Rising Sun to Rise Again

From the June 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

A little over half a century ago, Australia faced invasion and occupation by Japan. Only the willingness of the U.S. to assist in Australia’s defense, through the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific theater of World War ii, saved Australia from being overrun by the nation of the rising sun.

At the time of the Japanese surrender, those responsible saw to it that Japan would rebuild under a national constitution that denied it the right to possess a military force other than that which allowed, with U.S. support, for its own territorial defense.

How soon history is forgotten. Times change. Old soldiers die. With them goes the memory of the brutality and inhuman treatment at the hands of a fanatical enemy.

Last month Australia’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, traveled to Japan, cap in hand, in an effort to convince the Japanese government to amend its Constitution to allow for Japan to “expand its security horizons beyond its territorial defense” (Sydney Morning Herald, May 17).

Japan’s former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, had foreshadowed this prospect. Now the new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has also called for such a change. For some time the U.S. (arbiter of the present Japanese Constitution), has urged Japan to amend its pacifist Constitution to permit the nation to develop greater military strength. With Australia now chiming in, the scene is set for Japan to make the appropriate changes, in a politically correct environment, under encouragement from its avowed enemies of 55 years ago.

Increasing concern at Chinese and Asian instability is at the root of this heightened effort to pull Japan into a stronger military role in the region. The collapse of social order in Indonesia, political unrest in the Philippines, insecurity with North Korea’s intentions, and China’s saber-rattling across the Taiwan Strait are all contributing to the feeling of unease about Southeast Asian security felt by the U.S., Australia and Japan.

Will Japan’s charismatic new prime minister be the one who effects this change to Japan’s Constitution? Some see his flashy personality as denoting a man of straw. But even if Koizumi does not have what it takes to turn the Japanese economy around, he may well set the scene for a constitutional change which will spark Japanese industry, in the doldrums for the past four years, into a rearmament-driven revival.