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Why the US should rein in Japan

As the Chinese saying goes: "A person's ill intent is known to all." The Obama administration wants to use its key Asian ally to counterbalance China.

But there is another Chinese saying: "To rear a tiger is to invite disaster." Even though Barack Obama was born after Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March, he certainly knows the treachery and extreme cruelty of Japanese militarism.

It is exactly the intent of superhawk Shinzo Abe, Japan's new prime minister, to revive Japanese militarism. Upon the LDP's landslide win in last month's election, Abe was quoted as saying: "We have returned the government to a party that can stoutly sing 'Kimigayo' (whose lyrics praise the emperor)…and truly been able to take a first step to 'take back Japan.'"

What does he mean by "take back Japan?" He wants to turn Japan from a defeated aggressor in the anti-fascist war to a "normal nation", with the right to collective self-defense. During his first term as prime minister in 2006-2007, he upgraded Japan's Defense Agency to full ministry status, and revised a key education law to whitewash Japan's war crimes in government-approved history textbooks used in high schools.

Unlike Germans, who have genuinely repented for their war crimes, the Japanese have never fully dealt with their past. During last month's election campaign, Abe demonstratively visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which houses memorial tablets to fourteen Class A war criminals, six of them were sentenced to death by hanging at the Tokyo Trials for their crimes, which included the Bataan Death March.

Abe has repeatedly called for upgrading Japan's Self Defense Force to a full national defense force by revising the country's pacifist constitution, imposed on Japan in 1947 by none other than the United States.

Now the U.S. is aiding and abetting the Japanese right wing in its fight with China over the Diaoyu Islands (the Americans turned over the administration of those islands to Japan in the first place). It declares Article Five of U.S.-Japan Security Pact applies to the disputed islands. That fateful act emboldens Japan's right wing government to pursue an even more dangerous course of action.

Last December, when China carried out its first air patrol over Diaoyu Islands, Japan scrambled eight F-15 fighters to intercept unarmed Y-12 twin turboprop aircraft.

As China's patrolling of the waters off the disputed islands becomes increasingly regular this year, in retaliation to Japan's "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese government is reportedly considering permitting its self defense forces' F-15J fighters to fire tracer bullets as warning shots at Chinese surveillance planes which are found in disputed airspace.

That brings war closer. Tracers are live bullets just as lethal as any other type of bullets. China will never fire the first shot. But it will certainly shoot back when attacked. Is that what the U.S. wants?

Thus, the U.S. faces a dilemma. Its policy of enabling Japan to counterbalance China is a double-edged sword. Since the end of Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the aim of America's global strategy has been to prevent the rise, in Europe or Asia, of another power that can challenge its hegemony. Retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wondered aloud: what happens when an established power (the U.S.) and a rising power (China) meet? The obvious answer is to work out a new-type of relationship among great powers. Both the U.S. and China understand that "a good China-U.S. relationship makes both side winners, while a confrontational one makes both sides losers."

What is Abe up to? The Japanese right wing wants to use the support of the United States to enhance its own power, not only to check China, but also the U.S. Abe's potential ally, the arch-hawk Shintaro Ishihara, made no secret of his desire to throw the U.S. out of Japan.

It is in America's own interest that it should rein in these Japanese right wing interests.

[Source: By Zhao Jinglun,, 12Jan13]

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