Region’s misgivings hamper Japan’s military role

Felix Soh and Derwin Pereira report on the region’s hot topic – security challenges


JAPAN cannot assume an active military role in East Asia because countries in the region have misgivings of Tokyo’s military past, a leading Japanese defence expert said yesterday.

Professor Shinichi Ogawa of Tokyo’s National Institute for Defence Studies said that countries in the region could not forget the harsh and cruel occupation policies by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. The problem was compounded by the fact that Tokyo had yet to come to terms with its war-time conduct.

“East Asian countries have more or less mistrust and misgivings about Japan and harbour apprehension for the increase in Japanese military capability.”

Besides the historical legacy, Japan’s economic clout in the region drew a cautious response from East Asian countries, he said. Japan’s gross domestic product accounted for more than 70 per cent of the total economic output of the region.

He added that resistance for a more active military role also came from the Japanese public which he labelled as “anti-military”. This being so, countries in the region did not want to see Japan shifting away from a commitment of self-defence or even assuming a military role independent of the US.

The only role it could undertake was that as a “supplement” to US military missions and international peacekeeping operations, he said.

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