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Japan's moves risk creating a new Cold War

By Cai Hong | China Daily | Updated: 2016-04-05 08:12

Days before the country's new security laws came into effect on March 29, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked National Defense Academy graduates to prepare to implement them.

But, embarrassingly, an increasing number of cadets are not interested in careers in the country's Self-Defense Forces.

Cadets at the academy pay no tuition fees and receive free room and board along with monthly stipends. The academy's graduates usually end up becoming SDF officers. However, 47 out of 419 graduates this year preferred the private sector rather than joining the SDF, double the number last year.

It is the largest number since 1991 when a record 94 graduates declined to join the SDF. That year, Japan was deliberating on whether SDF personnel should be sent to the Gulf War.

Japanese defense ministry officials have tried to play down the choice of the cadets, claiming that private businesses offer more openings for university graduates.

But the truth is that those graduates are appalled by the just-executed security laws, which greatly expand the SDF's duties overseas and allow Japan to come to the aid of allies around the globe in contingencies that "gravely affect" Japan's security.

Many people in Japan call the new laws "war legislation," fearing the nation will either enter, or be dragged into, military conflicts that are not of its making.

Some 600 lawyers are scheduled to file a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court challenging the constitutionality of the laws this month.

When a country attempts to build a bigger army, it usually tries to find justifications. The Abe administration cites China's efforts to protect its maritime territory, along with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear and missile programs, as concrete examples of the changing regional security climate necessitating the new laws.

When US President Barack Obama met with Republic of Korea's President Park Geun-hye and Abe on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit in Washington on Thursday, some Japanese observers claimed there was a "new Cold War". They were thrilled to put the US, Japan and the ROK in one camp and China, Russia and the DPRK in the other.

This "new Cold War" is taking shape in action. Japan's Defense Agency has stationed 160 Ground SDF personnel on Yonaguni Island, which is some 150 kilometers south of China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, to monitor vessels and aircraft in the area by radar.

Japan also plans to dispatch GSDF troops to the Miyako Island and Ishigaki Island in its Okinawa prefecture and Amami Oshima Island of Kagoshima prefecture.

Drills to simulate the recapturing of a remote island have been conducted by the SDF with the US military.

Japan has also supported countries with disputes with China in the South China Sea in a bid to keep China in check.

The security legislation "merely lays the foundation", Abe was quoted by Japanese media as saying to those lawmakers who are close to him on the occasion of the security laws taking effect. He said it is what happens in the future that matters.

Indeed, Japan's neighbors need to pay close heed to what the country will do in the years ahead.

The author is China Daily Tokyo bureau chief.

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