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Commentary: Civilian control crucial to stop Japan from militarization

(Source: Xinhua)   2015-03-07

  TOKYO, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday approved a Defense Ministry (MOD) related bill, seeking to change the power dynamics within the ministry and grant uniformed Self-Defense Forces (SDF) officers greater power.

  The amendment, which the Cabinet eyes approval during the current Diet (parliament) session, issues a dangerous signal once again in the wake of a series defense related decisions, such as lifting the ban on the country's collective self-defense right.

  Under the current Defense Ministry Establishment Law, the bureaucrats, often referred to as "the suits", are perceived to have higher status than "the uniforms," namely the SDF officers.

  The law's Article 12 stipulates that "the suits" assist the defense minister when he or she issues instructions to the Joint Staff Chief, the highest-rank "uniform" personnel and the chief of each SDF arm. But under the amendment, the uniforms will be on equal footing in assisting the minister.

  It is widely thought that the uniforms will be able to exert greater influence on the nation's political decisions concerning military matters by the revision. Moreover, it will also weaken civilian control over the SDF, making it difficult to hold the uniforms in check, some defense analysts have suggested.

  The amendment also intends to abolish the operation and planning bureau of the military, placing its operational functions under centralized control of the Joint Staff, an organ mainly comprising SDF members.

  By a set of changes, "the uniforms" will get powers from decision making to task performing, as well as personnel appointments, which could potentially lead to military dictatorship.

  For Japan, this kind of situation must forever be avoided based on wartime lessons learned in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, young imperial army officers repeatedly ignored orders from the central government, dragging the country into war and leaving painful memories for both Japan and neighboring countries.

  By now, the doctrine of "civilian control of the military" has become so ingrained worldwide. However, Japan, by contrast, tries to turn back the wheel of history and undermine it regardless of the concerns of other Asian countries.

  Since Abe took office again in late 2012, his administration has been pushing for a more robust military and loosening its control over the SDF step by step. Those activities, running counter to the country's pacifist constitution, will only escalate unrest both at home and abroad.

  In November 2014, China and Japan signed a four-point agreement to ease tensions. Foreign ministers from the two sides and South Korea are also scheduled to meet in the near future. Japan should cherish the hard-won situation and have a correct perception of history, instead of evolving into a militarist state once again.

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Editor:Zhang Tao
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