While Japan is known as a ‘peace-loving country’since the postwar period, the nature of Japanese pacifism may be transforming with the introduction of ‘proactive pacifism’. Although some might question why pacifism need to be ‘proactive’ and why the features of pacifism need to be changed, it can be argued that recent Japan’s changing diplomatic attitudes in the name of proactive pacifism clearly stems from Japan’s past experiences in the UN. To understand the emergence of this concept, it is crucially important to examine Japan’s relationship with the UN and the emergence of ‘proactive pacifism’. It also considers criticism against this concept including the argument that it can be seen as a tool of Japan’s ‘return to militarism’, which also reflect their perspectives on Japan. By comprehending its complicated trajectory as pacifist, this article attempts to illustrate Japan’s experiences as a pacifist country until today as well as its intention to redefine its pacifist characteristics. It also explains the way in which this concept is perceived by actors, including those who have already deeply engaged with the UN, by presenting the gap that shall be considered seriously.
Japan’s Trajectory as Pacifist and its Relationship with the UN
Japan was reborn as a pacifist country in the wake of the Second World War. Under the US Allied Occupation Policy, Japan was demilitarised and democratised while the so-called ‘Peace Constitution’ was created during this period, which has limited Japan’s military capability. The Constitution was finalised in the hand of Hitoshi Ashida, who served as the Prime Minister in 1948 and also the chairman of the‘Constitution Popularisation Society(Kenpō Fukyū Kai)’ from 1946-1948, by incorporating the following phrases into Article Nine of the Constitution: “aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order” to the top of paragraph 1 and “in order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph” to the top of paragraph 2. It was attempted to explicitly present Japan’s intention to renounce of war and disarmament and demonstrate the message that the core meaning of Article 9 remained unchanged from the original version suggested by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). In addition,under the administration of Shigeru Yoshida,the ‘Yoshida Doctrine’ has shaped Japanese postwar foreign policymaking, which enabled Japan to abandon military force as an instrument of foreign policy and rely exclusively on peaceful economic means. Since then,economic development became the main focus while the security alliance with the US was regarded as the guarantor of Japanese security.
In line with these political changes during the postwar period, ‘UN centrism (kokuren chūshinshugi)’ has become one of the three pillars of Japanese diplomacy by regarding international cooperation within the UN framework as a basic foreign policy principle. It first appeared in the Japanese Diet speech of Prime Minister Tanzan Ishibashi in February 1957 and later on incorporated into the Diplomatic Bluebook in March 1957. Indeed, Japan’s return to international community was crucially important to regain its international reputation, especially after the withdrawal of the League of Nation (LoN), which was replaced by the UN. Considered as one of the LoN’s failures, Japan withdrew as a member in 1933 with the speech made by Yōsuke Matsuoka, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs (and with whom the author does not have the relationship). Yet, with its defeat in the Second World War, Japan attempted to recover its national and international reputation.
Embracing its UN centrism, Japan hasmade attempts to engage with the international community, especially by providing multilateral aids. Since its entry into the UN, Japan has made a constant commitment to the UN’s activities withfinancial contribution. Being coincided with Japan’s economic development during the early postwar period, Official Development Assistance (ODA) has become a critical tool for Japan to participate in international efforts to ensure peace and sustainable development. Along with its financial commitments with the UN, Japan adopted the ODA Charter in 1992, which explicitly states that Japanese ODA would be provided in accordance with the UN principles and clearly notes that collaboration with UN organisations is one of the criteria for the effective implementation of its ODA programme. Maintaining its pacifist identity, Japan successfully enhanced its capability to contribute to the international community with its focus on its engagement with the UN.
Its pacific identity has, however, constrained Japan’s engagement with the UN activities, especially in the realm of UN peacekeeping operations (PKO), which has also posed the question about Japan contribution to collective security arrangement. For instance, soon after its accession to the UN in 1956, Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld asked the Japanese government to send 10 Self Defence Force (SDF) officers as military observers for the UN Observer Group in Lebanon. Yet, the Japanese government declined the UN request even though the mission monitoring a ceasefire which did not involve combat. This was due to Japanese Constitution and domestic laws including the SDF Law that did not allow Japan’s engagement with UN PKO activities. Moreover, Japan developed its ‘exclusively defence-oriented policy (senshu boei)’ in line with its Basic Policy on National Defence that was release in 1957, which limited the use of military force only to self-defence, which shaped Japan’s pacifist attitudes with limited military engagements.
Japan’s Struggling Pacifist Identity: Emergence of ‘Proactive Pacifism’
Japan’s UN engagement has been further questioned in the post-Cold War period, facing with the First Gulf War in 1990–91. Despiteits financial contributions,this incident challenged Japan as shock, which became ‘trauma’ for some,by being accused of not doing enough and rather criticised as ‘chequebook diplomacy’. This Gulf shock made Japan aware of the need to contribute personnel to international efforts. This eventually, led the creation of the International Peace Cooperation Law (or the PKO Law) in 1992 in face ofdomestic criticism on the law, stipulating five strict conditions under which the SDF could be dispatched. Since then, it has enabled Japan to engage with the UN PKO by sending SDF personnel to such areas as Cambodia, the Golan Heights, and Timor-Leste and currently participating in a UN peace- building mission in South Sudan. Regardless of some changes of Japanese engagement with the UN with its PKO Law, however, it has remained questionable regarding its long-term engagement with the UN and international community. Some characterises Japanese pacifism as‘passive pacifism’, which became the target of critiques of Japan’s limited military contribution to international community for collective security.
In this regard, the term ‘proactive’ clearly reflects Japan’s trauma of not being proactive in contributing to UN activities in the past, which may have resulted in recent governmental attempts to change its pacifist identity. Although the features of Japanese (postwar) pacifism have been discussed especially after its experiences during the Gulf War, the concept of ‘proactive contribution to peace’, which became widely known as ‘proactive pacifism’, got institutionalised after the launch of the second Shinzō Abe administration (December 2013 -). Under the banner of proactive pacifism, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasises the relevance of Japan to make more proactive efforts in line with the principle of international cooperation in face of increasingly severe security environment. Akiko Fukushima, who also wrote a related article in March 2001, recently noted that it is natural for Japan to respond to transforming security environment and ‘extend’the security and international cooperation policies in recent years. Even in her 2001 article, she already argued that it is desirable for Japan to develop ‘proactive peace and security strategies’(that can be considered equivalent to today’s proactive pacifism) for the international community. This represents that the need of Japan to become more proactive in contributing to international community has been discussed seriously. Shinichi Kitaoka, the Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security and newly appointed President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also remarked that proactive pacifism‘constituted a turnabout from the former model of “passive pacifism”’. While he acknowledges that Japan has already engaged with proactive pacifism by means of ODA and UN PKOs previously, he stressed Japan’s necessity to go beyond its past contributions.
This new form of pacifism has encouraged the Japanese government to change its security policymaking in various ways. For instance, a National Security Strategy (NSS) was released in December 2013 that outline its security strategy focusing on the three areas including Japan’s strengthening role in UN-led international security activities. While its exclusively defence-oriented policy has conflicted with UN policy on collective security, this has led to discussion about Japan’s right to exercise ‘collective self-defence’ that has been enthusiastically taken into account since 2008. In addition, Japan issued its new ODA Charter in February 2015 although it is criticised thatit is not sufficiently explicit how Japan can made proactive contribution to peace by means of ODA considering its declining financial contribution that reflects its economic power. Kitaoka made a remark that he would to make an effective use of ODA, taking ‘a steady approach toward Japan’s proactive contribution to peace’.
Conclusion: Litmus Test for Japanese Pacifism and its Future Engagement with the UN
It is difficult, nonetheless, to ignore the fact that promotion of proactive pacifism is not accepted regarded as pacifism. Whilst Japan has attempted to display its proactive pacifist engagement with the UN in consideration of such global issues as climate change and gender, Japan’s ‘proactive pacifism’ seems to create doubts. For example, the BBC has questioned whether Japan is abandoning its pacifism while some argues thatAbe’s national security strategy undermines Japan’s postwar pacifism. As much as the principle of UN centrism may be ‘an abstract idea’, proactive pacifism may also need to be reconsidered. Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugeesremarked that‘Although there is talk about proactive pacifism, we hear nothing about the extent Japan is prepared to make sacrifices for such a purpose…That is why I feel that is only a slogan’.Regarding refugee issues, she even claimed that‘Accepting refugees is one part of proactive pacifism if it is being done in relation to people who are really in trouble...Unless Japan becomes more active in accepting refugees, I would have to say there is no proactive pacifism in Japan’.
Looking back Japan’s previous engagement with UN activities, some may observe that Japan has already proactively contributing to peace despite its restriction of its engagement with the UN. It has been recognised during the first Abe administration (2006-2007) that “Japan has proactively contributed to UN efforts for the past 50 years to realize a better world in important areas such as peace, development and human rights”. The NSS report also mentions that‘Japan has garnered high recognition by the international community, by its proactive contribution to global development in the world through utilizing ODA’. Various insights on Japan’s adoption of proactive pacifism may hence give opportunities for Japan to carefully consider its pacifist identity and their engagement with the UN by comprehending their past, present and future international commitments.