By Liu Lulu, Global Times
Japan on Saturday activated its first marine unit since World War II to counter invaders occupying Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea, according to media reports. “Given the increasingly difficult defense and security situation surrounding Japan, the defense of our islands has become a critical mandate,” Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defense minister of Japan, was quoted by Reuters as saying. While the Japanese government insists that the formation of the marine brigade is out of defense needs, observers warned that the amphibious units can be used to threaten Japan’s neighbors.
After World War II, a clause was written into Japan’s constitution stipulating that armed forces with the potential to wage war would not be maintained. Apparently, Japan’s efforts to strengthen its military defense capabilities by establishing the marine brigade are at odds with the country’s constitution. Some question if the Japanese government may consider using safeguarding territorial integrity as an excuse to revive militarism, to which regional countries must stay on high alert.
Such concerns are well-founded as militarism is seeing an upward trend in Japan. Reports of Abe’s alleged connections with a nationalist kindergarten where children are educated with a prewar style of militarism refuse to go away. Last year, Japan’s education ministry approved the introduction of “jukendo,” or the “way of the bayonet,” in physical exercise classes for junior high schools. By far, the Japanese government is still reluctant to sincerely apologize for war crimes, and its efforts in whitewashing the country’s wartime past are known to all. The Japanese public is witnessing rising militarism as well. Haruki Murakami’s book Killing Commendatore, with reference to the Nanjing massacre, was harshly criticized by right-wing scholars as appeasing China.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rammed through security bills despite the vocal resistance of opposition lawmakers and angry protesters in 2016. The bills are meant to provide a legal basis to lift the post-war ban on collective self-defense and the ability to deploy the Japanese military in wars wherever its allies are under attack. This has caused heightened tension in Asian countries.
Strengthening its military clout has become the focus of the Abe’s government at the current stage. From the perspective of right-wing forces, the ability to freely deploy Japan’s military in war times and strengthen its military capabilities are the prerequisite for the country to become a normal state.
Any attempt to revive militarism must be resisted. China has suffered the most from Japan’s military aggression. The Beijing-Tokyo relationship is seeing an upward trend following more high-level exchanges between the two countries. But still, China must be on high alert to Japan’s militarist tendencies and put more efforts into preventing right-wing forces from manipulating territorial disputes, the Taiwan question and other historical issues at the sacrifice of Beijing-Tokyo ties for selfish political gains. China’s peaceful rise is an irreversible trend. Japan should adjust its mentality and view China’s development as more of an opportunity than a threat so as to share in the development dividends of China.