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Keeping the Peace

The Positive Aspects of the American Occupation of Japan

By Misasha C. Suzuki

On Tuesday, Sept. 23, history was made. The United States and Japan updated and approved a new Security Pact that effectively replaced the previous 1978 guidelines aimed at Cold War era issues. This new agreement ensures that Japan will provide military support for American forces in an Asian crisis; this is especially important given the current volatility of the region. Under the terms of this pact, military support could come in the form of U.S. access to Japanese bases, Japanese minesweeping of sea lanes and joint U.S.-Japan evacuation of civilians in the event of a war. In the case of North Korea attacking South Korea, or China doing the same to Taiwan, for example, Japan now has the permission of the United States to aid American military efforts. Sounds good, right? Wrong.

This decision begins to strike at the heiwa kenpo or Peace Constitution, which was probably the best result of the American occupation of Japan after World War II. Currently in the Japanese Diet (the equivalent of Parliament), legislation is being considered that would considerably revise the Peace Constitution so that the peaceful focus of this document would be forever altered. This concerns some high officials in Japan, such as Takako Doi, head of the second largest political party in Japan, the Social Democratic Party. In her recent speech at Harvard Law School, Doi stated that the MacArthur Constitution "gave Japan the courage to stand as a peace-loving nation"; she found the changes in the U.S.-Japan Security Agreement to be full of "inherent contradictions," including the idea that Japan could be on the edge of an Asian war through means of supplying and aiding the Americans without actually participating offensively in it. The difference, according to Doi, between the two positions was "minimal" at best.

I never thought I would see the goodness in the American occupation of postwar Japan. As far as I was concerned, American soldiers "keeping the peace" and working to reform a country that they knew little about was unnecessary. However, after hearing Doi speak about the Peace Constitution, I realize that there were merits in what the Americans accomplished. I thought that Japanese people who had grown up in postwar Japan, as did Doi, would never be able to commend the occupation for much at all. Therefore, it was a real shock to hear her proclaim the Peace Constitution as a "refreshing" break from war and strife.

Doi's speech also made me realize what the Peace Constitution really means for Japan: it means that no Japanese soldier has killed anyone since the war ended; it means that Japan cannot enter have nuclear weapons since such offensive action is forbidden under Article 9 of the Peace Constitution. It means that Japan is an effective peace-keeping nation in the midst of a region of the world recently in conflict. And it means that America should be doing everything it can to preserve this stability, rather than destroying it through a revised U.S.-Japan Security Agreement.

The Peace Constitution is unique because no other country, after losing a major war, has had all offensive power taken away from it by its victor. This is exactly why the Peace Constitution should be preserved in its full sense. This document was written after a period of great strife, during which both sides learned what it meant to fight and lose lives.

In order to keep the peace in the Asia/Pacific region, both the U.S. and Japan need to realize that nothing beneficial will result from these revisions of the Security Agreement. China has already voiced its extreme disapproval of the new pact, especially with regard to how the U.S. and Japan are going to view Taiwan in light of these revisions. How many countries will the U.S. and Japan agitate before this plan backfires?

If peace is truly the key to this pact (as both countries claim it is), then let the Peace Constitution be. Japan has something truly special and worth upholding in the Peace Constitution. Let's not fix something that was never broken.

Misasha C. Suzuki '99 is a joint Social Studies and East Asian Studies concentrator and co-president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Japan Society.

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