Japan Must End its Silence

A recent opinion poll in Japan shows that 68% of Japanese believe that the US and Britain should not attack Iraq. Yet, in debates in the Diet, our parliament, neither Prime Minister 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 fifty years and the Japanese government essentially believes that it has no option but to agree with the US or to keep silent.

Indeed, since the end of WWII, Japan has avoided a full-fledged debate on the country's national security framework, in which Japan would have the courage to disagree with the US. Of course, most Japanese politicians, media commentators, and academics understand the need for this stance, and the Japanese trait of putting a lid on troublesome issues reinforces this silence, compounding all problems in foreign policy.