For its part, Beijing shares the same sentiments of Moscow. Beijing equates the elimination of North Korea by American forces with a unified Korean peninsula flying the South Korean flag. Since South Korea is a staunch American ally, Beijing feels that allowing South Korea full domination of the peninsula is akin to having the United States as its next-door neighbor. That’s like having a mere barbed-wire fence separating the trigger-happy soldiers of Communist China’s so-called People’s Liberation Army and the battle-hardened American troops on the Korean side who must do what their commander-in-chief, who is currently the unpredictable Donald Trump, orders them to do. A scenario like that seems unacceptable to Beijing.
That leaves Japan as the remaining pivotal player in the ongoing Korean-East Asian nuclear poker game.
Unlike the United States, Japan does not need aircraft carriers to mount an offensive against North Korea. Japan’s close proximity to North Korea means Japanese fighter planes and bombers can be launched against any North Korean target in minutes.
Likewise, a Japanese military initiative in North Korea has less political setbacks because the same will appear less threatening to Beijing and Moscow than an actual American offensive may look like.
Tokyo can also rationalize that any Japanese attack on North Korea must be seen as a pre-emptive strike because Pyongyang has been provocatively firing missiles over the Japanese archipelago as early as August this year.
There is, however, one legal obstacle facing Tokyo. Japan’s post-war constitution, imposed on Japan by the United States during its occupation of the country after World War II, renounces war as an instrument of Japanese foreign policy. The constitution prohibits Japan from rearming itself to such an extent that it will be able to wage a war of aggression and conquest as it did in the 1930s and 1940s. Yes, Japan has a military arsenal today, but its constitution limits the scope of its military might to national defense.
In the decades following the end of the war, the Japanese found their pacifist constitution to their liking. Instead of spending their money on an expanding military establishment like that of the Americans and the South Koreans, the Japanese put the bulk of their money on trade and technology. With American military bases operating in their country, the Japanese enjoyed a substantial discount in their expenses for national defense.
All that led to Japan’s quick post-war economic recovery, and the Japanese are not too keen on changing the present arrangement. That is why past attempts by the Japanese parliament to amend the constitution to allow the rearming of Japan have not received much support from the Japanese people.
The current situation on the Korean peninsula, however, may change the political equation in Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to rearm Japan to prepare for any hostilities from North Korea. Tokyo also shares the same pecuniary perspective of Beijing and Moscow —the North Korean problem is bad for Japanese business.
Rearming Japan will certainly trigger opposition from countries which experienced atrocities committed against their populations by Japanese troops during World War II. Communist China is one of them, but its opposition under the current circumstances will be viewed as self-serving. Simply put, Beijing considers a rearmed Japan as a regional military power in East Asia to reckon with. Such a scenario may upset Beijing’s current regional expansionist plans.
Although the Philippines was ravaged by Japanese troops during World War II, and even though Manila was the most devastated city in the Pacific theater of the war, the current generation of Filipinos has no actual experience of the hardship historically associated with the Japanese Occupation. For many Filipinos, post-war Japan has been a friendly and helpful Japan, as seen in Japan’s continuing help in infrastructure development in the Philippines. More importantly, post-war Japan has never threatened fundamental Philippine interests. Restated, the Japanese report card in the Philippines has indicated a very good mark in deportment.
Undoubtedly, Filipinos have embraced Japanese culture, as confirmed in the proliferation of Japanese animated TV shows in the country, and the mushrooming of Japanese restaurants all over Metropolitan Manila. In addition, many Filipinas are married to Japanese nationals. To all intents and purposes, therefore, Filipinos of today genuinely view the Japanese as their friends.
Moreover, the Philippines has a stake in the Korean problem because any nuclear attack in the peninsula will result in a possible nuclear fallout, with radioactive particles blown into the Philippines by the winds from Siberia during the December to February months. Should that actually happen, Filipinos will not need Christmas lights during December nights. Metropolitan Manila will simply glow by itself everyday, after dark.
That ought to raise serious health concerns for the Filipinos.
Precisely for all the foregoing reasons, it is unlikely that the Philippine government will oppose a rearmed Japan, if only to create a new source of regional security in East and Southeast Asia. That may compel Pyongyang to rethink its nuclear overtures.
Whatever the options of countries involved in the Korean problem may have at the moment, the fact remains that a North Korea with a nuclear arsenal jeopardizes the existence of the world. There must be an end to all that nuclear saber-rattling from Pyongyang.
Under international law, the North Korean leader must account for his threats to world peace. Nazi Germany’s Rudolf Hess was convicted by the international tribunal at Nuremberg for crimes against peace, so that should be sufficient legal precedent against the North Korean madman.
In time, the ideal solution is to eliminate North Korea as swiftly as possible and putting a demilitarized buffer zone between a new united Korea and both Communist China and Russia, to be administered solely by the UN. It shouldn’t be anything like the no man’s land currently separating the two Koreas. On the contrary, such a buffer zone will be proof that world peace is possible in an era of nuclear weapons.