Japan’s tryst with the hangover of World War II is sending shock-waves in the region. With the announcement of the formation of the ‘Defence Ministry’, the shackles that American defined post-war pacifist constitution (the armed forces were to be known as ‘self-defense forces) had built for them are steadily being dismantled.
The Japanese have argued that renewed thinking on defence was essential given the volatility of the tense region. Critics from neighbouring countries that suffered under the excesses of Japanese Army during World War II however have warned that the move is meant to give military and imperialist muscle to Japanese economic prowess retrospectively. Even in the domestic arena, any move to pay reverence to the 2.5 million war martyrs (war criminals for others) has caused shrill opposition in the neighbourhood. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stayed clear of the controversy when he didn’t visit the Shinto Yusukuni Shrine on New Year’s Eve (he visited the Meiji Shrine instead). His predecessor Koizumi’s annual visit to the Yusukuni Shrine was stated to be the primary reason behind Japan’s strained ties with China and South Korea.
But beyond the forcible dissociation with history, it is perhaps the time to allow Japan to tune itself to the ever evolving geo-politics of East Asia and the world.