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by Junichiro Koizumi

From a conversation between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi and Alvin Toffler in the current issue of Churo Koron, the monthly Japanese intellectual journal.

TOKYO -- If our neighbors, Korea and China, look at the Japanese defense budget, they can see it is still very restrained to within 1 percent of GNP. And we steadfastly maintain our non-nuclear commitments. Japan believes the United States is our most important and indispensable bilateral relationship. Despite the fact that we once were enemies, deep down in our hearts, Japanese have a very strong sense of trust vis-a-vis the Americans. We don't feel they have any territorial ambitions.

Rather than letting Japan work on its self-defense all by itself, it is
better to have a U.S. presence and the Japan-U.S bilateral treaty so that it would give a greater sense of reassurance to the neighboring countries .... That is how I see it, too.

About Article 9 of the Japanese constitution: Depending on how you read it, the present self-defense forces may be constitutional or unconstitutional. And I don't think that is the way things should be.

As an independent sovereign country, we have to have self-defense capabilities. In case there is an incursion into our territories, we have to repel such attacks. And I believe it is the military that embodies that spirit, that attitude of ours. Even by going to the length of fighting militarily, we must be able to defend the safety and everyday life of the people.

And if the military embodies that sort of spirit, then I believe the
self-defense forces should be seen as a military. It should be taken for granted that any independent country should maintain a minimum level of self-defense capability. So, my view is that the constitution should be very clear in that respect, very easy to understand for anybody.

Article 9 does actually give up fighting forces. So there was a rather strong argument, in Japan as well abroad, that the self-defense forces themselves were unconstitutional. Yet, as I have said ... there can be nothing unconstitutional about self-defense. An amendment to the Japanese constitution ought to make that point clear.

Having said this, we also have to make clear that Japan will not resort to force in order to resolve international disputes. That stipulation is important. For example, there are many countries that support Japan's becoming a member of the U.N. Security Council. In fact, Japan's contributions to the United Nations are the largest in the world alongside the United States. So there is good reason for Japan to play this international role.

At the same time, though, we shouldn't let people think that we can do exactly the same things as the other five permanent members. If Japan wants to become a member of the Security Council, we should raise our hand in a way that will not mislead the Japanese or others. We have to make it explicit that Japan must abide by Article 9 of its constitution in any international role that it plays.

I say this because the five permanent members of the Security Council take it for granted that the use of force is often the way to resolve international conflicts, that resorting to threats of use of force or use of force can be tolerated as a means of resolving international conflicts in certain cases.

Japan is different. Should there be an international dispute, Japan
could not support the threat of or use of force if it were a member of the Security Council. Japan can only make its contributions non-military areas.

It is with that clear understanding that I believe Japan should raise its hand and say it wants to become a member of the Security Council.

(c) 2001, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate
International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 9/4/01)