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Japanese still clinging to carcass of sacred cow

Nothing is immortal, or omnipotent. Laws and treaties are no exception. But the Japanese are known to have an extraordinarily strong propensity to take it for granted that a good thing will last as long as it is needed. Worse, they never outgrow anything they've once been comfortable with.

On October 15 in the wake of the Far Eastern nuclear crisis, Shoichi Nakagawa, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, stirred up a big fuss by suggesting that a nation-wide debate should be solicited over the advisability of Japan's nuclearization. The ripples have further intensified since Foreign Minister Taro Aso followed up Nakagawa's statement three days later. Ever since we've been seeing quite a show going on across the nation.

The two gentlemen worded their "controversial" remarks with utmost caution. They didn't forget to preface them by saying they still thought Japan should firmly uphold Hikaku San-Gensoku - the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. And yet, all opposition parties, from the Democratic Party of Japan (spinoff of a former intra-LDP faction) to the Japan Communist Party, are now considering to submit a nonconfidence motion against the Foreign Minister. Even Akihiro Ota, head of the LDP's coalition partner New Komeito, has expressed his displeasure at what seemed nothing more than a bland statement Japanese politicians often make.

On the afternoon of November 8, TV viewers witnessed live a listless and arcane conversation between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and DPJ head Ichiro Ozawa over the fuss caused by the imprudent remarks by Aso and Nakagawa. In the middle of their pointless exchange of ambiguous words, they noticed that they were going around in circles. The Prime Minister asked wearily: "Are we not saying basically the same thing?" "No, we are not," the DPJ head insisted a little diffidently, still unable to articulate the difference.

But in fact Abe was right. They were saying one and the same thing in slightly different ways of saying it. In essence, both were arguing that Japan should firmly uphold the Three Non-Nuclear Principles as Kokuze (supreme national credo) and that's beyond dispute. If there was a subtle difference between the two sleep-talkers, it lay with the fact that Abe was saying that the undebatable issue should be debated at times, on the premise everybody sticks to the national virtue anyhow, whereas the opposition leader was arguing the principles should not be brought into question under any circumstances and that it was particularly outrageous that a cabinet member is now soliciting people to discuss them.

You would have found the haggle totally incomprehensible if you didn't know that in Japan, an issue is debatable only when the correct answer is given beforehand, and debate is, thus, little more than a ritual. Now that a couple of impudent priests have proposed to discuss the burial of the sacred cow a little prematurely, their peers are demanding they step down because it's too soon to do so until Vox Dei says, "Go ahead."

Now let us take a closer look at the killer phrase "Three Non-Nuclear Principles". When then-Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, granduncle of Shinzo Abe, advocated the principles back in 1967, actually he referred to nonpossession, nonproduction and nonintroduction of nuclear weapons. It didn't take long for the policy to become a national mantra because these principles easily resonated with the public which had already been hooked on the anti-nuclear superstition. Nevertheless, the Japanese people don't really care how to ensure that American missiles with nuclear warheads aren't deployed in the Japanese territory. To them that doesn't matter at all because an incantation has nothing to do with reality.

And as I have already discussed in the October 23 TFP story titled When Will They Ever Learn?, the national obsession with the nuclear-free Japan is so deep-rooted in their favorite non sequitur that the Japanese are mandated to adhere to these principles as the first and only victims of the nuclear weapons, that you can't expect these people to emancipate themselves from the pathological fixation overnight.

It made some sense if Aso and Nakagawa were playing devil's advocate to gradually immunize these people, including themselves, against the nuke-allergy over a long period of time, perhaps a solid century. Yet, they were still wrong because the A-bombs are not what the 1945 apocalypses were all about. More than hundred thousand citizens were victimized in the two cities in a matter of minutes. But they must have been able to avert the massacres had it not been for their absurd cause of preserving Japan's statehood and polity centered around the Imperial Institution.

It should be noted, however, that the three Principles are not going to withstand the ongoing nuclear crisis on their own. The real reason these people haven't woken up to the new nuclear reality, where the Nonproliferation Treaty and other anti-WMD initiatives led by the U.S. and China have all collapsed, is because they blindly place full confidence in the alliance with the U.S through Nichi-Bei Anpo Joyaku, or the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. With their unparalleled credulousness, the Japanese believe in a fairytale that in the face of a crisis, the Americans will come to our rescue at anytime, and at any cost, just because we have a security treaty.

The pact dates back to September 8, 1951 when then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, grandfather of the current Foreign Minister, countersigned it in San Francisco. Then on January 19, 1960, then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, grandpa of the current Prime Minister, signed a revision of the same treaty in Washington, D.C. The Japanese signer of the renewed treaty was a former Class-A war crimes suspect who had somehow evaded being enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine via the 13-steps leading to the gallows. So it's no wonder that the revised Nichi-Bei Anpo Joyaku remained an unequal treaty. Kishi must have wanted to reciprocate Douglas MacArthur's generosity of acquitting him of the crime against his fellow countrymen.

In fact Japan's modern history is full of should-haves or shouldn't-haves. One last chance visited Japanese leaders to rectify the situation when North Korea announced its possession of nuclear weapons in April 2003. At that time the Tokyo government shouldn't have hesitated to pronounce, though a little belatedly, Japan's departure from the NPT and the six-party talks. That would have been a little better than doing nothing, or uttering tons of empty words. But now it's too late to reverse all these missteps taken by Abe and Aso as well as their predecessors including their own grandfathers and granduncle.

That's why Shinzo Abe and his Foreign Minister are still trying hard to dupe us into following the wrong course their ancestors have led this country to take. In doing so, the single most important thing for them is to make believe these arrangements are all effective for an indefinite period of time. Which is totally wrong, of course.

Article 10 of the Treaty says: "After the Treaty has been in force for ten years, either Party may give [a 1-year prior] notice to the other Party of its intention to terminate the Treaty." So what we should ask these thoroughbred politicians is this: "How can you be so sure that the U.S. won't give us a prior notice in 2009? Or do you by any chance expect the partnership to continue until death do us part?". My own premonition is that even if the next U.S. President doesn't send the Japanese leader a notice of termination, he, or she, will opt to make the treaty a hollow promise in one way or the other.

While Abe and Ozawa were having the leisurely chat about whether the debate over the undebatable issue should be permissible at times, the returns from the U.S. midterm elections were coming in. I'm not very sure about the implications of the election results for the Far East as yet. But one thing is for sure: Withdrawal of the American troops from the Middle East will certainly be expedited toward 2008. The same is more or less true with the Far East. Some may argue that we won't be affected by the disastrous outcome for Republicans because we have the Treaty. But the Middle Eastern battleground has rich oil fields which certainly eclipses the significance of the U.S.-Japan security treaty. Moreover, America's vested interests in the ME need not be renewed every 10 years.

Don't take me wrong, though. I'm not saying Japan should go nuclear. That's no valid option anymore today. I just wanted to point out the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are a dead sacred cow by now and that anywhere else than in Japan and North Korea, there's no hereditary system in place, even though in the U.S., a president's offspring or cousin has become the president every once in a while, and chances are that a former First Lady may take the same position her husband used to hold.

Also let me add that there's no such thing as an innocent victim. The victim always deserves all the consequences of his ignorance, cowardice and inaction. I suspect that now is the time for us to get prepared to suffer these consequences because it's us, after all, that have chosen to stay under the rotten family trees of Abe, Aso and the Emperor.

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