedural violations) of unpopular laws for the LDP could “backfire” in the summer of 2016, when the mid-term elections to the upper house of parliament will be held.
Now the prospect of conquest by the ruling coalition of the two-thirds of the seats in it needed to start the abolition of Article 9 of the national anti-war constitution – the key obstacles to a final change of foreign policy image of modern Japan – no longer seems obvious.
The turning point in the process of changing the image of postwar Japan, conquered by labour of its population during the postwar period of its history has not been passed yet. But a very important step has been made in this direction. The future will depend on the results of the summer 2016 elections.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the Asia-Pacific Region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.