By Theodore Shoebat
In September of 2020, Japan commenced its largest set of military exercises since 1993, in order to scare the Chinese and prepare its soldiers to defend the country’s islands, especially the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which both Japan and China have been contesting over for years. Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi stated:
“In order to respond effectively to various situations, including attacks on the islands, it is essential that the necessary forces are deployed quickly and extensively, depending on the situation”
The exercises will last from September to November and will involve 100,000 soldiers,20,000 vehicles, in addition to 120 aircraft and private ships. Amongst Japan’s goals is to expand its military strength and capabilities. It has been doing this by getting state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets and converting warships to aircraft so that they can carry such fighter jets. Japan is also building new destroyers, submarines and missiles. All of this is being done as a military policy against the Chinese.
As Kishi told CNN: “Against Chinese action to Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu Islands in China) and other parts of the East China Sea … we have to demonstrate that the government of Japan is resolutely defending our territory with the greater number of Japanese coast guard vessels than that of China”. The adamancy that Japan has for these uninhabited islands is just as strong as it is in China. The two stubborn countries both refuse to back down on their claim, but since not a single soul is living in these islands, then what is the purpose of all such tensions? It has nothing to do with these large rocks in the sea and everything to do with power — power over the seas, hegemony over maritime territory and resources and the leverage to scare away one’s neighbors. In 2020, China’s Foreign Ministry declared: “The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are an inherent part of China’s territory, and it is our inherent right to carry out patrols and law enforcement activities in these waters”. By having patrol ships moving around the islands and expanding laws that give its coast guard expanded power, China is imposing itself in the area and thus conveying a message of power.
According to Japanese authorities, the Chinese Coast Guard has maneuvered its vessels into Japanese territorial waters (or within 12 nautical miles of Japanese land) a total of 88 times between Japanese 1st and the end of August of 2021. This is being done as a show of will of Chinese geopolitical power over this maritime territory. In the words of Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London: “Exercising coastal state rights is an important step in corroborating sovereignty through practice”. Japan knows this, hence why Nobuo Kishi stated: “There are actions that continue to challenge an integral part of Japan’s sovereign territory.” Both countries are vying for domination in the East China Sea, and in such an atmosphere of animosity and national egoism, the prospect of war is raised quite high.
Tensions between China and Japan do not just revolve around the Senkaku Islands, but Taiwan as well. China considers Taiwan to be its territory. In order to maintain peace, the United States entertains this idea as part of standard policy. Thus, while the US does not officially recognize Taiwan as Chinese territory, it will publicly acknowledge the “One China” narrative that deems Taiwan as under the authority of Beijing. Japan does not recognize Taiwan as being under China and has expressed a willingness to push the Chinese away from the island nation.
In July of 2021, Japan released its annual defence white paper in which it stated that “stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security.” By “stabilizing” Japan means repulsing any presence of the Chinese military out of Taiwanese territory. Will China listen? Only if it wants to give up its territorial claims in which case it would give more power to Japan; for if China relinquishes a position it will only be refilled by the other greatest power of Asia — Japan. Since both sides are obstinate, and there are no signs of either side abating their positions, then there is no sign of future peace. Thus, war in the Far East is inevitable.
Kishi has stated that the Taiwan controversy should be seen with “a sense of crisis.” If the situation is to be deemed as a crisis, then how could there be peace in the future. The political atmosphere of East Asia is filled with hazardous gas that only needs the lighting of one match to fully erupt in a conflagration of flames. Taiwan is at the center of a water access way for Japanese imports, or as Kishi explains: “What’s happening in Taiwan is directly linked to Japan … Ninety percent of energy that Japan uses is imported through the areas around Taiwan”. Such a lifeline for Japan’s economy will thus be fiercely combated for. What is a military exercise but a preparation for war? What is Japan doing, having 100,000 troops training for battle, but preparing them to fight their Asian neighbor?
Nobuo Kishi declared that Japan is prepared to defend the Senkaku Islands by “matching any Chinese threat ship for ship, and beyond” if necessary. What is this but an expression of tension, and a sign that warfare in the future should not surprise us? Neither Japan nor China have oil, and the area around the Senkaku is an important lane for importing oil for both countries. As is common in warfare, import routes become the thing over which nations kill one another. Moreover, it is believed that the area around the Senkaku are rich with oil, something that both Japan and China could use to be energy independent, and thus why such a place is being sought after by both of these countries and why the they’re both expressing the prospect of going to war over these giant rocks on the sea.
In the militarist agenda of Japan lies a religious aspiration, one rooted in a paganism that springs from far antiquity: the Shinto religion that once dominated the imperial cult of the Japanese government but that today lingers behind the curtains. The Japanese government under the Liberal Democratic Party just elected as its new prime minister Fumiko Kishida. Kishida is a member of the ultra-nationalist cult Nippon Kaigi, which wants to revive Japan’s imperialist religion of the emperor and the worship of the sun-goddess, Amatersu.
This political cult is a racialist pagan organization that holds the Japanese race as superior since (as it believes) it has a divine origin from the goddess Amaterasu. In the words of scholar Andrew Weiss, the cult believes “in the unique spiritual superiority of the Japanese people and the religious importance of the Emperor.” This heritage is held in Japanese as banseiikkei, and is believed to be the source of the Japanese kokutai or “national body.” What the umma is to Islam, the kokutai is to Japanese pagans. This cult believes that in order to preserve the kokutai, the worship of the emperor — with all of its ritual — must be observed, and the Japanese people must worship at the main Amaterasu shrine in Ise (known as the Ise Jingu Shrine).
Nippon Kaigi was founded in 1997 as a merging of two groups: Nippon wo Mamoru Kai (the Committee to Protect Japan) the ranks of which greatly consisted of Shinto shrine leadership, and Nippon wo Mamoru Kokumin Kaigi (Citizens’ Meeting to Protect Japan) which consisted mainly of Right-wing business leaders and public intellectuals. The goal of the new organization was to squash the growing Leftism and Communism in Japan and to revive the imperial cult of the Emperor and the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Today, these Right-wing nationalists see their fight against China as a continuation of the founding purpose of Nippon Kaigi, and that is the war against Communism. In this struggle with the enemies of Japan, these nationalists see the restoration of Japanese traditional religion as a way by which to combat the forces against Japan and to protect the culture and thus Japanese identity. One of the policy goals of Nippon Kaigi is “Moving the Japan of tomorrow towards its beautiful traditional character.” In this aspiration of moving Japan to a traditional involves both religion and militarism.
Truly, in the ideology of Japanese nationalism, religion and militarism are inseparable. Central within the movement of Japanese nationalism is the continuation of worship in the Yasukuni Shrine. In this temple it is believed that the spirits of deceased Japanese soldiers are enshrined as gods. Japanese politicians, including Shinzo Abe himself (who is also a part of the Nippon Kaigi cult), have visited this shrine, which is to the joy of nationalists and to the spite of the Chinese. The reason for this controversy is that it is not just mere soldiers who are deified in this shrine, but class A war criminals (“Class A” is defined as “crimes against peace”). It was also Shinzo Abe who pushed for changing the Japanese Constitution to allow military involvement in war.
Nationalists see the changing of the Constitution and the revival of traditionalism (such as visiting the Yasukuni shrine) as essential for the kokutai in that it promotes kunizukuri or “nation building.” The nationalist cause of altering the constitution and reviving traditionalism is connected by them with the Shinto myth of Japan’s mythological origins, in which the god Okuninushi creates Japan and gives it to the descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu, the royal family — the Japanese imperial line. Thus, it is the divine right of the Japanese people to return to militarism and the worship of the gods, and this should not be impeded by foreign forces such as the United States or China. This ideology of Japan’s divine origin in the movement to change the country’s constitution was seen in 2012 when the Liberal Democratic Party put together a draft constitution extolling Japan as a country that “receives an Emperor [from the gods]” and has “pride in country and hometown,” and establishes the Constitution as a means of protecting the “good traditions” of Japan.
The Nippon Kaigi are typical of a politically traditionalist movement: accusations of warcrimes are Western and Chinese Communist propaganda, and if there were any atrocities then we should overlook them because it was the way of the times, a part of war within the standards of that era; the Japanese invasion of other Asian countries was not a war for conquest and genocide, but one of liberation of the Western imperialists, a war of the East against the conquering West. Traditionalism, in the paradigm of the cult, is a return to the pagan roots of Japan, with its Zen Buddhist callousness and the indiscriminate obedience to an emperor who the whole world must bow down to. In the paradigm of the Japanese traditionalist cult, Japan must rescind whatever apologies it made in the past for atrocities it committed during the war (specifically the 1995 Maruyama Statement and 1993 Kono Statement). The fact that Kishida belongs to the Nippon Kaigi, and the fact Japan is speaking of possible war with China, tells us that Japanese policy towards militarism and nationalism is not going to change but will only intensify.