US uses Japan to strengthen its hegemony in Asia
This statement was issued by the Office of the Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) on June 16, 2015. We are reposting it on this site to encourage further study and discussion among activists on the growing threat of Japanese militarism and US-Japan military cooperation.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) views with alarm a series of developments involving Japan that have the clear intent and potential to strengthen the hegemony of US imperialism in Asia in the short run and increase the factors for war in the region in the long run. These developments are in the context of intensified inter-imperialist contradictions, ever worsening conditions of crisis and plunder and the spread of wars instigated mainly by the US imperialism.
On April 27, 2015, the US and Japan released the newly revised Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation, containing major new commitments to their 50-year formal alliance as defined in the 1960 US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The importance of these new guidelines was underscored by Shinzo Abe’s speech three days later before the joint session of the US Congress—a historic first for a Japanese prime minister visiting the US.
Ostensibly, the guidelines and its “Alliance Coordination Mechanism” are focused on military cooperation between the two powers in case of a military attack against Japan by a third power (presumably China). However, such cooperation is clearly framed by much broader security concerns of the US and Japan, which span the entirety of Asia-Pacific and even beyond. (In the words of the US-Japan guidelines: “Such situations cannot be defined geographically.”)
In his speech before the US Congress, Abe also emphasized Japan’s full support for the US strategic pivot to Asia, at the same time promising to enact all Diet legislation needed by Japan’s military commitments “by this coming summer.” These so-called defense reforms alarmingly include the fascist strong-arm tactics to disembowel Article 9 of Japan’s postwar Constitution, in order to free its Self-Defense Forces to undertake offensive military actions beyond Japan’s territory, even joining US-led military aggression elsewhere in the world.
The conservative government of Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party/New Komeito coalition has been gung-ho in reviving Japanese militarism and other extreme right-wing trends such as those represented by Shigeru Ishiba and Gen Nakatani, who want to revive the pre-war ambitions of imperial Japan. The Abe government takes pains to ensure that resurgent Japanese militarism remains within the ambit of the US-Japan global alliance.
In recent years, the US has strengthened its ties with Japan as its main post-World War II ally in the Asia-Pacific not only as its second largest trade and investment partner, but as a military ally that hosts huge and strategic US military bases, and that could pose additional pressure points against China, North Korea, and Russia’s own eastern borders and Asian interests.
The US-Japan alliance has been playing up the threats to Asia of a China-Russia military alliance in order to further inveigle the people of Asia, especially those of Japan and South Korea with their strong anti-war, anti-foreign bases, and anti-nuclear sentiments, to tolerate and even welcome the US pivot, the growing reach of Japanese “Self-Defense” Forces, and the more frequent US-Japan war games in the region.
Long before Obama’s declared strategic rebalance to Asia, the US has already been maintaining a huge military presence in East Asia, with strategic bases and nuclear arms in Japan in the front line. Of the US bases in Japan, 75 percent are in the Okinawa islands, which until now remain under US military control despite the islands’ reversion to Japan’s sovereignty in 1972. The Abe government has aggressively pushed for the construction of a new US military base on Oura Bay in Henoko while fudging on the early closure of the US Marine Air Station in nearby Futenma.
Despite the lawful claim of China over the Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, the US has openly sided with Japan in its dispute with China over the said islands, citing its commitment in the 1960 US-Japan treaty. Japan’s claims are based on its having seized the islands from China during the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese war, while China insists that the ceded islands should be returned to it—like the other territories seized by Japan from other countries in World War II were returned to their rightful owners in 1945. In contrast, the US has expressed neutrality over China’s unlawful claims over the exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf of the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The US has used the South China Sea dispute between China and several ASEAN countries in order to justify its strategic-pivot plan to increase the movement and “visiting rights” of its forces in Southeast Asia and establish bases in the Philippines not only for US military forces but also for Japan’s SDF. Ominously, Japan and the Philippines have announced on June 5 that the two countries would soon start talks on a Visiting Forces Agreement that would allow Japan SDF access to Philippine military facilities—as the US and Australia had achieved in earlier agreements with the Philippines.
Philippine defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin has in fact announced that the US and Japan are welcome to establish military bases in the Philippines and supply weapons to the Philippine puppet forces. In support of the US pivot to Asia and in line with its own militarist big-power ambitions, Japan has pursued closer military links with key Asia-Pacific states such as Australia, ASEAN, India, and South Korea. Japan is also highlighting its various “peacekeeping” operations around the world.
Under the Abe government, Japan has been quietly rearming itself with offensive weaponry, including fifth-generation F-35 fighters equipped with US-developed smart bombs, AAV7 amphibious assault vehicles, V-22 Osprey combat aircraft, and a Mitsubishi-initiated fighter project using US Stealth technology. For fiscal year 2015, Japan has approved a USD 45-billion defense budget—its largest military budget in 70 years. In 2014, Japan started selling military hardware to other countries—a move unprecedented since World War II.
The US efforts to use Japan to strengthen its hegemony in Asia are further manifested in the US inveigling Japan to join the talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The TPPA is a core component of the US pivot-to-Asia strategy and campaign to contain and pressure China to stay within the ambit of US hegemony or else suffer isolation. In the pursuit of its own national and ultra-national interests, China is using its growing collaboration with Russia to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS economic bloc and to undertake infrastructure projects to link Asia and Europe as a form of capital expansion.
However, the Abe government sees the TPPA as the prior and more convenient means of jumpstarting the long-stagnant Japanese economy and is going over the top to support Obama’s TPPA agenda in getting US Congress’ approval, notwithstanding the strong anti-TPPA public sentiment in Japan, and misgivings among some Japanese business sectors that appear more interested in a China-Korea-Japan FTA or a China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Even among the Japanese ruling class, there have been rumblings about Japan’s groveling subservience to the US, acting like a geisha that dutifully serves America’s every need.
In many Asian countries, the people have not forgotten the war crimes and other atrocities of Fascist Japan under its slogan of the East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere from 1937 to 1945. Their detestation of Japanese imperialism may have been dampened by Japan’s resounding defeat in World War II, the renunciation of war under the postwar constitution, and the overweening dominance of US imperialism in maintaining military bases and a nuclear umbrella throughout Japan.
However, from the 1960s onwards, the resurgence of Japanese zaibatsu monopolies, its financial control of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), militarist agitation, and brazen cultural imperialism have rekindled distrust of Japan—even if its long recession, the persistence of the emergent markets in Asia, and the rise of China as new imperialist power have overshadowed the reality and danger of Japanese imperialism. The renewed use of Japan as the fugleman of US imperialism is alarming.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) reiterates its call on the peoples of Asia to uphold their national sovereignty and independence, see through the growing complexity of inter-imperialist contradictions and resist every scheme of US imperialism to use Japanese militarism as its junior partner in Asia and to contend and collaborate with China in maintaining inter-imperialist balance at the expense of the oppressed and exploited people and the underdeveloped countries.
Everywhere in the Asia-Pacific region, the people’s movement must revitalize and further strengthen their anti-imperialist and democratic campaigns. They must oppose and defeat the scheme of the US to make Japan its adjutant in the making of military bases and visiting forces agreements, war-mongering and the TPPA even as the people of Southeast Asia must stand against acts of aggression by China. We support the people of Japan in their multi-sided mass struggles to reject the US bases in Okinawa and elsewhere and to oppose Japanese militarism and its collaboration with US imperialism. ###
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