How Dangerous Is Japan?

Traditionally, modern Japan has shied away from conflict and aggression The Global Peace Index currently rates Japan the tenth most peaceful country on the planet

But a decade ago, it was in third place As Japan steadily slips down the Peace Index, concerns are growing at home about the government’s policy towards its military, and its own people How dangerous is Japan? As a place to live, Japan is one of the safest in the world In every 100,000 people, 03 are murdered each year, compared to America’s 4 murder victims per 100,000 people

Crime rates overall have been falling for thirteen years In 2017, the total number of all recorded crimes dropped below one million The 20 million tourists who visit Japan every year, have very little to fear Government travel advice may warn you of some volcanic activity, or of low levels of radiation from the leaks at Fukushima, and will reassure you that there is no recent history of terrorism in Japan Indeed, the last notable terror incident occurred in March 1995, when members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway

Twelve people died and around 5,000 sought medical attention Since then, the Public Security Intelligence Agency and the National Police Agency have closely monitored right wing groups, the Japanese Communist Party, and radical leftist groups Above all they watch the successors to Aum Shinrikyo, Aleph and Hakari no Wa Fumihiro Joyu, leader of Hikari no Wa leader and former spokesman for Aum Shinrikyo says, “Before the 1940s, you had a police agency strictly watching opposition groups against the regime The public hated that and has subsequently been given a lot of freedom over the past 70 years

You don’t have an organization such as the CIA or MI5 here The PSIA doesn’t have anything like the same kind of power There’s no real engagement in espionage activities and its wiretapping capabilities are limited Aside from observing Aleph and ourselves, I’m not sure what it does” All the same, he says, “I think it’s now practically impossible for a [large terror] group… to plan an attack secretly

” This may be why there have been no terror plots by foreign extremists on Japanese soil Professor Paul Midford says, “Japan’s a largely homogeneous society that feels pretty insulated from terrorism"" Militarily, Japan does not seem to pose much of a threat to the world This is because, in 1947, occupied Japan adopted a new constitution that removed all power from the Emperor and explicitly established it as a peaceful nation Article 9 of the constitution states, the “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes”

The article forbids Japan from maintaining land, sea and air forces As a result, Japan prefers not to involve itself in international affairs outside the East Asian region In crises like the fight against Daesh, Japan has only provided non-military financial assistance to its allies actively battling the terror group Understandably, Japan does not have a nuclear arsenal, and has banned all nuclear research except for peaceful purposes But the country does, somewhat controversially, maintain what it calls Self-Defense Forces

Japan spends under $50 billion, or only 1% of its GDP, on about 250,000 military personnel, purely focusing on defence For instance, Japan’s submarine fleet is not only small, but lacks missiles capable of hitting land-based targets Nevertheless, analysts say this low-cost, defensive focus has allowed Japan to create one of the top five militaries in the world John Kuehn, professor of military history at US Army Command and General Staff College, says, “Pilot for pilot, ship for ship, Japan can stand toe-to-toe with anybody” Their military prowess relies heavily on their longstanding alliance with the USA

Kyle Mizokami, editor of Japan Security Watch, says, “The United States and Japan are the two closest military powers in the world today They’re even closer than the US and UK They train together on a daily basis, and there are major military exercises in air, land and sea on almost a weekly basis” These drills are merely part of a wider, worrying expansion of Japan's military under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe He is still trying to alter Article 9 of the constitution, and has already changed Japan's policy to allow it to respond when one of its allies is attacked

Recently, he has recruited 3,000 troops into an “amphibious rapid deployment brigade”, an equivalent to the US Marine Corps, according to the US Congressional Research Service In November 2016, they carried out a large exercise with US forces in the Northern Mariana Islands Officially it was a defensive exercise, rehearsing how to take the islands back from Chinese invasion Indeed, China and Japan have long had tense relations, mostly arguing over who owns the many strategic islands between them China has set up military installations on disputed islands in the South China Sea

Japan scrambles warplanes several hundred times a year in response to Chinese activity in the islands Japan's other big problem is North Korea The Hermit Kingdom has launched several missile tests at and over Japan, mostly because the land of the rising sun is seen as a proxy for American influence in the region Indeed, this perception of Japan as an American stooge has earned it a place on the enemies list of Daesh – which could make Japan a top target of terror during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Consequently, Shinzo Abe has declared, “We should co-operate with international society to prevent terrorism before it happens

” But his methods have been very controversial A leak in 2010 revealed that police had detailed profiles on 72,000 Muslims in the country Citizens named in the files sued and won compensation for the breach of their rights But the court also ruled that the intelligence-gathering was “necessary and inevitable” Along with Japan's ban on immigration from Muslim countries, critics condemn the government for targeting Muslims purely based on their religion

In June 2017, Abe forced anti-terrorism measures into law, creating a new offence of conspiracy to commit a serious crime This allows police to obtain an arrest warrant without evidence Civil rights campaigners complain it may lead to miscarriages of justice The new law applies to 277 crimes, some of which are unrelated to terrorism, and Japanese courts have close to 100% conviction rates, thereby creating huge potential for abusing the rights of individuals As the UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, says, the law’s “vague and subjective concepts could be interpreted very broadly and lead to legal uncertainty

” In other words, Japan may be stepping closer and closer to its old imperial ways Yet Japan is still a place for peaceful people Crime is remarkably low, war is abhorrent to them, and they still rank as one of the most democratic countries in the world Chances are that, unless you have the misfortune of being caught in a rare disaster, Japan does not pose a danger to you

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