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Japan Must End its Silence

To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS will be republishing over the coming months a selection of commentaries written since 1994.  In this commentary from 2003, former Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka calls for an open debate about the country’s global security role, arguing that “Japan can no longer afford to be silent or vague.” 

TOKYO – A recent opinion poll in Japan shows that 68% of Japanese believe that the United States and Britain should not attack Iraq. Yet, in debates in the Diet, our parliament, neither Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi nor the foreign minister utter anything more than such tepid responses as: “Japan cannot respond to a hypothetical situation,” or “Japan cannot take a definitive stance without assessing the results of the inspections,” and “It is in Japan’s national interest not to declare whether or not it supports the use of force.”

But Japan can no longer afford to be silent or vague about growing global insecurity, as the crisis next door on the Korean Peninsula demonstrates.

Why is Japan so seemingly detached in international affairs? Japan has relied entirely on the US for its security needs for over 50 years, and the Japanese government essentially believes that it has no option but to agree with the US or to keep silent.

25 years of the World's Opinion Page

Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.

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