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U.S. plays the Japan card against China

Published Mar 23, 2005 1:07 PM

Ever since World War II, U.S. imperialism has tried to present itself as a liberator of the Asian peoples. Despite its bloody wars in Korea and Vietnam, and its earlier seizure of the Philippines from Spain, Washington capitalized politically on having defeated Japan, which had become a hated colonial power in Asia.

A latecomer to the capitalist carving up of the world, and desperate for markets and raw materials, imperial Japan had annexed Korea in 1910, invaded China in the 1930s, and moved aggressively to seize the Asian colonies of France, Holland, Britain and the U.S. before being defeated in the war.

Now, in what is sure to be viewed by the peoples of China and other countries in the region as a provocative and hostile move, President George W. Bush has signed a new military agreement with Japan identifying security in the Taiwan Strait as a “common strategic objective” between the U.S. and Japan, thus pushing Japan to abandon decades of official pacifism by claiming a right to intervene there.

This expansion of Japan’s military role under the aegis of Washington is a slap in the face to those Asian countries where millions of people died before and during the second imperialist world war—especially China.

Under the new agreement, signed on Feb. 19, Washington is devising a bigger role for Japan as a strategic hub from which U.S. forces can respond to “threats,” from the Middle East to Korea. Many foreign policy analysts see this as an expansion of the U.S.-Japan alliance, with the goal of making Japan the “Britain of the Far East,” to be used as a proxy in countering North Korea and China—a role Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been all too willing to play, similar to that of Britain’s Tony Blair in Iraq.

As part of that strategy, the U.S. has been pressuring to accelerate Japan’s rearmament. Article 9 of Japan’s constitution forbids the use of force except as a matter of self-defense—a provision demanded after the war not merely by the Allied powers but by the Japanese people. But in recent years, the U.S. has repeatedly pressured Japan to revise that article and become a “normal nation.”

Last Aug. 13, then Secretary of State Colin Powell told Japanese officials that if Japan ever hoped to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, it would first have to get rid of its pacifist constitution.

Japan has complied. It has been acquiring new submarines and aircraft carriers to project its military power in the area. (Asia Times, Feb. 20)

When the U.S. attacked Iraq the first time in 1991, Japan did not add its troops. In fact, its laws forbade troop deployment. That, however, has been changing. Several laws have since been enacted that allow Japan to be a military player on the world scene.

The International Peace Cooperation Law of 1992 for the first time authorized Japan to send troops to participate in UN “peacekeeping” operations. More money has been allocated for military expenditures in recent years.

Japan’s latest sign of rearming came with its agreement to join the costly and destabilizing U.S. missile defense (“Star Wars”) program—something Canada refused to do in February.

The rearming process has accelerated since Koizumi took office in 2001.

Since the signing in 1952 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, U.S. forces have occupied some 91 bases on the Japanese mainland and the island of Okinawa. In fact, the old Japanese naval base of Yokosuka is the home of the U.S. 7th Fleet. Japan subsidizes these bases, at a cost of $70 billion since 1991, and U.S. forces are supposedly there for its defense—but Japan has no control over them.

Why has the Bush administration been whipping up the “nuclear threat” from North Korea? It virtually forced that country to resume its nuclear development by cutting energy aid negotiated a decade ago and by refusing to give it assurances that the U.S. would not attack. On Feb. 25, the State Department announced that “the U.S. will refuse North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il’s demand for a guarantee of ‘no hostile intent’ to get Pyongyang back into negotiations over its nuclear-weapons programs.”

The answer was given by Janice Tang in Japan Today (March 21): “’Unpredic ta bil ity and uncertainty’ in the region will help convince the Japanese public of the need to strengthen the alliance to maintain U.S. deterrence in the area and thus accelerate talks on the realignment of U.S. forces.” The North Korean bogeyman is also aimed at preventing the reunification of North and South Korea, which could loosen Washington’s grip on the peninsula.

However, the real objective of rearming Japan is China. It comes at a time when the Chinese economy is growing rapidly and Washington fears that Taiwan, which was first separated from China when Japan seized it in 1895, could be reunified with the mainland. Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, says that “Contrary to the machinations of American neo-cons and Japanese rightists ... the Taiwanese people have revealed themselves to be open to negotiating with China over the timing and terms of reintegration.”

Japanese political commentator Yoichi Funabashi observes that East Asia is “becoming less dependent on the U.S. in terms of trade.” Tony Karon of Time magazine says that “All over the world, new bonds of trade and strategic cooperation are being forged around the U.S. China has not only begun to displace the U.S. as the dominant player in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (APEC), it is fast emerging as the major trading partner to some of Latin America’s largest economies,” including Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela. In Iran, China is replacing Japan as the main trading partner.

Concerned about losing economic and political clout in the region to China, the U.S. plays the Japan card, raising once more the specter of a newly rearmed imperial Japan and refreshing in the minds of millions in the region memories of genocide and brutal oppression committed by Japanese imperialism. The goal is the same—pillage, super-exploitation and hegemony—but this time Japan is allied with and acting at the behest of U.S. imperialism.