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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #288: April 7, 2005

Political Hara-Kiri: The Danger of Keeping Japan in Its Place

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Political Hara-Kiri: The Danger of Keeping Japan in Its Place
By Tom Plate (Asia Media)


There are reports in abundance of governments and peoples of neighboring countries, namely Korea and China expressing resentment toward Japan. It began when Japan expressed its willingness to support the activities of the U.N. by taking on a more prominent role in the organization. While people in Japan had been aware of the existence of bitter feelings in those countries, most people are bewildered to see such strong hostility.

Japan's media has stayed generally calm in commenting on the chaos in those countries other than for occasional reports of specific incidents such as burning of flags or attacking of shops. This is a reflection of the Japanese people's maintaining calmness. True, there were abettings initially by extremists at both ends when the chaotic incidents broke out in the neighboring countries, but people did not respond to such agitation and stayed calm and tones of news reports in Japan were quickly subdued.

The report introduced above is by Tom Plate, a longtime journalist and currently a UCLA Professor and a columnist for a significant number of media channels worldwide. In fact, this article is a very good assessment of the background -- very good in the sense that most of the Japanese understand the situation in the same way. The report states, "A main argument against the integration of Japan into the [U.N. security] council core seems more emotional than analytic.." and goes on to say, "... denying Tokyo permanent council status would hurt Asia at least as much as it would hurt Japan." The conclusive phrase goes, "Japan's Security Council seat is not South Korea's, or China's loss, but Asia's gain."

Such line of thinking is indeed most Japanese have come to grasp. This is why there is not much argument against the government's policy for Japan to strive for a seat in the Council.

That said, Japan's people are still not certain as to whether committing in world affairs in such a visible, if not prominent, manner would truly be beneficial for Japan. Well aware of the fact of maintaining the second largest economy in the world, and having a sense of obligation to help the world in ways they can, Japan's people feel they have for a long time diligently supported the cause of the global body, most visibly in terms of money -- contributing 20% of the U.N. budget, falling behind only to the U.S. at 25%, and well beyond the next largest contributor, Germany, at 10% -- but have not achieved proper recognition they deserve from rest of the world.

Japan's people have begun to recognize that such style of contribution is not an effective way to win the level of praise Japan's people would want. Not that the people "demand" respect, but they feel alienated as they see Japan being ignored when, despite only occasionally, Japan opens its mouth in a global forum. As Japan's economy has reached the stage of maturity and high growth can not be foreseen anymore, the people began to turn their critical eyes on the balance between their contribution and the return they are receiving.

Japan abandoned the path of militarism a long time ago while it must continue to trade with other countries to sustain its well-being. Thus, Japan has begun to search for effective ways to protect its interest while contributing to peace and prosperity of the world. Within such a framework, an approach currently being sought is to more actively participate in the U.N. In this context, Japan has began to test the water if a member who has declared and committed to never utilize military powers as means of settling international disputes could indeed function in the global organization assigned to seek world peace.

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