Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Japan's aggressive history

13. Two Cents - September 26, 2006

The former colonial powers, now known as the developed nations, no longer desire to get rich through the long outdated method of acquring colonies. It can be done just as efficiently through trade and investment - a tactic which has the added advantage of not requiring the costly deployment of your own troops in the country of interest and no danger of local uprising. Thus, China does not have to worry about Japan invading it. Japan doen not want control of a country populated by 1.3 billion people with hostile inclination toward her and whose immense land areas are quickly turning into desert and rivers into sewers. Japan already has too much problems of its own; we definitely do not need another one. Japan has too much to lose by a war with China.

As for China’s interest in Japan, I would think the danger is extremely low but not non-existent. Try turning the world map around and see the view from China’s side. If it ever wants to be truly equal militarily with the US, I think she would require an open route into the Pacific, which she does not have at the present because of Taiwan and Japan which basically blocks it off from the Pacific. Thus, while US ships and subs can roam fairly freely near China, China must try to sneak through the breaks in the archipelago, mainly near Senkaku or Okinawa where the waters are deep, or go all the way around the south and take the fuel- and time-consuming route for her subs to roam anywhere near the US.

I do think that the leaders of China are smart enough to know that their best inteterst would be to play along with the US and refrain from attacking Taiwan or Japan. However, sometimes, I think they have brainwashed their populace to dangerously uncontrollable levels, and so it would be foolish of our leaders to not be prepared for the worst.
14. Haksaeng - September 26, 2006

I think Two Cents has done a great job of spelling out the strategic situation. Whether you argue for or against Japan purchasing more offensive-oriented weaponry, China’s place in the world won’t change. It is still surrounded by hostile nations–hostile in the sense of wanting to limit it actions, not belligerence.

Regardless of the Japanese military’s orientation, it has a critical weakness that will serve as a limitation on it; it can’t meet its recruiting goals. The Japanese military currently cannot get up to its authorized strength. There currently aren’t enough people interested in going into the military. Tokyo will have to take active measures to increase incentives and change people’s thinking about the military to get more people interested in putting on a uniform. It can happen, though, just as it did in the US after Reagan assumed office.

Abiola, I don’t really want to get in the middle of your flame war with MigukNamja, but I was wondering if you could expand a bit on your statement regarding Japanese adventurism.

In broad terms, I can think of three periods of foreign expansionism. First is the two Hideyoshi invasions in 1592 and 1597. I think you rightly lump them together.

The second period was 1609, when the Shimazu Clan invaded and seized Okinawa. The Ryukyu Kingdom was an independent kingdom that developed much the way Japan did. It was a group of fiefdoms with close ties to China that was eventually unified by force under the Chuzan in 1416.

The third period is a bit different, depending on how you want to try to define it. If you look at it in terms of the aspirations and goals of Japan, then you can link the period from 1890 to 1945 as a single period. The policies of expansion were a continuation of the Meiji Reforms. During that period, though, Tokyo fought four distinct wars for foreign expansion–the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the expansion in all directions that came from the decision to attack the US and Pearl Harbor and draw itself into the larger war going on in Europe and Africa. Additionally, through guile and judicious use of its military, it annexed another nation.

So, depending on how you care to define periods of Japanese expansion, there were at least three and as many as seven. Certainly not an earth-shattering number, regardless of which number you use. A quick look at Europe during the same timeframe will show that the Europeans were far more outwardly aggressive–this is probably more a factor of shared borders, though.

One problem that I see–and I would be interested in your opinion–is how do you account for the other acts of aggression between the two countries? While they aren’t periods of Japanese expansionism, they do factor in with regards to the way Koreans view Japan. There was a lot of back and forth fighting between elements of the two peoples going back at least to the Three Kingdoms period. For example, the Waegu terrorized the Korean coastline from the 13th to 14th centuries.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, with the back and forth between Korea and Japan over who did what to whom is that very little focus is paid to Korea’s part in feeding regional aggression. Kaya’s origin remains debatable, but what isn’t is the large role Japan played in Kayan society. Silla subsumed Kaya, and that probably didn’t happen peacefully. The Mongols forced Koreans to participate in two attempted invasions of Japan. Choson’s policies of maintaining a weak military and relying on China for its defense invited hostilities. In some cases, Korea was an unwilling actor, but it was an actor nonetheless. In most cases, it was Korea’s weaknesses that caused the turmoil–history hates a power vacuum.

Anyway, this has become far longer than I intended. However, the historical debate, to me, is far more interesting than flame wars. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks.
15. Abiola Lapite - September 26, 2006


My own view of the matter is that it doesn’t make much sense to separate 1592 from 1597 or to regard the various wars between 1894 and 1945 as isolated incidents: while this is an effective way of ratcheting up the aggression count, the reality is that we’re still only talking about two relatively short-lived political orders in a state with a very long history.

The second period was 1609, when the Shimazu Clan invaded and seized Okinawa. The Ryukyu Kingdom was an independent kingdom that developed much the way Japan did. It was a group of fiefdoms with close ties to China that was eventually unified by force under the Chuzan in 1416.

Subsuming independent action by an outlying fief of a newly founded Tokugawa shogunate still struggling to consolidate its rule under the label of “Japanese” adventurism makes no sense to me. The Shimizu clan certainly didn’t see itself as acting on behalf of “Japan”.

One problem that I see–and I would be interested in your opinion–is how do you account for the other acts of aggression between the two countries? While they aren’t periods of Japanese expansionism, they do factor in with regards to the way Koreans view Japan. There was a lot of back and forth fighting between elements of the two peoples going back at least to the Three Kingdoms period. For example, the Waegu terrorized the Korean coastline from the 13th to 14th centuries.

The Baekje-Silla-Koguryo era is a period in which to talk of a “Japan” or a “Korea” is an anachronism, as the peoples of the time certainly didn’t see themselves that way: “Korean” states like Baekje and Silla were allied at various times with Yamato, and what little archeological/linguistic evidence which survives supports the notion that the language of “Korean” Koguryo was actually much closer to Japanese than to the Silla-descended Korean. Meaningful talk of a coherent “Japan” and “Korea” can only begin after ~700 AD, as far as I’m concerned.

As for your statements with regards to Korea’s own role in conflict between the two countries, I have to agree - the Choson elite’s own negligence created the vaccuum which China, Japan and Russia were sucked into at the close of the 19th century, with Japan just happening to be the winner of that particular struggle, rather than the most “aggressive” (Russia’s relentless centuries-long expansion from Europe’s steppes to the Pacific coast puts Japanese efforts to shame, and explains why Britain readily allied itself with Japan before America forced the alliance to lapse in the 1920s).Asian pages

In times of a prolonged, bloody war like the Pacific War, rational thought is often the first casualty. In this context, I think citing American public poll numbers that demonstrate the American racial animus toward the Japanese during World War II can be misleading.

Here's a another poll number that may supply some perspective: The same poll was asked on the same date asking what Americans felt about the Germans (omitting the genocide option), and 34 percent of all respondents favored the total destruction of Germany as a political entity as well. (My source is John Dower's War Without Mercy, p. 54).

This is not contradict, however, Dower's thesis that the Pacific War was essentially a "race war," and that the Americans behaved more ignobly toward the Japanese than the Germans, precisely because of greater racial animus. In fact, the war propaganda, as Dower and others have pointed out, essentially treated the Japanese as subhuman, in particular either of the simian or insect-variety. In contrast, this kind of racist propaganda obviously did not extend to the anti-German war propaganda.

Posted by: Won Joon Choe | September 27, 2006 at 09:08 PM

Won Joon,

I don't mean to argue that Americans under normal circumstances routinely think (or thought) in the manner you describe, only that they are no more immune to government-driven blanket hatred of "enemies" than anyone else. My point is simply that the difference between Nazi Germany and countries like Britain and the USA owed more to the good fortune of having won the last war and possessing "first past the post" election systems than to some supposed ethical superiority intrinsic to English-speakers - just look at the "nuke 'em all" contingent on LGF and you'll see that it doesn't take much to get lots of "decent" people to happily support genocide.

As for Dower's "race war" thesis, unfortunately I haven't read his book, so I can't say much about it, other than that without the racialized worldview which saw Japan as a "Yellow Peril" whose every effort on the international had to be frustrated - e.g. demanding Japan surrender most of her gains from the war with Russia, blocking Japanese efforts to get the League of Nations to pass a "racial equality" clause, imposing immigration restrictions on Japanese settlers, excluding Japanese goods from US and British Imperial markets, demanding Japan surrender all territorial gains made in China while doing nothing about, say, Italy's Ethiopian conquest, etc. - it is extremely unlikely that the ambitions of Japan and the United States would eventually have gone to war. That Western racism played a central role in the genesis as well as the conduct of the Pacific War is without a doubt*, although I'm not willing to accept the often made argument that it was what made the difference between nuking Hiroshima and, say, Berlin - had the bomb been ready, Germany would definitely have been nuked.

*Of course, racism notwithstanding, in the end it was Japan's own arrogant and foolish military leaders who took it upon themselves to start an unwinnable war against a power so many more times powerful than their own nation.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite | September 27, 2006 at 10:18 PMfoereing dispatches

I love the intellectual discussion.

Japan made many, many crucial errors pre- and during war.
It should have:
1) shared interests in Manchuria with the US after the Japan-Russo War instead of refusing to let US entrepreneurs from investing
(although the stupid public opinion would not allow it - the average Japanese believed that they had been deprived of the rightful prizes of the Japan-Sino and Japan-Russo Wars through collaborated efforts of western countries),
2) should have nullified the alliance with the Nazis the moment Germany tied a nonagression treaty with the Soviets instead of tying an unreliable nonagression treaty with the Soviets, since the purpose of the alliance was to form a front against the Soviets from both sides (Many politiicans and the emperor were against the alliance with the Nazis since it would put Japan irreversibly against the Allies),
3) exploited SE Asia’s wish to become independent of their colonial masters and hold the Great East Asia Conference early on in the war, not when it had become certain Japan was going to lose,
and 4) tried to negotiate conditions for surrender through a more reliable country than the Soviet Union.

I don’t think Japan can put the blame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki entirely on the US. However, I think it is extremely hippocrate of the Allies to claim that Hiroshima and Nagasaki (or the bombing of Japanese cities) were actions not equivalent to war crimes when they had executed Gen. Matsui for failing to take satisfactory measures to prevent crimes against civilians in the Chinese front.two cents at occidentalism

*The Tokyo Summit 1943 —— the Great East Asia Conference
Some of you may wonder why there are Philippines, Burma and India that countries became independent after the World War II because it is generally said in history textbooks. Nevertheless, Philippines, Burma and India actually existed as of 1943. The reason is simply legitimacy of these countries were denied after the war by the former colonial rulers of these countries, namely, the Allied Powers.

Republic of the Philippines
(Former colonial ruler: United States)

The United States promised to support the Philippine independence to make the Philippine people on the American side against Spain. Emilio Aguinaldo[10] established a revolutionary government (First Philippine Republic)[11] in 1897. The Spanish-American War[12] began in 1898 and reached the Philippines. Agunaldo declared the independence of the Philippines but he was captured by American troops in 1901 and the Republic collapsed. The status was turned into that of a commonwhealth[13] in 1935 with Manuel Luis Quezon[14] as the president to prevent further independence movement and the Japanese influence to reach Philippines. Although it was called a commonwealth (autonomous region), it was practically under the U.S. military administration. Philippines became independent in 1943 when the Second Republic was established supported by Japan with José Paciano Laurel as the president. Current Republic of the Philippines is the Third Republic established in 1946.

Republic of Burma (curt. Myanmar)
(Former colonial ruler: United Kingdom)

Burma was a colony of Britain until 1942. Japan established a governmental special agency, the Minami Kikan [South Agency] under the direct control of headquarters to support Burma's independence movement[15] and thereby to block the supply route from the Allied Powers to the Kuomintang China. Colonel SUZUKI Keiji (鈴木敬司) was appointed to the head of the Agency. In 1942, the Minami Kikan appointed Ba Maw, the leader of the Burmese since the British time, to the Head of the Central Administration (Prime Minister). In 1943, the Japanese declared the Republic of Burma to be an independent nation with Ba Maw as the Head of State. After the war, Burma was turned back to being a British colony again. The Burmese Independence Army[16] led by General Aung San[17] regained the complete Burmese independence as the Union of Burma in 1948. Incidentally, the parade of the current Burmese Army starts with Warship March (軍艦行進曲) composed by SETOGUCHI Tôkichi (瀬戸口藤吉) that used to be a military song of the Japanese Navy.

Provisional Government of Free India
(Former colonial ruler: United Kingdom)

The Provisional Government of Free India[18] was the government in exile of India which practical territory was the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. The leader of the government, Subhas Chandra Bose (Head of Government and National Army Commander) was a member of the Indian National Congress[19] with Mahatma Gandhi (father of the Indian independence)[20] and Jawaharial Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India).[21] Bose served for the Congress as the chairman twice in 1937 and 1939. When Nehru and other Indian leaders were arrested by the British authorities, Bose himself led the government in exile and participated in the Great Asia Conference as the representative of the Provisional Government of Free India.

To see the historical fact regarding to the Great Asia Conference, the following points must be clearly understood.
These participating countries are not puppet governments of Japan that is evidenced by some of these representatives who were actual leaders of independence movements of these countries.
The ideals of the Joint Statement of the Great East Asia that was declared in the conference must be reevaluated properly without any prejudice.

Following is the full text of the Statement.大東亜共同宣言全文









Joint Statement of the Great East Asia
November 6, 1943, Tokyo
The Great East Asia Conference

The fundamental principle to establish world peace is that all countries obtain what they deserve, depend on one another and help each other to attain mutual prosperity.

Britain and the United States, however, oppress other countries and other nations for their own prosperity, exploit and enslave the Great East Asia in particular, and thereby destroy the security in the region. Here are the reasons for the Great East Asian War.

Countries in the Great East Asia should cooperate to win the war, free themselves from the shackles by the Britain and the United States to obtain their self-administrations and self-protections, construct the Great East Asia based on the principles mentioned above, and thereby establish world peace.

Every country in the Great East Asia should cooperate to establish the stability in the region, and build the system of mutual coexistence, based on moral principles.

Every country in the Great East Asia respect other independencies and sovereignties, achieve mutual aid/friendliness and establish peace in the Great East Asia.

Every country in the Great East Asia respect other traditional cultures, and encourage to develop creativities of every nation to uplift the culture of the whole Great East Asia.

Every country in the Great East Asia should cooperate closely in the principles of reciprocity and mutual benefit to strive for economic development and the prosperity of the Great East Asia.

Every country in the Great East Asia extend its companionship to the rest of the world, abolish racial discriminations, share cultures with others, open one's resources, and thereby contribute to the progress of the world.

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