Hayden, GOP Congressmen Back Japan Rearmament

Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 08:25 AM

By John Gizzi

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The move by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to alter his country's post-war Constitution to permit rearmament is gaining ground in the United States.

In the wake of recent clashes between Japan and China, several Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives have recently weighed in behind Abe and his call to create self-defense forces that, in his words, "would only put Japan in the same position as other countries around the globe."

In addition, retired Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, also voiced support for Abe's attempt to change the Constitution, although he also said that Abe needed to recognize Japan's historical mistakes to ease tensions in the region.

Hayden told Newsmax, "I certainly am not uncomfortable with Japan assuming a greater security role. But there is also the fact that history matters when it comes to South Korea, China, and their relationship with Japanese. Mr. Abe has not been flexible enough when it comes to recognizing the mistakes that were made by Japan in the past. This is important."

Hayden was referring to Abe's visits during his first stint as prime minister to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 13 Class A Japanese war criminals from World War II are buried. The paying of respect to the war dead is a cause of great tension with China and South Korea, both of which were attacked by Japan in the 1930s and '40s.

Since returning to power two years ago —Abe has made no secret of his desire to amend the pacifist Constitution written primarily by U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur and thus permit Japan to have self-defense forces.

"Imagine that U.S. vessels on the high seas were being attacked and an armed ship, say an Aegis-type destroyer from Japan, America's treaty ally, was just passing by," Abe told Foreign Affairs. "The arrangement we currently have in Japan does not allow the destroyer to make any response whatsoever. That is insane."

Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party holds commanding margins in both houses of the Japanese Diet, believes "our constitution should stipulate that our self-defense forces are military forces (as it currently does not) and should also stipulate the long-established principles of civilian control and pacifism."

Abe noted to Foreign Affairs that "if we reactivated the right to have collective self-defense or amended Article 9 of the Constitution, that would only put Japan in the same position as other countries around the globe."

Freshman Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who met with Abe in Tokyo this summer, told Newsmax he heartily agrees with the prime minister's call for rearmament.

"From the impression I get of him, [Abe] is a great guy who loves the United States and he wants to be a major ally," Stockman said."With what China has been doing lately, and watching President Obama dealing with the world from a position of weakness, he wants a reinterpretation of the Japanese Constitution. Their Constitution needs to be amended and we need an ally we can count on in that part of the world."

Stockman's view was strongly seconded by Republican Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and president of the freshman class of House Republicans.

"It's time to change decades-old American opinions of Japan's military capabilities," said Messer. "With the U.S. increasingly war-weary, Japan is obviously thinking about protecting itself from an increasingly aggressive China. I would not be opposed to Japan making the changes it needs to do this."

To amend the pacifist clause in the Japanese Constitution known as Article 9 and thus permit the buildup of the self-defense forces sought by Abe, supporters would have to get approval of at least two-thirds of the Japanese parliament. They would then have to win a simple majority in a nationwide referendum.

"I would echo what Prime Minister Abe wants to do," Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, an 11-term House member and senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, told Newsmax. "Our country needs to understand that just as we can't fix roads and streets in other countries, we can't tell them what kind of defense forces they need to have. If Japan decides to pursue rearmament, that's their decision."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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