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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Kenji Goto and the Japanese Constitution

Kenji Goto and the Japanese Constitution.
With the beheading by ISIS of journalist and humanitarian, Kenji Goto (1967-2015), last Saturday, following that of fellow Japanese national, Haruna Yukawa, Japan feels it has been drawn into a global situation that till now it was only an observer of.

Japan can be readily forgiven for thinking that a promise of a USD200 million contribution in non-military humanitarian aid for those uprooted by conflicts in the Middle East does not warrant being called "involvement" in the Middle East, any more than the person on the street who gives 200 yen to a homeless person would call themselves "involved" in solving the problem of homelessness.

However, having two citizens crudely executed without trial--without rightful cause, even--has catapulted Japan into involvement whether it likes it or not. Prime Minister Abe announced on his recent visit to Jordan where he met King Abdullah that Japan is making a "proactive contribution to peace" by contributing the above sum. This must be seen in the light of his pronouncement just half a year ago, on July 1 2014, that Japan would reinterpret the Japanese constitution to allow Tokyo to militarily support partners under attack.

"Contributing to peace" is, from a politician's mouth, not necessarily any different from saying "going to war." The world's biggest "contributor to peace" at present, the United States, imposed this constitution on Japan over 60 years ago, but is sure to at least tacitly approve of the revision and thus perhaps be somewhat relieved of the burden of providing its post-WW2 military umbrella for Japan.

Abe has at least three more years of free rein, having just won a snap election. The economic stimulus he promised does not seem to be generating much more steam, so the ever trusty fallback of nationalism looks like it may be the next political prop his party will turn to. China and North Korea are always good for keeping the populace's nerves on edge, but the horror the nation has just witnessed may well be harnessed to get the ultimate popular seal of approval for a whole new, fewer-holds-barred foreign policy.

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