Asia should be vigilant against Japan's push for larger role--scholar

Updated: 2014-06-02 19:57


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SINGAPORE - Countries in the Asia Pacific region should be vigilant against Japan's push for a larger role in regional security, said Huang Jing, director of the Institute on Asia and Globalization, National University of Singapore.

Speaking in a recent interview with Xinhua, Huang questioned the ideas put forward by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for Japan to have more "proactive contribution to peace," which is a translation of a phrase in Japanese that can also be rendered as " proactive pursuit of peace."

Abe talked about the need to defend international laws and alleged that Japan wants to revise the pacifist constitution that was put in place after the World War II and remove the lid on the right to collective self-defense. He also talked about how Japan should play a larger role in regional security by sending its military personnel and defense equipment out of Japan.

China may very well argue that the fundamental problem with the speech of Abe is that he was shouting for peace while calling for a larger role in international security affairs for Japan's military forces, which has been called the Self-Defense Forces for a reason, Huang said.

"If Japan's Self-Defense Forces runs around in the world and is involved in regional security in Asia Pacific, it would be against the nature of Japan's Self-Defense Forces as defined in the constitution. Actually Abe not only violated the pacifist constitution of Japan, but also tries to expand his unconstitutional moves to the Asia Pacific," he said.

The Asia Pacific region should be vigilant against Abe's moves, as Japan was the only Asian country that has inflicted tremendous harms on its neighbors in the region with its military aggression during the World War II.

"As a prime minister, Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine and said that the most touching movie for him was the Eternal Zero (a war drama honoring the jet plane model of Japanese military forces during WWII). Is this appropriate, especially when the Japanese government has not reflected on the tragedy in history?" Huang said.

"It is an attempt not only against the constitution of Japan, but also to challenge the verdict on the war and the history," he added.

The scholar also questioned a speech delivered by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Shangri-La Dialogue that criticizes China for the diplomatic challenges in the neighborhood.

"What the United States and Japan did was like that they run into your backyard and set things on fire, and then cried fire and then tried to hold you responsible for the fires in your backyard. It also kept pouring oil while you try to put out the fire with water. It is just like this in the South China Sea," he said.

The increase in flare-ups on the South China Sea has been seen as largely due to the strategic pivot of the United States to the region by strengthening its alliance with some of the countries. Countries like the Philippines have been somewhat emboldened by the support of the United States to be more provocative on sovereign and maritime claims. China reacted to some of the moves by these nations.

Huang said that it is not fair if the United States is allowed to be the judge on the effect and speed of China's efforts to put out the fires after setting the fires in the first place.

"China may very well argue that the United States is not only inciting troubles in Asia, but also harming the peace and stability in the region by giving support to irresponsible nations. It is irresponsible if you offer your support in this way, especially when you are a major power," he said.

Nevertheless, Huang said that China should have enough confidence to stick to its pursuit of security through development and not be swayed by the seemingly bothering diplomatic challenges in its neighborhood.

Huang said the cooperative security approach proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping will eventually be the only way out.

"Through development you will be able to foster more interdependency and interconnection, which will be helpful for regional security," he said.

China recently proposed the idea of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. Common security means that it should be security for all nations rather than the safety of allies. The security will also have to be comprehensive given that the non-traditional security challenges are increasing alongside traditional ones.

Scholars said that the idea of common security might eventually be the only way out even though it takes time to promote the idea. Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the Nanyang Technological University, said that it would not be easy in the recent future as the new approach may weaken the current framework that are based on bilateral structures.

Tim Huxley, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, conceded however that the approach may be too ideal as it does not give enough consideration to the fundamental balance of major powers.

Nevertheless, Li said that the approach is much more inclusive than the current security framework in the region as it is open to even countries from outside the region.

Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, said that it is good for China to be more proactive in proposing new ideas for security.

"It's good for China to take the lead to propose new ideas to keep the region stable. But it requires a lot of diplomacy and action," he said.