Exorcising Japan of militarism ghosts is a must

That the Japanese Foreign Ministry took issue with the headline used by Time magazine for an article about an interview with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida highlights something fundamental.

It was reported that the Japanese Foreign Ministry claimed that the headline did not accurately convey his remarks about Japan's defense policy.

The headline in the print edition of Time magazine reads: "Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wants to abandon Pacifism — make his country a true military power". After the ministry's complaint, the headline of the online version of the same article was changed to "Kishida is giving a once pacifist Japan a more assertive role on the global stage".

What is the essential point, however, is not the headline but the connection the article mentioned between the haunted official residence of the Japanese prime minister and the increasingly perilous world, which troubles Kishida like ghosts.

There are indeed ghosts that have been lingering on in the minds of Japanese rightists, and they are the ones of its past militarism, which were recognized worldwide as the major culprits behind the aggressive wars Japan launched against its neighboring countries and the atrocities its troops committed in those countries during World War II.

What the Japanese government has done in the past years has demonstrated that the ghosts of Japanese militarism have never been exorcised. In December last year, Kishida unveiled Japan's biggest military budget since World War II, which raises Japan's military spending to 2 percent of its GDP by 2027, giving the country the world's third largest defense budget. The three new documents on national security strategy, national defense strategy and national defense buildup program the Kishida government approved, also in December, can be considered a manifestation indicating that Japan has given up its pacifist defense policy. What Time magazine article headline says is exactly what the Kishida government is doing: To make Japan a true military power.

One of the pretexts the right-leaning Japanese government cites to expand Japan's military might is the "threat from China". China is Japan's largest trade partner, but ridiculous as that pretext is, the Kishida government considers the pretext a stone that can kill two birds. It can not only make it convincing for Japan to expand its defense buildup as China has a military might much stronger than its own. It also serves the need for Japan to play its role as a de facto vassal state of the United States in the latter's global strategy to contain the rise of China.

Japan under the Kishida government is doing a disservice to the peace and development of the region by becoming a destabilizing military power. Japan urgently needs to exorcise the ghosts of militarism that haunt its politics, not only for the healthy development of the country, but also for regional peace and development.