For the past 70 years, a strong relationship between the U.S. and Japan has guaranteed economic and military security in East Asia. But now it seems Japan’s leaders are increasingly edging away from that partnership.
Unable to fix its own deflationary economic spiral, might Japan try to revive its economy by taking a more independent approach to security in East Asia? Any separation from the U.S. would require Japan to crank up its defense spending. This could be just what Japan needs to mend its economic sickness.
The problem is, Japanese militarism has a dangerous history. Its most recent resurgence was only halted by nuclear bombing in 1945.
Awakening the Samurai
Today, Japan boasts one of the top 10 military arsenals in the world and the fourth-largest navy. Despite all its industrial, economic and naval strength, Japan has until quite recently been seen as a benign power, constrained by memories of the nuclear disaster that ended its past imperial exploits. But, as has been the case with so many other nations, the events of September 11, 2001, altered the Japanese mentality.
Just one month after 9/11, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi adopted antiterrorism legislation in the Diet that enabled the Japanese military to supply logistical support for America’s declared war on terrorism.
Why was Japan able to enter the battle theater so readily? Look beneath the surface and you will find that Japan has not, in reality, been the benign power it has projected itself to be since its defeat in World War ii.
For decades Japan has evaded the strict enforcement of Article 9 of the constitutional law imposed by America after World War ii, which states unequivocally that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. … [L]and, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” (emphasis added throughout). Japan’s military began to be resurrected as early as 1950, when a National Police Reserve was established as a replacement for American troops who were sent into the Korean War. The Japanese government transformed this police force into the Self-Defense Force (sdf) in 1954, with the full support of the U.S.
As time went on and memories of World War ii faded, the force gradually expanded its scope. In 1992, Japan passed the UN Peacekeeping Cooperation Law, which allowed the Self-Defense Force to take part in certain nonmilitary aspects of UN missions. Japanese soldiers could now be stationed outside Japan’s borders.
Events stemming from September 11, 2001, brought about what the New York Times called “the most significant transformation in Japan’s military since World War ii” (July 23, 2007). Japan’s military is looking less and less like a “self-defense” force. In 2004, Japan sent noncombat troops to Iraq. At the end of 2006, Japan’s Defense Agency was upgraded to become a full-fledged ministry, giving it a louder and clearer voice in Japan’s cabinet. In 2007, Japan’s F-2s flew 1,700 miles without refueling and dropped 500‑pound live bombs as part of a training exercise. Now Japan is even looking to use space for military purposes.
With many of the taboos already broken, it would be a small step for Japan to amend its pacifist Constitution.
“For many years Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have been laying the groundwork for this new era. Japan has a small army—although it is larger than most people imagine—but more importantly, Japan’s military industrial capability is much greater than is generally assumed.
“Japan has already created some of the most advanced weapons in the world and knows how to mass-produce them. Japan’s emergence as a great military power in the future depends more on its will than its ability. In order to have a world-class military force in a few short years, Japan merely has to decide that it needs one” (George Friedman and Meredith Lebard, The Coming War With Japan).
In April 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe removed the weapons-export ban that had been enacted in 1967. The embargo had banned weapons exports to Communist bloc nations, countries subject to arms-export embargoes under UN Security Council resolutions, and nations involved in or likely to be involved in international conflicts.
A few months later, Tokyo made the decision to “reinterpret” a key section of its pacifist Constitution: the ban on collective self-defense. For 70 years, it had interpreted this section as limiting Japan’s forces to acting in its own defense, and never in defense of its allies, and never in any conflict outside Japanese territory. The reinterpretation meant Japan could use its large, cutting-edge military in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier: Now, if a U.S. ship is under fire, Japan can assist it; if a North Korean missile is aimed at an Australian ship, Japan can shoot it down; if the United Nations is involved in a “gray zone” activity, Japanese troops can participate.
The landmark reinterpretation paves the way for greater changes to Japan’s Constitution.
Adding to the worry is the fact that Mr. Abe is a member of the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership (sas), which is the political arm of the Association of Shinto Shrines. Besides working to scrap Article 9, the sas is also committed to blurring the separation of religion and state. It is dedicated to “educational reforms” that would better nurture a “love of country” among Japanese youth.
sas Director Yutaka Yuzawa believes it is time to undo the changes brought about during the U.S. occupation. “After the war, there was an atmosphere that considered all aspects of the prewar era bad,” he said. “Policies were adopted weakening the relationship between the imperial household and the people … and the most fundamental elements of Japanese history were not taught in the schools.”
Abe also serves as supreme adviser to the Nippon Kaigi, a lobby group committed to restoring lost Japanese values. University of Auckland’s Prof. Mark Mullins told Reuters that both “Nippon Kaigi and the Shinto Association basically believe the occupation period brought about … the forced removal of Shinto traditions from public space and public institutions. For them, this was authentic Japanese identity … and to be an independent and authentic Japan again those things need to be restored” (Dec. 11, 2014).
Would Abe really endorse a return to something as arcane and archaic as emperor worship? A clue to the answer came in October 2013 when he became the first Japanese prime minister since World War ii to participate in a ceremony at the Ise Shrine, the holiest of Japan’s Shinto institutions. The ceremony entailed rebuilding the shrine and bringing idols to it that represent the emperor’s divine ancestry. John Breen, a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, said the implications of Abe’s participation in the Ise Shrine ceremony are enormous. “Without anyone blinking an eye … it became a state rite,” he said.
Abe and other nationalist leaders continue to make strides as they work toward a constitutional revision and a restoration of Japan’s “lost values.”
These “lost values” were a big part of what drove Japan’s tragic wartime fanaticism. Efforts to restore them—from no less an authority than Japan’s hawkish prime minister—should be cause for alarm.
The continued restructuring of Japan’s security policy turned a new corner in April 2015 when its new defense guidelines were released. This marked the second time a revision has been made to the country’s security policy since it was first issued in 1978. At that time, Japan was essentially restricted to relying on the U.S. for protection. In 1997, it was updated to allow both nations to cooperate regionally in situations and areas immediately surrounding Japan. Under the newest revision, Japan’s geographic limits on sdf activities are entirely eliminated.
With North Korea’s perennial and increasingly warlike threats to “destroy the world” via its nuclear capability, Japan is taking advantage of this serious regional security problem to strengthen its position in the area as America’s power declines. Washington has given Japan’s march toward remilitarization full support since U.S. leaders want Tokyo to shoulder some of the burden of stabilizing global conflicts. It would not be surprising to see the U.S. even encourage Japan to gain nuclear capability under the guise of self-defense!
Since World War ii, Japan has willingly submitted to having America bear the load of maintaining its security by U.S. naval and air presence in the greater Asian region. Meanwhile, Japan has steadily built up one of the largest peacetime navies in the world. But perceptions of U.S. overstretch, coupled with North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons capacity and China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the region are motivating Japan to build its capacity to more independently secure its waters and airspace.
In recent years, Japan has done much to quash the results of some of its past quarrels with Russia and China. At the same time, Japan has developed a close relationship with Germany in trade, cultural affairs and, more recently, security and defense issues. Ultimately, as the European Union’s motive for global hegemony becomes apparent, Japan will most likely, as Bible prophecy indicates, join in a grand alliance with Russia and China as one of the three leading powers in the greater Asian sphere.
Global Power Bloc
Across the China Sea from the land of the rising sun, a dragon awakens. Mythological dragons may be known to fall asleep at the entrance to their caverns, but they are certainly not known for their weakness. The Chinese dragon has long been, it might seem, slumberously watching as U.S. global dominance wanes. But it seeks to build a global power bloc in the East to replace it.
To create such a bloc, China needs more than just Russia. As Stratfor wrote, “China and Russia, bound together into the tightest alliance, can change the regional balance in Eurasia but cannot affect the global balance …” (April 16, 2001). To be able to truly alter the global balance of power, this alliance likely needs Japan to add its technological prowess and naval might.
Such an alliance would have seemed all but impossible just a short time ago. But we’re seeing the trend shift in Asia.
The first step came in the form of a proposal in November 2001 to create a free-trade area between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean). Then, at the China‑asean summit in November 2002, a framework agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation was signed, with further trade agreements being signed since then. This new Asian bloc was made official in 2010, and with over 2 billion consumers having a combined gross domestic product of about $11 trillion, it is the world’s largest free-trade zone, in terms of population.
Japan, though it has one of the world’s largest independent economies, continues to be hamstrung by the failure of successive governments to confront the need for painful economic restructuring. As much as it may resist being relegated to a follower role behind Russia and China, Tokyo knows that it needs to work toward this pan-Asian future if it is to have anywhere near the influence in the East Asian sphere that the size of its economy and industrial weight demand. It wants to forge a trading bloc that would emerge as a major driving force within the global economy.
All it would take is a major regional crisis to spur the Japanese into action to offer their naval might in particular as a guarantor of security to their neighbors. Japan has this powerful tool to use as a trade-off in negotiations for economic cooperation from the rest of Asia.
The prospect of the continued expansion of the EU into a combined bloc larger and more powerful than the U.S. and Russia, and the perceived weakening of U.S. global influence, is driving China and its Asian neighbors to position themselves as the next great global power bloc. Russia, China and Japan will likely combine in Asian alliances, with the ultimate intention of forcing the U.S. out of the Russian “sphere of influence” and out of the western Pacific. Then, as has been the strategy of the EU, Asian political and economic cooperation will ultimately progress to a military and security alliance.
The West is in decline. Islam is on the rise globally. The European beast power is almost ready to roll. The kings of the east are becoming restless. U.S. influence in and access to the Korean Peninsula, Chinese and Soviet coasts, Asia-Pacific sea-lanes, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Micronesia, Polynesia and Papua New Guinea are declining.
Filling the Power Vacuum
Who will fill the power vacuum?
China’s economy overtook Japan’s in 2010 to become the world’s second-largest, but Japan is still ahead of China in terms of the quality of its growth. Japan has the (presently underutilized) industrial capacity developed to the point that it could easily match the U.S. and the EU in high-tech weapons development and production.
Seventy-five years ago, Japan sought to extend its empire via military might. After decades of decolonization, development and growth in the Far East, Japan now faces a vastly different and more powerful China and a much more industrialized collective Asian sphere. It must fulfill its goals using very different means from those it used in the 1940s. Any dominance Japan now seeks in the Eastern Hemisphere must be done via alliances and treaties.
This effort will result in a nuclear alliance!
If Japan decided to do so, it could become an independent nuclear power within a single year. Voices within Japan calling for such action are getting louder.
The Plain Truth magazine foretold an alliance between China and Japan years ago. An article in the February 1963 issue stated, “There is an utter inevitability of the ultimate tie-up between Japan and Red China! The big question is how long China will remain ‘Red’ and survive without a tie-up with Japanese capitalism.” Today, China is not as “Red” as it once was, and it is ready for a closer union with Japan.
An article in the April 1968 Plain Truth said, “Despite its many national, religious and political differences, Asia will ultimately be welded together into a common power bloc. It will ultimately send its military muscle into the Middle East at the return of Jesus Christ. This prophecy is recorded in Revelation 16:12 and 16. Japan will play a vital role in this battle.” We will cover that prophecy in detail in the next chapter.
Watch for the East Asian alliances to develop economically and militarily. Watch for coming agreements between Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and others to harness the maverick North Korea and muscle the U.S. out of Oriental diplomacy in Korea and Taiwan. Watch for a third great power bloc to emerge in the East to balance the power of the expanding European Union and the volatile Islamic tide.
The new order of global powers is emerging precisely as depicted in Bible prophecy.