Retelling his experiences at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War, Keio University Prof. Yoshi Soeya opened his lecture “How Normal is a Normal Country? Japan’s Responses to Security” by summing up his thoughts on Japan’s involvement in international disputes.
“News of war had just broken out shortly before my last class of the day, and my stomach turned,” he said. He stated he was concerned about Japan in the context of the gulf war, and that Japan would not be able to intervene on behalf of Kuwait due to the constraints of Article Nine.
Article Nine, an important part of the Japanese constitution prohibiting Japan from “use of force or threat of use of force,” is the centerpiece of the ongoing debate on the role of Japan in international security. Soeya said the popular sentiment in Japan is anti-war.
“War is wrong, it should not be used to settle disputes. This sentiment has been working through the post-war years,” Soeya said, referring to the years after World War II until now. Any attempts to even slightly change Article Nine have been met with much resistance, Soeya said.
In the case of the Gulf War, the only legal aid Japan could offer was a cash donation to the multinational peacekeeping forces, despite the government’s attempt to change Japan’s peacekeeping ability, he said.
Article Nine has played a deep role in the history of the involvement of Japan in Asia. During the Cambodian Civil War, the Japanese government wanted to intervene and try to help create stability and a democratic process for elections after the fall of the dictator Pol Pot, but Japan could not participate due to the restrictions of Article Nine.
The geographic proximity of Cambodia compelled the government to draft a new peacekeeping law to allow Japanese self-defense forces to go into Cambodia, but this law only allows Japan to work with other powers, not of its own accord, Soeya said.
In the context of current Asian issues, Soeya fielded questions about North Korea and security concerns over a possible nuclear weapons program emerging within the country. “There are two methods to deal with this,” Soeya said, referring to a question on the best course of action regarding North Korea.
“The first being the current method (President) Bush is using, by not negotiating with the current regime unless there is a halt to nuclear production, or second, change the regime from within and let the populace effect a change in their own government. What is most worrisome is that the current Bush approach makes war closer to reality where I think that it is the only scenario where war would happen,” he added.
Soeya received his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1987 and has been teaching international relations at Keio University in Japan since 1995.
The lecture was organized by Amy Carey, of the Center of Japanese Studies, and political science Prof. John Campbell.
Campbell said he enjoyed Soeya’s talk, saying that he believed “it was an excellent overview of what the world looks like from a Japanese point of view.”