Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Playing with Fire in the South China Sea: the Voyage of the Izumi

Beijing.

An aircraft carrier that dare not be named one and a show of military force by a country in

contravention of its own constitution herald the consequences of a decision taken some years ago signaling that post-war certainty is no longer such a sure thing.

The Izumo, a 250-meter-long “flat-topped destroyer’’, is being dispatched to the South China Sea by Japan in May in a show of force not seen since 1945.

Named after a cruiser that was sunk by the US in 1945, the warship is in reality an aircraft carrier by any other name. However, aircraft carriers imply a force projection well beyond Japan’s shores, therefore it must be called a destroyer or a helicopter carrier.

After stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the Izumo will then take part in the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

China claims almost all the disputed waters through which the Izumo will plough its wake. Japan does not have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea but does have one in the East China Sea. A growing military presence has fuelled concern in Japan and the West about China.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea which has rich fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits and through which around $5 trillion of global sea-borne trade passes each year.

China sees the US backing Japan and pushing it to take on the role of a regional policeman.  The quaintly named US pivot to Asia is in reality a major naval build up just off its coast.

The Izumo’s passage is the latest signal that the world changed on July 1, 2014. That sentence is not a resort to a clapped-out cliché. When the Tokyo cabinet on that day “reinterpreted”, in fact overrode, a key clause in its constitution meant to ensure the country’s post-war pacifist approach, it ushered in an era of uncertainty. Since 1945 it has been taken as certain that Japanese troops would never be sent in to combat zones should conflict occur in the Far East.

The reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 by the Tokyo cabinet means that is no longer the case. There is no clamor in Japan for reinterpretation. Quite the opposite. Opinion polls show a clear majority against reinterpretation. Defenders of reinterpretation claim that the security situation is changing and Japan has to adapt to the new circumstances. China is flexing its increasing military muscle and even has an aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a refitted hulk it bought from Ukraine. Therefore, Tokyo’s argument goes, Japan must take on a greater burden of its defense responsibilities and free itself from the shackles of a constitution that is outdated and imposed on it by the occupying US forces in 1947. China sees it somewhat differently. It views the reinterpretation as the latest sign of a Japan that is becoming more aggressive to China and by ditching Article 9, a Rubicon has been crossed. In 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the United Nations that Japan will “newly bear” the flag of “proactive pacifism”. Decoded, it means confront China.

A month before Abe’s UN speech, Japan launched the Izumo.

When all these are added up, Beijing sees the sum of its fears.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is written in a language that is crisp and clear and seems, at first hand, not to require any reinterpretation as the official English translation of the article shows.

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.’’

Abe claims that this allows Japan to export arms, deploy troops overseas and continue with a military build up.

Policies are often presented in poetry and government is normally conducted in the less idealistic manner of prose but Abe’s skills at reinterpretation require a linguistic flexibility that normally falls under the category of fiction.

“By simply changing the interpretation of the constitution to achieve its policy objectives, the Abe administration is violating the status of the constitution as the nation’s supreme law to which all other laws and government decisions must conform,’’ the Japan Times said in an editorial on July 2, 2014.

“The move,’’ it continued, “will serve as a dangerous precedent for Japan’s democracy that must be based on the rule of law under the constitution. By taking cues from the decision, future administrations may try to render clauses in the constitution meaningless by merely reinterpreting the clauses to fit their agenda through cabinet decisions. Abe insisted that the cabinet decision does not harm the normative nature of the Constitution. This is a lie.’’

These are strong words that would defy even Abe’s ability to reinterpret.

More articles by:

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail