There is probably no better method of predicting what people and institutions might do in the future than to have an accurate understanding of their behavior in the past. So much of what is popularly taken as surprising and “unpredictable” might easily have been foreseen by a better knowledge of the contexts, experiences, and the previous actions of the players involved in the construction of an event. When powerholders attempt to suppress the records of official behavior, it is therefore not simply the concern of a handful of cloistered intellectuals, but a matter that can be expected to have real-world impact on future policymaking and the fate of ordinary citizens.
The issue of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fringe views on wartime history has become a global topic whenever contemporary Japanese diplomacy is discussed, but the problem of selective, self-serving narratives of the past has also infected his coalition partner, Komeito.
Japan is taking a major step in its military strategy, conducting a large-scale amphibious drill designed to put on display its ability to conquer an island. This follows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s repeated references to the Falklands in his speeches, a polite and indirect, yet unequivocal way, of warning China that an “invasion” of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands would be met with an amphibious counterstrike.
The debate on the meaning of Article 9 of the Constitution is once again making headlines. Beyond the proposals for reinterpretation, and even formal amendment, we can observe yet again practical policy moves crossing its boundaries. In part, these moves reflect the always difficult distinction between defense and offense. Another line which may be shifting is that between self-defense and collective defense.
Last year the Defense Ministry began floating a plan to the media suggesting that they wanted to build a GSDF radar base on the remote island of Yonaguni, a stone’s throw from Taiwan, as a measure to keep an eye on Chinese naval activities in the seas around Okinawa Prefecture. The plan is to base one hundred or more GSDF officers permanently on this tiny island, which is less than 30 square kilometers in size and has a total population of around 1,700 people.