Japan's Socialists ditch 40 years of anti-militarism

JAPAN'S Socialist Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, yesterday reversed 40 years of party policy by declaring that Japan's armed forces are not unconstitutional. By so doing, he shattered one of the greatest taboos that has bound together pacifist and left- wing groups in Japan.

As Prime Minister, Mr Murayama is also the Supreme Commander of Japan's 233,000- strong armed forces, known as the Self-Defence Forces, and in real terms he had little alternative but to acknowledge the right of the military he commands to exist. Despite the accusations of hypocrisy from the opposition parties in the Diet (parliament), he jettisoned his party's anti-militarist stance as smoothly as he slid into a coalition with his conservative rivals, the Liberal Democratic Party, last month. 'Please listen to this carefully,' said Mr Murayama to fierce heckling in the Diet. 'As long as we keep the defence-only posture and as long as they are kept at a minimum, the Self-Defence Forces are constitutional.'

But if political expediency is forcing dizzy U-turns in Socialist Party policy, the opposition is determined not to let Mr Murayama off the hook too easily. 'How can you scrap basic principles of your party's founding?' asked Tsutomu Hata, the former prime minister, displaced by Mr Murayama in June. 'I must say your government is an irresponsible one created just to keep your two parties in power.'

Article 9 of Japan's constitution, imposed by the US after the Second World War, prohibits the maintenance of 'land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential'. But after the shock of the Korean war and the threat of Communism spreading, the United States quickly prodded Japan into setting up the so-called Self-Defence Forces (SDF). Today there are 233,818 men and women in the army, navy and air force. Japan's military budget is the third largest in the world after the US and Russia, and its navy is the biggest in the Pacific after the US. The SDF's state-of-the-art destroyers, anti-submarine equipment, radar and missile systems belie the timid, self-demeaning image it conveys in public.

The existence of the SDF was justified throughout the 38 years of LDP rule by a legalistic sleight of hand that argued that the country's right to defend itself superseded any specific clause in the constitution. The Socialists, however, made an anti-militaristic pacifism into one of the party's main policies. This is still one of the main obstacles to Tokyo's long- cherished goal of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

In 1990 the Socialists were the main opponents of Japan playing any role in the anti-Iraq alliance in the Gulf war. After fierce international criticism, the government belatedly promised to donate money to the war effort. In 1992 the Socialists held up for months a government plan to send peace- keeping troops to Cambodia. Finally the government succeeded in sending peace-keepers to Cambodia, arguing that after the Gulf war debacle, Japan would be exposed to even greater international ridicule if it did not make some contribution. But Japanese public opinion has become so accustomed to Socialist pacifism that the death of one Japanese policeman in Cambodia threatened to scuttle the operation.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash