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Why are we coming to Strasbourg? NATO and Japanese peace movement

NATO, it is an issue we can not but be indifferent to even here in Japan, because the United States, making Japan into its stronghold in Asia and the Pacific, is trying to implement its world military strategy through it. At the same time, Japanese ruling forces, in cooperation with NATO, are also attempting to further promote its policy of dispatching “Self-Defense Force” abroad which was prohibited by the Constitution [1].

Since 1990-91, NATO has gradually increased its contact with non-European countries. NATO established a set of general guidelines on relations with these countries in 1998. The term “Contact Countries [2]” was agreed in 2004. Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan currently have this
status. In 2006, North Atlantic Council (NAC) passed a resolution for the promotion of cooperation in Afghanistan with these countries including Japan. This type of cooperation has been motivated by the US strategy of “Global NATO”.

It was epoch-making in the relationship between NATO and Japan that a former Prime Minister Shintaro Abe was present in the North Atlantic Council meeting in 2007 (12 January). There he said “Japanese will no longer shy away from carrying out overseas activities involving the Self-Defense Force/SDF/, if it is for the sake of international peace and stability. It is in this spirit that Japan has engaged in SDF operations in Iraq and in the Indian Ocean [3]”. NATO highly evaluated this statement, saying “Prime Minister Abe made a historic address” and “he pledged to enhance concrete co-operation between Japan and NATO, with a particular focus on Afghanistan.”[4] In March 2007, Japan formalized its assistance by providing 2 billion yen (around USD 20 million) for activities in Afghanistan. Japan holds unofficial consultations with Political Committee of NAC. It
also promotes cooperation with NATO in different fields, by sending members of SDF to NATO Defense University (Rome) as well as to its exercise for disaster assistance. Thus both sides have promoted their cooperation in different ways.

NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Japan and have a meeting with a former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in December 2007, in which Mr. Fukuda “expressed his determination to cooperate with NATO in Afghan government activities controlling weapons” (Joint Press Release, 13 December, 2007). Hoop Scheffer, on the other hand, said in the press conference (Tokyo, 14 Dec.2007) “Present size both of ground and air force is not enough” in Afghanistan, and “Japan could substantially contribute to this situation, for instance, by providing helicopter-transport”.
Actually it was a request of the US to Japanese government to send heli-transporters to Afghanistan. Secretary General also said “I would be happy if Japan takes part in the ISAF operation”. It showed a desire of NATO headquarters to involve Japan into ground military operation in Afghanistan.
In Japan, not only ruling parties, but also the biggest opposition Democratic Party is also in favor of Japan’s participation.

Thus military cooperation between NATO and Japan is deeply connected with the US strategy. ”Foreign Affairs” (September, 2006), US magazine sometimes taking the words of the mouth US administration in its foreign policy, carried an article titled “Global NATO” and stressed a need to make
NATO into world-wide military alliance, and to invite Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries as a full member. Japan-US Security Consultative Committee (SCC) composed by foreign and defense minister from both Japan and the US, confirmed the reinforcement of NATO-Japan cooperation. After the
meeting, Robert M. Gates, US Secretary of Defense (at that time) said “We are seeking a way to realize NATO-Japan cooperation. A good example of that cooperation is Japan’s assistance for the reconstruction in Afghanistan”. The statement of Mr. Abe was in line with this policy.

The US has two aims in this regard; one is to promote the global displacement of Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the other is to help NATO to act globally even into Asia and the Pacific. This move is linked to the “Transformation” of US forces in Japan which is aggressive upgrade of US-Japan alliance, with the reinforcement of US bases in Japan as well as the integration of SDF into US forces.

However this direction has problems in its course; one is the contradiction inside NATO, the other is the public opposition of Japanese people.

For instance, at the NATO Summit in Riga, November 2006, there reached no agreement on “Global Partnership”, therefore Japan and other countries were defined as “Contact Countries” not as “Partners”. This idea of “Global NATO” advocated by former Bush administration would create further
contradiction among NATO members.

As for Japan, former Prime Minister Abe, active in NATO cooperation and the revision of peaceful provisions of Japanese Constitution, resigned after a disastrous defeat in the election for the House of Councilors in 2007. That was clear message of Japanese public against that policy. At the same time, people’s struggles in different parts of Japan including Okinawa are preventing the US bases’ reinforcement. The military cooperation between NATO and Japan would deepen the contradiction with public opinion in favor of article 9 of the Constitution. We will fight in solidarity with all people sharing common cause for a world of peace and justice, without military allegiances, foreign military bases and nuclear weapons.

[1] Article 9 of Japanese Constitution: 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. In order 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.
[2] http://www.nato.int/issues/contact_countries/index.html
[3] http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/europe/pmv0701/nato.html
[4] http://www.nato.int/isaf/topics/factsheets/nato_japan_coop.pdf

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