The Land of the Rising Sun

From the booklet He Was Right

The Plain Truth foresaw Japan’s place in the coming Asian super-alliance.

The Russian bear and Chinese dragon have long been watching as the American eagle’s global dominance wanes. Now they seek to build a global power bloc in the East to replace it. Herbert W. Armstrong believed that for a great Eastern power bloc to truly have global influence, it would have to be comprised of more than just Russia and China.

The experts at the intelligence firm Stratfor agree: “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). If you add Japan, however, with its cutting edge technological prowess, its 128 million people and its naval might, then this formidable bloc suddenly becomes a force that could transform the global balance of power.

After Japan wreaked some of the worst brutality in history on China before and during World War ii, and Toyko failed to apologize in a way that soothed Beijing, tight cooperation between the two seemed wildly unlikely. Yet, even in the thick of that tension, the Plain Truth predicted that one day the two Asian powers would rally together. “There is an utter inevitability of the ultimate tie-up between Japan and Red China!” the February 1963 Plain Truth said. “The big question is how long China will remain ‘Red’ and survive without a tie-up with Japanese capitalism.”

“Despite its many national, religious and political differences, Asia will ultimately be welded together into a common power bloc,” wrote the Plain Truth in April 1968. “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. For decades, the Plain Truth forecast that Japan would be an important part of the future Eastern bloc that the Bible calls the “kings of the east”!

At the end of the Second World War, the United States softened the world’s rigid hostilities about Japanese aggression with these agreements: First came Article 9 of the constitution America wrote for Japan, which restricts the Japanese from building a military any larger than it needs for the self-defense of its immediate geographic arena. Then came the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the U.S. and Japan, which codified Japan’s dependence on the U.S. for its defense, saying America would defend Japan by stationing U.S. troops near potential conflict zones in the region.

One somewhat unexpected result of this agreement was that after World War ii, instead of first rebuilding its military, Japan was able to pour its resources into becoming an economic superpower.

Notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote in the Plain Truth, March 1971: “Japan today has no military establishment. Some United States forces are still there. But we should not lose sight of the fact that Japan has become so powerful economically that it could build a military force of very great power very rapidly.”

Sure enough, that is now happening in earnest.

Tokyo on the WarPath

Today, Japan, boasts one of the top 10 military arsenals in the world. And with four times more major warships than the British Royal Navy, Tokyo commands the second-largest naval force on the planet. Still, 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 explosions that ended its past imperial exploits.

The events of September 11, 2001, did much to open the door to increased Japanese militarism. Just one month after the terrorist attacks on the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi adopted antiterrorism legislation that enabled the Japanese military to supply logistical support for America’s war on terrorism.

Why was Japan able to enter the battle theater so readily? A glimpse beneath the surface shows that Japan had not, in reality, been the benign power it had portrayed itself to be since its 1945 defeat.

For decades, Japan had been evading strict enforcement of Article 9, which states 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.” The resurrection of Japan’s military actually began as early as 1950, when a National Police Reserve was established as a replacement for American troops sent into the Korean War. Then in 1954, the Japanese government transformed this police force into the Japan Self-Defense Force (sdf)—with Washington’s full support.

As time ticked by and memories of World War ii faded, the sdf gradually expanded its scope. In 1992, Japan passed the UN Peacekeeping Cooperation Law, which allowed the sdf to take part in certain nonmilitary aspects of UN missions. Japanese soldiers were then allowed to be stationed outside Japan’s borders. Then came the 9/11 attacks of 2001, which brought about changes the New York Times called “the most significant transformation in Japan’s military since World War ii” (July 23, 2007).

Japan’s march toward militarization sped up from 2004 to 2010 during which time it sent noncombat troops to Iraq, Indonesia, Nepal, Israel, Djibouti, Somalia and Haiti. During the same time frame, Japan made several moves away from being a purely “self-defense” force. It began looking to use space for military purposes. Its Defense Agency was upgraded to become a full-fledged ministry, giving it a greatly amplified voice in the cabinet. It gained the capacity to fly f-2s more than 1,700 miles without refueling. It dropped 500-pound live bombs as part of training exercises.

On March 11, 2011, the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake struck Japan, spawning a tsunami and causing a severe nuclear crisis. The sdf leaped to action, coordinating and carrying out rescue operations with more than 100,000 soldiers—an utterly unprecedented number in the postwar era. “It is no exaggeration to say that the earthquake has spurred the most significant Japanese military operations since the end of World War ii,” World Politics Review wrote April 13, 2011. Perhaps most significantly, the rescue efforts drastically improved the Japanese public’s perception of its nation’s military forces. In fact, the sdf is now experiencing its highest level of public support in decades.

With many of the taboos already broken, it would be a small step for Japan to amend its pacifist constitution. And that is precisely what Japan’s current leadership is angling to do.

“I will do my best for the future and for amending the constitution. That is my historical mission,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in August 2013. Two months later, Japan said it was “reexamining the legal basis for its security including exercising its right of collective self-defense, expanding its defense budget, reviewing its National Defense Program Guidelines, and strengthening its capability of defending its sovereign territory.”

In early 2014, Abe said, “Japan cannot be locked inside a box created 40 or 50 years ago.” The box he referred to is the one restricting Japan from many military actions. In light of North Korea’s nuclearization, China’s intensifying belligerence, and the U.S.’s retreat from the international stage, Abe and a growing number of Japanese leaders and citizens want to unhinge that box.

The Japanese have long had the ability to do so. It is now only a question of Tokyo deciding that it will unlock it and emerge a full-fledged military power.

Stratfor founder George Friedman and coauthor Meredith Leband wrote, “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” (The Coming War With Japan; emphasis added).

Abe apparently agrees with this analysis. “Someone has to decide” the defense posture Japan needs for its security situation, he said in early 2014. On July 1 of that year, Abe went beyond talk. That day, Tokyo “reinterpreted” a key section of its pacifist constitution: the ban on collective self-defense. For the preceding seven years, Tokyo had interpreted this section as strictly limiting Japan’s forces to acting in its own defense, and never in defense of its allies, and never in any conflict away from Japan.

The July 1 move means Japan can now use its large, cutting-edge military in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: 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 reinterpretation paves the way for greater changes to Japan’s constitution. As a result, for the first time since World War ii, Japan could soon officially have first-strike capabilities against potential threats.

Will Japan Go Nuclear?

Nuclear weaponry, also, is only a matter of decision for the Japanese. The July 1966 Plain Truth stated, “With China possessing the bomb, does Japan dare not build one of her own? Japan is the supergiant of the Orient, rising to dizzying heights of economic prosperity. As we have reported in past issues of this magazine, the world is yet to hear of alarming trends in Japan! … Japan could join the ‘nuclear club’ any time!”

The Plain Truth and other publications under Mr. Armstrong wrote several more such statements over the years. In April 1968, it said, “Washington officials frankly admit that they expect Japan to develop a big military establishment to assist the U.S. in Asian power politics. One Tokyo observer stated that the United States has no other alternative but to push Japan toward eventually becoming a thermonuclear power.”

It is true that if Japan—which already has a highly developed civilian nuclear industry—decided to do so, it could become an independent nuclear power within a single year. Voices within Japan calling for just such action are getting louder. In July 2011, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said, “Japan should absolutely possess nuclear weapons,” citing China and North Korea as potential threats. Abe himself has echoed these same nuclear sentiments.

Japan is taking advantage of the regional tensions to strengthen its position in the region as America’s power declines. Given its technological prowess, this position could very rapidly include membership in the “nuclear club,” just as the Plain Truth prophesied.

Japan is rapidly becoming a power to be feared. The April 1968 Plain Truth warned, “Despite popular belief, Japan is not permanently committed to a pro-Western position. America has foolishly followed the policy of assuming that … Germany and Japan can be converted to the virtues of democracy in less than a generation. … Both Japanese and Germans are willing, for the present, to put up with their so-called democratic form of government—until some serious internal crisis is precipitated. … Japan tolerates her present form of government as long as it is economically expedient. If the time were ever to come—and it will come—that the Japanese could not feed off of American aid, we would witness a remarkable change in attitude toward the United States. Friendship would quickly evaporate.”

Japan’s Place in the Alliance

Analysts occasionally mention the biblical word Armageddon found in Revelation 16:16, but it is rare to hear talk of the kings of the East discussed a few verses earlier in the chapter. And, though many of the specific details of how this Eastern superpower will form in the end time are still unknown, prophecy is unmistakably clear about the fact that it will happen. And it will almost certainly include Japan to one degree or another, as Mr. Armstrong said.

Before and during World War ii, Japan sought to extend its empire via military might. It was the only industrialized nation in Asia, so it was able to chart its own course and dominate the region on its own. But after some seven decades of decolonization, development and growth in the Far East, the Japanese now face a vastly mightier China and Russia, and a much more industrialized collective Asian sphere. Now, Japan would have to 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.

A Beijing-Tokyo alliance sounds unlikely at present given the mutual suspicion and animosity the two have toward each other. But as U.S. influence fades, China, Japan, Russia and their Asian neighbors are dramatically repositioning themselves.

A major step toward an East Asia alliance was achieved in 2010, when a free-trade area between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean)—which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—came to life. This economic union gives China a commanding voice within an Asian bloc of nearly 2 billion consumers, comprised of countries with a combined gross domestic product of $6 billion. The association is the world’s largest free-trade zone in terms of population. Japan is closely linked to asean as a dialogue partner, and as a member of the asean Plus Three grouping that includes China, Japan and South Korea.

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.

In the event of a regional crisis, Tokyo might be able to persuade nations like South Korea, Taiwan or India to form an alliance to counter the congealing China-Russia axis. It is also possible that Russia and Japan will temporarily band together in an effort to counter China. (In fact, Abe has spearheaded a historic turn toward Russia, and is working to thaw the decades-old iciness between Tokyo and Moscow.)

But the strong implication of Bible prophecy is that even if Japan does form some kind of counteralliance, it would not be long before it threw its lot in with China. As loath as Japan is to playing second fiddle to China, many in Tokyo know that working toward a Pan-Asian future is the only way Japan can come to wield global influence proportionate to the size of its economy and the weight of its industry. By the same token, Beijing knows that to truly alter the global balance of power, it needs the technological prowess and naval might of Japan.

China and Japan will eventually combine their power, with the ultimate intention of forcing the U.S. out of the western Pacific. Then, as has been the strategy of the European Union, the Asian political and economic cooperation will give way to a military alliance. Russia, China and Japan are moving closer together, just as Mr. Armstrong said they would. Now all it will take is a sudden catastrophic shock to weld the union together.

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