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Political Non-violence and the Threat of a Remilitarized Asia Pacific

By Archbishop Joseph M. Takami, S.S.

March 12, 2007

On March 12, 2007, Woodstock co-sponsored, along with Pax Christi USA and the Georgetown University President's Office and Theology Department, a lecture by Archbishop Joseph M. Takami of Nagasaki and Sister Filo Hirota on "Political Non-violence and the Threat of a Remilitarized Asia Pacific." Catholic News Service reported on the event. The text from Archbishop Takami appears below.


Good evening. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to share our concerns for peace and security in the Asia Pacific Region. My special thanks to Georgetown University, Department of Theology, Woodstock Theological Center and Office of the President and Pax Christi USA. I also would like to express my gratitude to American people for their help they gave after the War to reconstruct the country. My parish priest was an American who stayed with us until I was twelve years old. His presence in my life as a child made me always feel close to the American people. What I would like to tell you this evening comes from my heart as a Japanese Catholic who survived the atomic bomb in my mother’s womb in Nagasaki sixty years ago. Let me tell you briefly about myself so that you can understand from where my commitment for peace and non-violence comes.

My personal history as Tainai hibakusha

Within a week from August 9, 1945, four members of my immediate family including my grandmother and two aunts died. After 12 years, a cousin died. I can never forget the tragic and violent death of this young man of 16 years old. Though the justification for dropping the bombs on the non-combatant population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to save over one million lives of American soldiers, the Japanese Imperial Army in August of 1945, had been practically defeated and did not have any capability to strike back. I grew up listening and witnessing to so many stories full of pain, sufferings and destruction. At the same time, the direct experience of the atomic bomb taught us a precious lesson of non-violence as a way of life, a conviction, a belief and a non-negotiable commitment.

In 1981, His Holiness John Paul II visited Japan. His Hiroshima peace message continues to inspire and direct our commitment to non-violence. He said:

War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death. To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future. To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war. To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to peace. To remember what the people of this city suffered is to renew our faith in man, in his capacity to do what is good, in his freedom to choose what is right, in his determination to turn disaster into a new beginning.

Indeed, war is destruction of human life and all forms of life. As we commit ourselves to the future, we, Japanese, have to remember the past not only as a victim but also as an aggressor. Japan victimized millions of civilians especially in the neighboring countries of the Asia Pacific. Aggressive colonization of these countries is characterized by racism and hatred. Racism blinds us to see the other as a human being just like us. How can we justify mass killing of innocent lives if we look at them as human beings just like us?

It is from this conviction as a Tainai Hibakusha (Hibakusa en uterus – an atomic bomb victim in my mother’s uterus) that I would like to develop the topic for this evening: Political Non-Violence and the Threat of a Remilitarized Asia Pacific.

The on-going reality of Japan’s militarization poses a grave threat to the Asia Pacific Region, as does the effort also of the U.S. government to consolidate Japan as a willing partner in its global “War on Terror.”

Under the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the United States was “granted the use by its land, air and naval forces of facilities and areas in Japan” only “for the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East.” Today, the U.S. maintains 135 military installations in Japan in 27 municipalities, occupying over 1,100 km2. The Japanese government covers all expenses except the salary of the U.S. personnel stationed there, whose number is around 40,000.

At present we are witnessing a radical and qualitative change in the U.S.-Japan relationship. The bilateral agreements “U.S.–Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future” of October 2005 and the “Roadmap for Realignment Implementation” worked out at the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee in May 2006, signed by the “two-plus-two”, namely, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Machimura and Minister of State for Defense Ohno, concretized a process of redefinition of the U.S. –Japan military alliance which had already begun around the mid-1990s. The Clinton-Hashimoto joint statement in 1996 made it clear that, though the Cold War had ended, the U.S. would maintain its military presence in Asia-Pacific and that the Japanese commitment to this strategy will continue to constitute the corner stone of this security setup in Asia Pacific. The major and qualitative change made under the new arrangement is that the alliance is to cover the “Arc of Instability” running from Korea to the Middle East and beyond. Contrary to the limitations of the 1960 treaty, Japan has been made into a major hub for American military operations all over the world, transforming the Japanese military forces into part of the globally deployed U.S. military forces. The legality of this process is extremely dubious since the contents of the new arrangements are of a nature that should require a formal revision of the treaty through democratic procedures.

The “Transformation and Realignment” document lists a whole gamut of strengthened military cooperation ranging from Japan’s commitment to full participation in ballistic missile defense, counter- terrorism, search and destroy operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, through response to attacks by weapons of mass destruction and joint use of bases and facilities in Japan with the Self Defense Forces to the U.S. use of seaport and airport facilities, roads, water spaces, airspaces, and frequency bands.

Another aspect of grave concern is the unification of Japan’s Self Defence Forces (SDF) and U.S. forces under the U.S. command. The document “U.S.-Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future” emphasizes “U.S. Forces and the SDF will establish a bilateral and joint operations center at Yokota base. The shared use of this center will ensure constant connectivity, coordination, and interoperability among U.S. forces in Japan and the SDF.” Given the power relations between the U.S. and Japanese military which are to be interconnected, there is little doubt that these “joint operations” must end up as operations that are totally commanded by the United States. One of the top priority tasks assigned to Japan under this arrangement is Japanese participation in the ballistic missile defense system.

The ongoing transformation and realignment of the U.S. military presence in Asia Pacific will include another major move, namely, the proposed transfer of the global headquarters of the First Army from Washington State to the Camp Zama near Tokyo which will command global operations of U.S. Army expeditionary task forces. The SDF will also establish the headquarters of a Ground SDF Central Readiness Force Command in the Camp Zama, “thereby strengthening the coordination between the headquarters.”

All these moves are unconstitutional. Article 9 of Japan’s Peace Constitution states, “Land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” In the 60 years since the Constitution was promulgated, no person has been killed under the right of belligerency of the Japanese state.” The missile defense system violates Article 9, the Triple Principles of Weapon Export Ban, the principle of peaceful use of space and the prohibition of the right of collective defense. Already in 2000, a report entitled “The United States and Japan: Advancing Toward a More Mature Partnership,” prepared by the Pentagon’s special committee chaired by the undersecretary of Defense Richard Armitage openly urged Japan to remove its constitutional restraints on the exercise of the right to “collective defense.” The Armitage report said this restraint was a major impediment to a “mature alliance” to be shaped after the model of the Anglo-American alliance and therefore should be removed. This was tantamount to demanding that Japan remove Article 9 by revising its constitution. A new Armitage report “The U.S.–Japan Alliance: Getting Asia Rights through 2020” published on February 17 says the alliance should remain at the core of U.S. strategy in Asia.

Japan has a no-nuclear policy based on the three principles of not possessing, not building and not importing nuclear weapons. And yet, this policy (especially not importing nuclear weapons) has been conveniently ignored both by the Japanese government and the U.S. Forces based in Japan. Yokosuka is a home base for the 7th Fleet. The cruisers and destroyers deployed there carry more than 546 Tomahawk missiles. George Washington, Nuclear Submarine, will be deployed at Yokosuka for the first time next year. Of 11 warships deployed there, 9 are Aegis. The citizens movement against the deployment of George Washington collected 500,000 signatures. The total population of Yokosuka is around 420,000. Though the city council passed a resolution against the deployment in 2005, the mayor now defends the Yokosuka base as the forefront of the ballistic missile defense. Deployment of advanced Patriot interceptor missiles (Kadena, Okinawa) and U.X. X-Band radar system (Shariki, Aomori), General Security of Military Information Agreement, are underway to enable and complete the ballistic missile system. Okinawa has the biggest arsenal in Asia that can store more than 50,000 tons of ammunition in 500 installations. Depleted uranium bullets, Cluster bombs and Daisy cutters are some of the weapons confirmed to be there. Considering the U.S. defense strategy, it is highly possible that tactical nuclear weapons are stored. In 1965, a hydrogen bomb on-board attack plane fell out of the aircraft carrier “Ticonderoga” in the open sea near Okinawa. The incident was made public only after 24 years by the New York Times. Retired navy captain Eugene Carole of the “Midway” in an interview made in 1989 affirmed that an aircraft carrier carries nuclear weapons in the open sea. The policy of the Japanese government is never to question the U.S. about the presence of nuclear weapons in Japan’s land, sea and air since the U.S. is aware of Japan’s no-nuclear policy.

Prime Minister Abe who is an important ally of the administration of Mr. Bush is committed to revise Article 9 in order to make Japan a country legitimately militarized even with nuclear weapons. You should know something about the nature of the government of the Liberal Democratic Party to question if American people should accept and approve a “mature alliance” as proposed by Mr. Armitage between the two countries. Do American people really want to support the government of Mr. Abe and what he is intending to do in the near future, including the revision of our Peace Constitution to make Japan a country legitimately militarized with nuclear arms? The second is the utmost importance of keeping Japan’s peace constitution as a necessary means for peace and stability in the world especially in the Asia Pacific region. Japan without Article 9 would be a serious threat to neighboring countries that had a negative experience of Japan’s aggressive colonization. Article 9, we believe, is a relevant response even for the entire world.

After five years of rule by former Prime Minister Koizumi, Japan came under a far-right government headed by Shinzo Abe on September, 2006. Abe built up his political career as tough advocate of historical revisionism, which justifies the imperial past of modern Japan. He played leading roles in all the far-right’s campaigns against the “masochist view of history” in school textbooks to deny the historical truths on “comfort women” and the “Nanjing massacre” to cite only two. His professed mission is to abolish the current Constitution that was made “under occupation” and establish a new constitution “made in Japan” based on “traditional Japanese values”. The slogan he used in campaigning for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party was “a beautiful country – Japan” based on patriotism and family values. The cabinet and the prime minister’s office are closely related to the two organizations that are campaigning for the change of the Constitution as well as for the cult of the Emperor as “the heart of Japan’s social self-understanding.” (Japan Conference Parliamentary Caucus and Shinto Giren).

North Korea’s nuclear weapons test last October has been used to justify the militarization of Japan, to neutralize the argument against the revision of Article 9 and to defend the sanction against North Korea including military sanction. At the United Nations, Japan energetically worked to produce a resolution mentioning Article 43 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter that opens the way to military sanction. Also the nuclear weapons test ignited all kinds of belligerent and bellicose utterances of some members of the government of Mr. Abe. Nakagawa, Chair of the LDP Policy Board proposed a discussion on whether Japan should possess nuclear weapons.(October 15, 2006) Foreign Minister Aso defended Nagakawa by saying that he had the right to freedom of speech. This is the first time in the post war history of Japan that a Foreign Minister spoke positively of nuclear weapons, which shocked many Japanese who have maintained their commitment to an anti-nuclear stance for 61 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The danger is that these politicians are irresponsibly playing with politics, expecting the audience to cheer for a more militarized Japan. Member of the House of Representative Koichi Kato, who was Director General of Defense Agency (today Ministry of Defense) of the ruling party, indicated that such nuclear armament discussion can even lead to the collapse of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Japan, whose Self Defense Forces constitute one of the strongest military forces in the world, would, without Article 9, pose a serious threat to neighboring countries of Asia. The defense budget of Japan is the third biggest in the world next to the U.S. and Russia. “Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has been a foundation for collective security throughout the Asia Pacific Region” (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict submitted to the UN, July 2005). The commitment of Prime Minister Abe to abolish Article 9 strongly supported by the administration of Mr. Bush is extremely dangerous.

Militarism and Patriotism

The ongoing militarization consolidates a culture of exclusive and belligerent patriotism orchestrated by the government of Mr. Abe. This war culture supports and promotes a particular way of looking at and analyzing the reality, of talking about the reality and organizing society. It is important to understand the nature of this culture which is systematically and effectively promoted to neutralize the postwar constitutional pacifism. I would like to give three concrete examples to illustrate the mechanism of this cultural manipulation. One concrete example is the revision of education law enacted last December, 2006. The New York Times reports said:
"Japan broke a postwar taboo on Friday as the upper house of the national diet approved laws that would officially bring patriotism back into the classroom. The new law stresses "love of country," "public spirit" and "tradition" while handing greater control over schools to politicians. To critics, the new education law takes Japan further from its postwar pacifist ideals while harking back to vaguely defined, prewar Japanese values. The bills were enacted despite a motion of no confidence by opposition parties against Mr. Abe's administration. Two days after, a government report revealed that the government had routinely staged town meetings since 2001 to manipulate public opinion. The government had paid people to ask questions and make statements supportive of its policies, including the revision of the education law." (NYT December 16, 2006) The history textbook issue needs to be understood within this context of exclusive patriotism. It is necessary to whitewash the war crimes of Japan's imperial past if one wants to militarize the country.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine was a spiritual pillar of militarism in Japan during the Asia Pacific War. From its creation in 1869, the Yasukuni Shrine was dedicated only to those who gave their lives to the Emperor. The highest ideal for a Japanese was to give one’s life to the Emperor to be enshrined at Yasukuni to be worshipped by the Emperor who was a living god. (The dead, according to Shinto religion, are considered divine). Yasukuni Shrine was administered by the Imperial Army and Navy under the high priest who was an army general. Its Book of Souls includes 1,068 people convicted of war crimes by a post World War II court. A total of 12 convicted Class A war criminals ("crime against peace") are enshrined at Yasukuni. The same book lists the names of 50,000 Taiwanese and Koreans who were recruited for the service of the Imperial Japan that colonized their countries. Some of the bereaved families are demanding Yasukuni Shrine to withdraw the names of their beloved. For them, it is as if the colonial past were kept alive without any historical rectification to have their beloved enshrined with the war criminals responsible for the aggressive war that claimed over 20,000,000 lives in the Asia Pacific Region. The government of South Korea passed the resolution asking the Japanese government to “withdraw the names of the Koreans enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine and discontinue the worship by the cabinet ministers.” Visits to the shrine by cabinet members have been a cause of protest at home and abroad. China and South Korea have protested against various visits since 1985. Despite the controversy, the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made annual visits from 2001 to 2006. The Yasukuni shrine is the prime national symbol of the ideological position that Japan’s behavior in World War II can be justified. This has always been the position of Japan’s right wing, and in recent years the right has been having considerable success making it the position of the mainstream.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan looked at the Church’s history and the Yasukuni Shrine issue in light of His Holiness John Paul II’s call for remembering the past to commit ourselves to the future. The bishops’ Peace Message 60 years after the War titled The Road to Peace Based on Non-violence: Now Is the Time To Be Prophetic said:

Before and during the War, and under pressure from the military government, the leaders of the Catholic Church unwillingly granted visits to Yasukuni and other shrines the status of ‘rites’. We cannot say that this is ancient history and forget about it. Right now we are facing the same crisis again. In the debate about revision of the constitution there are some advocating a relaxation of the principle of separation of Religion and State trying to get visits to Yasukuni Shrine designated as “rites.” The separation of Religion and Politics in Japan (Article 20, number 3 of the Constitution) is a principle born from reflection on the fact that the State, with the emperor at the center, used religion to promote its war effort. This is why protection of the principle of separation of Religion and Politics is for us Japanese an expression of our resolve not to repeat the same mistake. We believe that we need to take a firm stand on this issue in order to regain the trust of the people of East Asia and together with them work for peace.

This was the first time that the Catholic Church acknowledged an error committed by its leaders during the war.

The bishops met for the annual extraordinary assembly in February this year and came up with a statement defending the principle of separation of Religion and Politics saying:

The freedom of religion and the principle of separation of religion and state are intimately related in Japan.… Lately, an opinion that justifies a religious act performed by the state or public institution as “a social rite or customary behavior” has been frequently expressed by some intellectuals. A draft of the revised constitution based on this justification has been published by the ruling party. The ideology reminds us of the past when people were forced to worship at Yasukuni shrine as a social rite. There is a danger of repeating the mistake committed before and during the War. The ideology will phase out the principle of separation of religion and state and even threaten the freedom of religion as a basic human right. We, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan make a strong appeal to respect the principle of the freedom of religion as a basic human right. This is absolutely needed to build peace with our brothers and sisters of the countries of Asia.

Our commitment to non-violence

Though Prime Minister Abe insists that Japan needs a “made in Japan” constitution instead of a constitution imposed by the U.S, the record shows that the government and people of Japan welcome the present peace constitution wholeheartedly. In 1951 (May 4), General McArthur testified at the senate public hearing asserting that it had been Prime Minister Shidehara who introduced Article 9 and not he. Shidehara’s conviction is reflected in his words recorded by Saburo Hirano who closely worked with him. “Today, the world needs one lunatic. Unless someone willingly accepts insanity, the world will not be able to escape from this ant hill called the arms race. Japan shall embrace this historical mission.” (Asahi Newspaper, September 4, 1975) We learned a hard lesson from the experience of the war that violence does not protect a country. No matter what noble cause a war may have, the cause justifies the mass killing of people. Wars and homicides are nothing but an expression of arrogance. Only God can give and take LIFE. Killing means arrogance of a human being to take what belongs to God. The Second World War killed the lives of 25 million soldiers and 24 million civilians. We know that the capability of mass killing which the world has today cannot be compared to that of sixty years ago.

We need to go back to the Word of God to read the message in the concrete context of today’s world. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord of God.” (Ps. 20.7) “I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” (Hosea 1. 7) How do we translate Jesus’ call to non-violence into our commitment, choices, life-style, and actions within the reality of today’s world? “Put up thy sword into the sheath.” (John 18.11) “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5.9) “Love your enemy.” (Mt. 5.44)
Let us remember once again the words of the Second Vatican Council which the Holy Father quotes in his Peace Message for this year.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity itself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation. (Gaudium et Spes No. 80)

I was much impressed by the members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows who visited Nagasaki. They translate their sufferings into a firm commitment to peace and non-violence to enable a world free of all forms of violence. I learned that their action was much criticized as unpatriotic in this country. Many believe that a violent aggressor should be punished with violence. I believe that Families for Peaceful Tomorrow are the people who truly love. I also learned the significance of reconciliation from them. It was the first time that I met American people who asked forgiveness for the atomic bomb.

When we love, we learn how to forgive. Dr. Takashi Nagai, Atomic Bomb victim in Nagasaki, a renowned advocate of non-violence based on his faith in Jesus, author of The Bell of Nagasaki wrote in a letter to his two children before his death in 1951 at the age of 43:

A person who loves cannot be destroyed. A peaceful and beautiful world will be possible when each person is armored with love, the countries are armored with love, the entire human race holds hands. My beloved children, love your enemy wholeheartedly. Love so much that there is no possibility of the other hating you. If you love, you will be loved. If you are loved, you cannot be destroyed. There is no enemy in a world where people know how to love. If there is no enemy, there cannot be a war.

The homepage of the city of Nagasaki carries a section on Dr. Nagai entitled “He who loved others as himself.”

The Nagasaki Global Citizens' Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in collaboration with Abolition 2000 has been meeting since 2000 with concrete no-nuclear proposals to the United Nations, governments and NGOs. Mayors for Peace representing 1,578 cities in 120 countries that meet every year in Hiroshima has launched a new project The Cities Are Not Targets Project (CANT Project) calling for a world without nuclear weapons for children. Hiroshima and Nagasaki lead other 24 municipalities in Japan with a non-nuclear declaration. It is very important, I believe, that a global action for the elimination of nuclear weapons should be rooted in a global network of citizens committed to make their own local communities against nuclear weapons. Let us create as many no nuke cities, towns, and villages in the world that will be enlarged into no nuclear countries, regions and continents towards a world without nuclear weapons.

The Hibakushas believe that the suffering of the atomic bomb is the price they paid for Article 9. I would like to make a strong appeal to you to change the nature of the highly explosive “friendly” U.S.-Japan relationships that also carry enmity and contradiction. We need to create a genuine solidarity between the two countries based on a strong determination to create a world without war and nuclear weapons. I ask you to tell Mr. Abe not to revise the constitution and respect Article 9. Already a referendum bill to revise the constitution has been introduced to the national diet and the government is determined to form the bill by May 3, the Constitution Day.

Pax Christi International is organizing a global Article 9 campaign targeting May 3, this year. We want people from all over the world to send their message. The voices coming from the U.S. cannot be ignored by the government of Mr. Abe.

I watched a classic Western directed by William Wyler recently and found “The Big Country” quite revealing even today. Jim McCay played by Gregory Peck, to me, represents the image of a real American. He is a gentle man, thoughtful, wise and courageously committed to his principle of non-violence.

I would like to finish my reflection by quoting once again, Pope John Paul II’s Hiroshima message: “To remember Nagasaki (Hiroshima) is to commit oneself to peace. To remember Nagasaki (Hiroshima) is to abhor nuclear war.” As a Tainai hibakusha who carries the remembrance from my mother’s womb, my journey with Jesus constantly invites me to understand the significance of his non-violence in the reality of today’s world as an unequivocal call to work for a world without war, poverty, and nuclear weapons.

Thank you very much for being here this evening. I am especially grateful to those of you who organized this precious occasion. Arigato gozaimasu.

Reference: Muto Ichiyo
"Japan's Willing Military Annexation by the United States - 'Alliance for the Future' and Grassroots Resistance," Japonesia Review No. 2, 2006 Peoples’ Plan Study Group, Tokyo, Japan

To Express Solidarity and for Advocacy on behalf of the Japanese Catholic Council’s efforts to preserve Article 9, see Pax Christi USA’s web site: