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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 11:29 01/15/2008
January 15, 2008

Proposals For Revival of Japan As an Independent Nation

Koichi MERA (Professor, University of Southern California)

As I reported in my previous article, "Toward Open Discussions of Japan's history Issues" (2007), I have been organizing a discussion group in Los Angeles to examine Japan's history issues and to make proposals for Japan to overcome such issues and revive itself as an "independent" nation. The following is my report on some of the proposals that are being made by the discussion group.

It has widely been noticed in Japan and elsewhere that Japan's overall presence and influence in the world seem to be declining, rather precipitously in recent years. Especially in Asia, Japan's image has not been improved over the years, and its importance appears to be decreasing relative to other major countries in the region such as China and India. There are many causes and reasons for this decline, and various diagnoses and prescriptions have been offered to reverse this trend. However, nothing seems to have worked so far.

What we need is to face the reality of Japan as a nation and find the bottom of the problem, that is, the lack of sense of independence and dignity, which should be dealt with before any policy is tried. Toward other Asian countries, Japan is "paralyzed" by being stuck with history issues and the resultant negative image of Japan. Almost every prime minister in the past had to express his regrets and apologies for Japan's "original sin," and such apologetic attitude itself has worsened Japan's image in Asia. So, the question is how to make Japan a nation which does not have to apologize but shows its dignity all the time. Toward the U.S., Japan is often regarded as a subordinate, dependent on its "big bother," especially in defense and foreign policy fields. The question here is how to make Japan an "independent" nation which can show its will to defend itself and cooperate with other countries as an equal partner.

In order to answer these questions, we have to start somewhere. As a first step, we need to learn our own history from the objective point of view, and not from any ideological standpoint, as has often been the case in the past. In understanding our history, we should be free from ideological pressure by any country, whether China or even the U.S. The next step is to encourage Japanese as well as foreign scholars to do research on Japan's history and international relations, again from the objective point of view. The Japanese government should spend more money to support those researchers, especially those outside Japan, who are willing to study various issues concerning Japan without any prejudice against Japan. Furthermore, we need to communicate more actively with the outside world about our views and opinions on issues concerning Japan. For that purpose, we should try to disseminate our information as much as possible through the Internet, book publication, broadcasting, movie-making, etc.

In addition to such academic and grass-roots activities, the government must build the nation's intelligence capabilities as a precondition for an independent minded security policy. Without intelligence, spending more money on defense could not make the nation any safer, but rather likely lead to more frictions and even conflicts with neighboring countries. At least, Japan should change its intelligence policy from complete dependence on the U.S. to the development of its own intelligence resources such as education and training of human power as well as application of various kinds of technologies in this field. It may be a good idea to establish publicly assisted schools and institutions for national intelligence and security.

At any rate, it is about time for Japan to plan ahead for strengthening its ability to utilize key information and intelligence to its own advantage. It might take some time, even a decade or two, to see any substantial change in Japan's capabilities in intelligence and security in a desirable direction. However, we must take a first step, as suggested in this essay. Without it, we could not possibly revive Japan as a nation in the rapidly globalizing world.

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