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Will Japan end its 59-year-old policy on military?

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U.S. Softens on Japanese Re-Armament

Will Japan end its 59-year-old policy on military?

In light of North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile programs, is the U.S. ready to see Japan change its 59-year-old, constitutionally imposed policy of maintaining a military authorized and equipped only to defend the home islands?

In 2003, the U.S. welcomed Japan’s support in the Iraq War, in which the Japanese deployed a small contingent of troops—but for non-combat activities only.

But at a press briefing last week, White House Spokesman Tony Snow hinted the U.S. is open to more revolutionary change in Japan’s military posture when I asked whether the U.S. had any objection to recent statements from Tokyo that they might amend their post-war constitution to permit rearmament.

“We will let the Japanese take responsibility for their affairs,” Snow said, adding that “if you end up having an arms escalation on the part of the North Koreans, you’ve got to expect that people in the neighborhood are going to respond. And the question is whether the Chinese want that to happen, or whether the South Koreans want that to happen, and, for that matter, whether the Japanese want it to happen.”

When I pressed him as to whether that meant the U.S. would go along with Japan’s amending its 1947 constitution written under U.S. occupation (Article 9 of which guarantees Japanese pacifism by limiting its military forces), Snow said: “I’m not answering that question because I don’t get into the hypotheticals. Wait until we have a situation like that, and I’ll give you a response.”

Snow’s statement came days after Shinzo Abe, who is chief cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Junichiro Kiozumi and is considered the frontrunner to succeed him, suggested Japan should examine the legality and possibility of pre-emptive strikes against North Korea’s missiles. Last fall, Abe’s party released draft language for rewriting Article 9 that would allow Japan to engage in “collective” defense (i.e. coming to the aid of other nations). And in 2002, the hawkish Abe said he interpreted Japan’s constitution to allow Japan to possess nuclear weapons “as long as they are small.”

Republican defense experts seemed cautiously open to the prospect of a re-armed Japan.

“Given the nature of the North Korean crisis, I think it is appropriate to re-examine the Japanese constitutional limitations on force,” said Frank Carlucci, secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan. “This, of course, is a decision only the Japanese can make.”

Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney, who served as assistant secretary of Defense under Reagan, was blunter. “To the extent that we’re leaving [the Japanese] naked to an extended threat, we leave them no choice,” he said. Reacting to Snow’s statement on possible Japanese rearmament, Gaffney told me: “There seems to be a signal being sent in what Snow has said.”

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Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ?ť and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ?ť and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â?ť video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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