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Message of caution for Japan

By Li Qingsi  (China Daily)

09:33, January 15, 2013

Key Words:Shinzo Abe; Tomiichi Murayama; East Asia; militarism; Liberal Democratic Party; US-Japan military ties; Japan

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The return of Liberal Democratic Party's Shinzo Abe to power is a culminating point for right-wing forces in Japan. Abe appears keen on making Japan's stance on militarism less apologetic by replacing the landmark 1995 Murayama statement (former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama had apologized for the Japanese atrocities committed during World War II).

Needless to say, Japan's sharp right turn will escalate the already high tension in East Asia. Making matters worse is the belligerence of some Southeast Asian countries in their territorial disputes with China. The Philippines, which suffered Japanese atrocities during World War II, has surprisingly supported the revival of militarism in Japan, which has the tacit backing of the United States. To contain China's rise, the US is playing with fire by re-arming Japan and instigating territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region.

With the consolidation of US-Japan military ties, Washington has intensified its military cooperation with Tokyo and encouraged Japanese right-wing forces to take on China through the Diaoyu Islands disputes. But the US ought to realize that the profit it expects to reap from a Sino-Japanese conflict will not be without a cost.

The US may be willing to propel Japan's territorial ambitions - a dangerous move to say the least - to contain China's rise, but it cannot afford to push thousands of US soldiers into another conflict.

In the hope of reviving its fortunes, Japan seized the opportunity offered by the US rebalancing to Asia (shifting of Washington's strategic focus to Asia) to re-engage in military expansionism and even to try to build nuclear weapons. Japan, as a matter of tradition, has worshipped the strong and powerful. It surrendered only to the US in World War II after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But despite years of US occupation, there was not even the slightest change in the core of Japan's war machine - the imperial system.

Japan does not see China as a victorious nation of World War II and continues its arrogant defiance of history. Unlike Germany, Japan has never thoroughly reflected on its war crimes. Worse, it has soured relations with Russia, China and the Republic of Korea over territorial disputes. Perhaps the US's support has emboldened Japan to do so.

But by departing from the post-war international order it helped create, the US will draw fire from the international community. As a nuclear power, Japan will not continue to bow to the US, and Washington knows it full well. In this sense, the huge US military presence in Japan is to watch over Japan rather than to protect it.

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