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Remilitarizing Japanese Universities

SNA (Tokyo) — Japanese academics and scientists argue that the Abe government is in the process of shifting the nation’s university system and its industry from a footing of peace and consumerism toward the re-formation of a military-industrial complex, which will make the society increasingly dependent on arms exports and foreign wars.

The Shingetsu News Agency interviewed two professors from Rikkyo University in Tokyo.

Transcript

Osamu Nishitani: After the Pacific War ended, Japanese scientists came together across the country and pledged never to cooperate with such a war ever again. They decided that it was not their job to help kill people. So, the Science Council of Japan gathered to meet and released a declaration against military research, and they maintained that policy ever since. But the current government desires remilitarization and increasing military preparations. Naturally, we should defend ourselves if attacked, but launching out from our country and attacking is not something we should ever do again.

That’s the policy Japan has long maintained. But, the recent government has altered the interpretation of the Constitution in order to allow them to send the military overseas. This is a behavior similar to attacking. These are the kinds of changes they are now making. They are increasing cooperation with the US military. They want Japan involved in new weapons development.

As you know, Japanese science is top class in the world. They want to utilize the high technology that until now has not been used for the military. But, they want to create a new military industry, and whatever is useful for military development. They believe this will create a new market. So what was forbidden to sell, now becomes allowed.

The government wants this change to happen at once. In regard to Japanese universities, from around 2004, the policy direction began to change. The government started encouraging competition between all of the various colleges and universities. For that purpose, the previous system of distributing subsidies to universities was changed. Government-provided subsidies were reduced each year.

Naturally, with less money given by the government, professors had less money to complete their studies and researchers had less money for their experiments. They were now supposed to find additional research funds from outside the universities. That was the new direction. And so, especially those researchers involved in expensive projects… increasingly… they were getting less and less money for their work and were forced to look for research funds elsewhere.

And then, starting the year before last, the Defense Ministry, for the purpose of military weapons development, began offering its first research funding to universities. They began soliciting applications from researchers. This was aimed normally at university researchers. And in that way universities became affiliated to military research and weapons development.

The Defense Ministry began offering research funds in FY2015.

FY2015 Budget US$2.7 million.
FY2016 Budget US$5.5 million.
FY2017 Budget US$100 million.

Rika Kayama: There are, of course, many universities in Japan. Some of them, including my university, have researchers vowing not to do military research. Some entire universities have made this declaration. Kansai University is an example. Another is my own private school [Rikkyo University], and also there is Tohoku University, and Hiroshima University, and Niigata University. Those are national universities. And, oh, just recently Meiji University joined in. All of these universities declared they will not accept military research funds from the Defense Ministry.

Osamu Nishitani: We believe that science must be used to benefit human happiness, human prosperity, and wonderful things to make all of our lives better. That’s what we want our science to achieve. Not to destroy things and kill people. We cannot again let our research be used that way. That is the way that Japanese scientists feel.

That’s why the Science Council of Japan rejected military research all of those years ago. But if that policy is now brushed aside, and we say “self-defense” research is now allowed—“self-defense” actually meaning “research for the state”. They say, if it’s useful for the state, then it’s all okay. Well, then… what will logically follow from that? It will be a situation just like during the Pacific War. “This is research for the state, so it’s good.” There’s also money in it, so everyone wants to join it. And so, from that situation for those researchers who don’t get self-defense funding and for those who reject military funding, they’ll say, “You’re not really working for the country!” You are not helping protect the people!”

And those researchers will be put under pressure. Japanese scientists, step-by-step, will be pushed into joining military research and weapons development. If so, then looking back over the past seventy years what about our past lessons and experience? Did we learn anything at all from the Pacific War?

Rika Kayama: When you explain this issue to ordinary citizens they usually say they find it very frightening—if researchers start using their minds for the military and we start heading toward new wars. At the time of the Second World War, speaking professionally as a medical doctor, for example, in the case of Nazi Germany, medical doctors cooperated actively with the Nazis. They even assisted in massacre and genocide. We must remember such episodes in history. Ordinary citizens always say it must not happen again, but how about this issue here in Japan? The media usually doesn’t talk about it and frankly, most citizens don’t know about this issue.

Osamu Nishitani: As our research moves towards military development Japanese industry will move towards making weapons. The government is promoting such militarized industry. They say we must become a weapons exporter. This is what the government is investing in. When that happens, Japanese society will think “I see. We must maintain military research. We must have a militarized industry. And if we don’t have it, the economy will be bad.”

And when enough people start thinking that way, the peaceful economic structure that Japan maintains will gradually be destroyed. We will become trapped in a cycle of militarized industry and we will come to need constant war.

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