Global Article9 Campaign
HOME | what's article9 | about campaign | global scope | supporters | conference | voices | support article9 | resources | organizers
HOME > Resources SiteMap / Contact us
what's article9
about campaign
global scope
support article9

Sign up for our eNewsletter
Resources - learn more about article 9

Article Nine in light of Japan’s Relationship
with the New Order in Northeast Asia


By Mari Kushibuchi
Secretary General, Peace Boat

PRIME, Meiji Gakuin University

The front page of the May 15, 2007 issue of Sankei Shimbun was striking in that it seemed to tell in one glance the current situation in the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The top headline was news that the National Referendum Law had been passed in the plenary session of the upper house of the Diet on the 14th. It announced that a new law designating procedures for revision of the Japanese Constitution had been passed with a majority of votes by the ruling coalition, after numerous attempts to steamroll the bill through the relevant Diet committees. It reported that this move, unprecedented in the history of the constitution, created a political environment in which revision of (not only the interpretation but also) the letter of the constitution would be possible as early as 2011. The other half of the page gave news that the date for a test run of a railway linking South and North Korea had been decided and all related discussions had been concluded. In the center of the article was a large color photograph with the caption "Children link South and North." It showed North Korean children looking towards the camera while pulling weeds on the railroad tracks at a station of the Tonghae Line close to Mount Kumgang. Their innocent expressions were striking. Both reports announced the advent of a big change in the times. I could not help but feel that the juxtaposition of these reports on the same front page was more than mere coincidence, and was in fact a sign of the destiny linking Japan with the Korean Peninsula.

It is uncertain whether Article 9 of the Constitution will be revised in the near future due to the passage of the National Referendum Act. Nevertheless, it is certain that the struggle of East Asian civil society against Japanese political forces attempting to keep "peaceful order" by walking lock-step with the US on its global strategic roadmap has entered a new stage. Meanwhile, symbolic efforts to overcome the Cold War and division of the Korean peninsula such as the test run of the railway connecting South and North Korea and moves towards the line's official opening and start of regular service open horizons for a new regional community. I am reminded of the large world map I saw hanging on the wall of Dorasan station (Kyongui line), the northernmost on the South Korean side, on my visit there in 2004. It felt as if I was sharing with other visitors a huge dream to connect this railway from the peninsula across the Eurasian continent all the way to Europe. But now this is no longer a mere dream. Hopes for the day that the South-North railway begins regular service and extends further to the continent are starting to be realised.

The relationship between the Korean Peninsula and Japan could be said to be moving simultaneously along two vectors. One is the vector overcoming division to thrust from peninsula to continent. The other is an island cutting off the past and drifting toward the Pacific Ocean. I feel deep anxiety welling up. Below, I shall attempt to analyze the relationship of Japan to the Six-Party Talks in the formative years of a new peaceful order in Northeast Asia, and the significance of Article 9 in light of issues pertaining to North Korea.

Japan is missing the bus

The 6 party negotiation process for nuclear disarmament in North Korea, and realization of a nuclear weapon-free Korean peninsula is moving ahead with the joint statement of September 2006 (9.19 agreement) and the "first stage measures" (2.13 agreement) of February 2007. Efforts by South Korea for reconciliation with the North, China's engagement in the US-North Korea dialogue, and the American shift in policy since the latter half of 2006 have broken the ice, creating momentum that raises hopes for rapid nuclear disarmament. With normalization of US-North Korean relations, conclusion of a peace treaty, and beyond that, the dream of South-North unification on the horizon, the "denuclearization" process could be said to have brought the concerned parties to the doorstep of peace.

Japan's attitude toward North Korea's nuclear program has been consistent. Rather than a policy as such, it seems to boil down to a posturing of sorts. With the basic stance that "neither the nuclear nor the abduction issue can be resolved without regime change in North Korea," former Prime Minister Abe spoke of "dialogue and pressure," but in practice abandoned dialogue in favor of imposing sanctions to tighten the screws on North Korea, his approach to solving these problems. This stance was epitomized in October 2006 when the Japanese government, with unprecedented speed and forcefulness exceeding even that of the US, stunned the international community by pushing the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt a resolution instituting sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear test. Domestically, this was flaunted as a "victory of Japanese diplomacy," and led to an eruption of arguments in favor of Japan arming itself with nuclear weapons to counter the threat from the North. Meanwhile, it was seldom mentioned that at the same time Japan and the US have been strengthening their military ties under the American "nuclear umbrella." This stance has not changed even after progress on implementation of the 2.13 agreement of 2007. In June 2007, the Japanese Diet passed the "Revised North Korea Human Rights Act," which blocks all economic cooperation, including energy aid, to North Korea as long as there is no progress toward resolution of the abduction issue, regardless of progress toward "denuclearization." It basically states that Japan will not implement the agreement of the Six-Party Talks due to issues specific to Japan. From this, it seems at the very least clear that Japan's main objective for participation in the Six-Party Talks is not the "denuclearization" of North Korea.

What Japan "gained" from its diplomacy towards North Korea

If Japan's primary goal for participating in the Six-Party Talks is not "denuclearization" of North Korea, what is it? If it was solving the abduction issue, one would have expected the former Abe administration, which raised this as the cabinet's highest priority issue, to have achieved somewhat more (in 2006, there were additional appropriations of 226 million yen to address the issue; in 2007, the budget requested for this was 480 million yen). Taking political advantage of the tragedy of the abduction victims and their family members' suffering must not be condoned any further. This becomes clear when one considers what was "gained" from Japan's hard-line stance towards North Korea.

After formation of the Abe cabinet, the domestic scene changed rapidly. In close succession, the Defense Agency was "promoted" to the Defense Ministry, overseas activities of the SDF were stipulated as part of its "primary duties," the Fundamental Law of Education was revised for the worse, and the National Referendum Law enabling constitutional amendment was passed. Furthermore, in terms of the relationship with the US, Japan cooperated with the "realignment" of the US military stationed in Japan, relaxed the three principles concerning arms exports, started to deploy a missile defense system, extended the term of the Iraq Special Measures Law, and promoted a process to, in practice, revise the constitution through interpretation to allow exercise of the right of collective defense. In essence, Japan has taken advantage of the "threat" of North Korea and, more to the point, of the division of the Korean peninsula, to promote re-militarization and reinforce the Japan-US security arrangements.

What North Korea's Nuclear Capability Means for Japan

What does North Korea's nuclear capability signify for Japan? Whereas other countries are engaging in the Six-Party negotiation framework within a context of historical continuity, I cannot help but feel that Japan lacks such a historical perspective in addressing the North Korean nuclear issue. While other countries view the issue as part of the process to end or overcome the Cold War, Japan views it narrowly as a security issue concerning nuclear weapons and missile defense, rather than in its historical context.

What is lacking is the perspective that history is continuous, from the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the ensuing global nuclear arms race, the possibility of atomic bombing during the Korean War, and the present day nuclear crisis in North Korea. Furthermore, when one questions why the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, it goes without saying that one must reflect upon the history of Japan's invasion, occupation and colonial rule in the Asia-Pacific region. The North Korean nuclear issue must be seen within this historical continuum. With such an understanding, the stakes for Japan in the Six-Party Talks can be confirmed in light of Japan's experience of atomic bombing as well as its place under the US nuclear umbrella, and it becomes clear that Japan's unique, overarching challenge, along with denuclearization of the North, is to normalize relations with North Korea and take initiative towards creating a nuclear weapon-free Northeast Asia region. This is where the existence and functioning of the peace constitution, which has determined the direction of post-war Japan, takes on a new significance. One must never forget that Article 9 came into existence based on the sacrifice of some 20 million lives in the Asia-Pacific region and some 3 million lives in Japan.

Furthermore, Japan is duty-bound under international treaty to normalize relations with North Korea, ever since it recognized the independence of Korea under the San Francisco Peace Treaty more than half a century ago. Normalization of relations in the true sense should entail reflection upon the evils of past colonial rule, sincere apology and compensation for the harm and suffering caused to the people, recognition of former colonies as independent states, and establishment of formal diplomatic relations with them.

"Civil Society Six-Party Talks" are Held

There are two roles that Japan ought to play in the Six-Party Talks. Firstly, as the first country in history to suffer atomic bombing, Japan should actively promote denuclearization not only of the Korean peninsula, but also of the entire Northeast Asia region. This means also urging nuclear powers to give up their nuclear weapons, thus leading down the path towards an international framework for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Secondly, Japan should make a bold decision to stop mindlessly following in the footsteps of the US, and say "no" to the Japan-US military cooperation regime, which is locked into the United States' global strategy. Both steps would without doubt become an important foundation for peacebuilding in Northeast Asia, and the latter would certainly be the way to block any attempt at exercising the right of collective self-defense, which is prohibited by Article 9.

In May 2007, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC - Peace Boat serves as the regional secretariat for Northeast Asia ) held the first "Civil Society Six-Party Talks" in Mongolia. Though participants from North Korea cancelled at the last minute, the "Civil Society Six-Party Talks" were successfully held with participation of some 30 NGOs, and with the support of the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was highly significant in that participants agreed to 1) work to build a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, and 2) ensure the support of civil society for the official Six-Party Talks. The resolution was sent to the Six-Party governments and the United Nations.

Raising a "Non-Nuclear Umbrella"

There was a symbolic meaning to holding this conference in Mongolia. Mongolia was the first country to achieve "single-State nuclear-weapon-free status" at the United Nations General Assembly in 1998. It started with Mongolia unilaterally declaring itself a "nuclear-weapon-free zone" in 1992, despite being surrounded by nuclear powers Russia and China. In return for not producing, stockpiling or allowing entry of nuclear weapons, Mongolia was granted "security guarantees" by the five nuclear powers in the UN Security Council. After that, the "nuclear weapon-free" wave rippled westward to Central Asia, where 5 countries signed a "Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone" Treaty in 2006. Thus was born the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in the northern hemisphere. Now the wave rolls eastward... There is much we can learn from the Mongolian experience.

Incidentally, proposals for creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia have already been placed on the table. For instance, based on the "Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Declaration" of 1991 and Japan's "3 non-nuclear principles" of 1967, the three countries could declare a "nuclear-weapon-free zone" and formalize it with a treaty. The three neighboring nuclear powers, i.e., the US, Russia and China, could also participate in the treaty framework through passive security guarantees. This "three plus three" proposal has been raised at the NPT Conference by Mr Hiromichi Umebayashi representing the NPO Peace Depot. We have the potential to raise a "non-nuclear umbrella" to achieve "security without relying on nuclear weapons," i.e., "security without relying on military force." This would give concrete form to the spirit of Article 9. The "Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War" (May 2008) being co-organized by the NGO Peace Boat is due to adopt this as one of its main themes.

Article 9 and Overcoming Colonialism

If North Korea's nuclear program was what made possible the various "achievements" of the former Abe administration in the last year, the current "denuclearization" trend will eliminate one of the contributing factors for pursuit of this agenda, the relentless momentum of which is likely to be toned down to some extent. However, I am unable to feel very optimistic about this, as the former Abe administration's hard-line stance toward North Korea was supported by Japanese public opinion. When I think of the vagaries of public opinion, I feel as if we are treading cautiously down a slippery path in the fog.

It was not merely due to the ruling coalition's strong majority in the Diet that such a political climate went unquestioned. It was rooted in exclusionary attitudes that have proliferated in the last few years. Mieko Fujioka, former assistant secretary general of the NGO International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), poses the question, "to what extent have present-day Japanese freed themselves from the ideology and mind-set that supported the thrust toward colonialism?" (Beyond Sanctions (Seisai-ron wo Koete), Nakano, Kenji, ed., Fujioka, Mieko, co-author, Shinpyosha Publishing) She points out that present day media coverage depicting North Korea as ominously unpredictable and deserving of ridicule, mockery and derision, as well as recent harassment of and violence towards Koreans living in Japan, bears close resemblance to the exclusionary attitude of colonialism. As to the reason for such "continuation of colonialism (mentality)" she interestingly points out that "the surrender of colonies was made heteronomously as a result of Japan's defeat," and, quoting from War and Politics of Modern Japan (Mitsuya, Taichiro, Iwanami Publishing), concludes that "the challenges specific to decolonialization were subsumed by the general process of de-militarization." In other words, she points out that we did not have the experience of looking at the issues unique to colonialism, or of agonizing over, struggling with, and overcoming history with our own hands, as this process was subsumed by the mechanisms symbolized by Article 9 of the Constitution. Though expressions such as "war responsibility" and "war reparations" are often heard in Japanese society, it is not common to reflect upon our responsibility for suppression of resistance movements, atrocities or human rights violations in terms of a wide-ranging concept of "responsibility for colonial rule." When seeking freedom from the exclusionary attitude that remains deeply ingrained in present day Japanese society, we are led to the conclusion that we must come to terms with our "responsibility for colonial rule" with a renewed focus on Article 9. We must here reaffirm that Article 9 is a must for a peaceful regional order with respect for human rights and reconciliation in Northeast Asia.
©2008 GPPAC JAPAN All Rights Reserved.