Of all the Axis powers of World War II, it was Japan that the US chose to be targeted as the first victim of the atomic bomb.
Historians believe the US wanted a maiden target for its atomic bomb as far away from the European continent as possible. Yet some find one more reason. The war had convinced the US that the Japanese were indomitable and nobody could surpass them in patriotism and dedication to a cause.
World War II was over. Russia took control of satellite states directly into its hands, the US considered itself the guarantor of a democratic form of government in the world, and Great Britain changed its old mindset of colonial power. The end of the war was the beginning of the era of decolonization as well.
The US took the subjugated country of Japan directly under its patronage. Washington worked to construct Japanese society along new and unprecedented parameters. A pacified nation was denied control of its decision-making power.
In a sense, Japan had no foreign policy because what was left in the name of the foreign policy was made in the US.
Japan Breaking Away From Post-War Syndrome
Perhaps the time has come for Japan to break away from the post-World War II syndrome and attempt to regain and reassert its rightful place in the comity of nations.
This philosophy has impacted the perception of the visionary Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who ascended to the seat of power after his predecessor left the world abruptly to the great grief of the bereaved nation.
It was the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who had given many new ideas, including the Quad-4 as a strategy for ensuring the security of the Indo-Pacific states against the rising hegemony of China.
The sitting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is called by history to play an essential role in the current political chemistry of the world in general and Japan in particular. Only some weeks ago, Kishida presented the country’s new budget in the parliament, which stands approved.
As the international media flashed the details of the new budget and policy parameters connected to it, the first reaction came from President Biden. He applauded the cabinet of PM Kishida for taking a bold step of raising expenditure for the defense sector manifold.
Discussing the salient features of the budget, the Japanese parliament was given the picture of a massive increase in defense and security capability to secure the frontiers of the state from any incursion and attempt at destabilization of the state.
It suggests a drastic increase in the strike power for all three services. The phenomenal growth in defense and offense capability is necessitated by the growing ambition of China to assert its hegemony over the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
Kishida is expected to use Japan’s new role on the UN Security Council and as host of a G-7 summit to push his foreign policy agenda. Japan is one of the four countries that aspire to membership in the Security Council.
Japan has been a strong advocator for reforming the structure and functionality of the United Nations.
Japan’s Strengthening Position Against North Korea & China
In his New Year address, Kishida emphatically said, “Tokyo would reject the attempts to change the status quo by force” and work to counter nuclear threats as Japan faces the most severe security situation.
However, he did not mention the source of the threat to Japan’s security situation. Commentators believe that the subtle reference is to China and North Korea.
Kishida was unsparing in criticizing Moscow for launching an attack on Ukraine. He brought the same accusation against Russia that he had brought against China, and both are “attempting to break the international law.”
On January 1, 2023, when Japan took over one of the Council’s ten non-Council members, he said Japan would continue to push the idea of promoting reform, “which critics charge is effectively paralyzed by a structure that grants veto power to one of the five permanent members: Russia, China, the US, Britain, and France.”
Japan faced opposition from China and Russia when it had last suggested expanding the security council so that more deserving countries get representation.
Japan had not excluded its name from the list of new aspirants for membership. A Japanese professor of international relations says that two years of temporary membership will at least give them the ability to weigh in on important issues to Japan, such as peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.
Stephen Nagy of the International Christian University believes that vetoes have effectively prevented the UN from taking concreted action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or North Korea’s continued provocations. Pyongyang has launched more than 70 missiles in the last year.
However, there are also other observers whose views differ from what is generally accepted. For example, Stephen Nagy of the International University at Tokyo argues that “it was not realistic for Kishida to expect dramatical reform of the Security Council at this point.”
The White House announced that US President Joe Biden will host Kishida on January 13 “to deepen further ties between our governments, economies and our people.” The statement said that Biden would renew his support for Japan’s presidency of the G7 and its mandate as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Kishida will be inviting the meeting of the G-7 in Hiroshima, his home constituency – to reiterate Japan’s commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and its need to bolster conventional defense capabilities in the face of growing regional security challenges.
Observers believe that Kishida will “appeal to the global audience that Japan is a pacifist nation, even though it recently doubled its military budget and announced plans to acquire offensive weapons that can target other nations in a shift away from Tokyo’s post-war pacifist constitution.”
From the official point of view of the developing situation in the Indo-Pacific region, Kishida has his perception of foreign policy. However, the question is whether he can achieve the target within the stipulated time.
There will be resistance from the region, which he should not underestimate. Public support in a democracy is not to be taken for granted unless there is delivery. Soaring food and fuel prices are the primary factors that determine public support.
However, in the final analysis, the new foreign policy parameters adopted by Prime Minister Kishida lend enormous support to the agenda of the Indo-Pacific détente. India, a good friend of Japan, may have learned many things from her experience of shifting away from the post-war pacifist constitution.
- KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views expressed here are of the author’s.
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