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Japan pushed to remilitarization by tensions in the Far East is moving away from its pacifist ideal

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By choosing to host the G7, the city of Hiroshima, devastated on August 6, 1945 by the first atomic bomb ever used, Japan wants “to remember what can happen when peace and order break down to give way to instability and conflict”wrote on May 18, on the eve of the summit of the seven most industrialized democracies, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in a column published by the American journal Foreign Affairs. But, while proclaiming loud and clear the pacifism engraved in the marble of its Constitution, Tokyo has confirmed the increasingly active role, particularly at the military level, that it intends to play on the international scene. Two objectives which can turn out to be contradictory.

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The Archipelago is taking a path that could transform it into a “normal” power, that is to say endowed with the legal military leeway of any other sovereign nation on the planet, which is not yet officially the case. The surprise visit of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, during this G7 meeting, from May 19 to 21, seemed to agree with the tone of the strategic shift made by the Japanese government.

While the bad winds of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict are now being felt as far east as the Far East, against the backdrop of the Sino-American cold war, Japan announced, on December 16, 2022, a new security strategy: doubling its annual defense budget in five years, acquisition of long-range missiles and extension of the principle of self-defense to counterattacks » capable of reaching launch sites in enemy territory. A historic break with the past.

A semantic fiction

The pacifist Constitution drafted under American occupation, the day after the capitulation of the imperial army, and entered into force in 1947, had already been reinterpreted for ages in the direction of an ever more proactive defense policy, but avoiding giving Japanese public opinion, as well as the rest of the world, the impression of putting into question this almost sacred pacifism.

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Her section 9 stipulate that “The Japanese people forever renounce war” and, for this purpose,“there will never be maintained land, sea and air forces, or other war potential” in the country. In 1954, to affirm what today appears more and more like a semantic fiction, the army Japan was called the “Japan Self-Defense Forces”. Curious paradox that of a country acquiring weapons while promising never to use them and which has never fired a shot since 1945. To date, it has four helicopter carriers and aircraft carriers, twenty attack submarines and more than a hundred fighter planes, including the latest generation American F35s…

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