Social and Pastoral Bulletin No.85 Aug. 15, 1998

From Shimonoseki (9)

Hayashi Hisashi
(Jesuit Labor Education Center)

When President Clinton of the United States of America visited China at the beginning of July and spoke to university students at Beijing University on American foreign policy with regard to Taiwan, he met with severe questions from the floor. I was listening to him on the radio at that time, while I was crossing by car the Kanmon bridge in front of the Shunpanroo, by the side of the Akama shrine. It is this same Shunpanroo where a group of politicians, lawyers and intellectuals from Taiwan, a group called "100 People's Mission to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Bakan Treaty", came on 17 April1995. Although it is a shame, many Shimonoseki citizens could not understand why those people from Taiwan had come. Most probably neither most Japanese nor Mr. Clinton himself could understand it.
Back in 1895, Japanese Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi and Li Hong Zhang, accompanied by over one hundred Chinese delegates, concluded the Japan-China Peace Treaty in Shunpanroo, also known as the Shimonoseki or Bakan Treaty. As a result, Taiwan became Japanese territory. The visiting “100 People's Party” made the following public statement: “The cession of Taiwan to Japan was an arbitrary decision done without the consent of the Taiwanese; the division of Taiwan from the mainland was a consolation in sadness. If mainland China comes to reflect on her irresponsibility towards the cession of Taiwan at that time, she must now, then, give up her hope to invade Taiwan”. The actual tensions between the hope for Taiwanese independence and the Chinese demands of reunification under the principle of “One country with two systems” have become the main reason why the Taiwan Straights are considered to be the place for the “emergency situations in the region” offered by the Japan-American Mutual Defence Treaty. It is demanded that Japan take common action together with the United States whenever the American forces, pretending to be the world police, make international military interventions.
Since 100 years ago, Shimonoseki has been involved in Asian issues considered to be of the utmost importance in the coming 21st century. Right now, the legal basis to make it possible for Japan to go to war is steadily progressing, by preparing a revised edition of the Japan-American Mutual Defence Treaty, called “New Guidelines” . Nevertheless, the Japanese public is uninterested and silent, in spite of the doubts of its unconstitutionality. Why do people usually not care about this? In spite of the fact that the next session of the Japanese Diet will discuss bills related to this issue, not even in the public elections for the House of Councillors is it a matter of concern. Japanese today are abnormal.

Here in Shimonoseki the medical staff of the national hospital's Labor Union has beforehand stated that they will refuse to be mobilized in case of an emergency situation, to show their opposition to the New Guidelines. Although the power of citizens' groups is weak, much action is taking place nowadays to show opposition and dissatisfaction with the trend in the United States to involve Japan in military activities. One instance is the grass roots solidarity action for the removal of American military bases from Okinawa. Now is the time to oppose the “gariba- syndrome” or the hypertrophic and self-complacent aspects of American militarism.

One of the ways to start a partial destruction of the New Guidelines is to let people know that, although Japan has signed the Antipersonnel Landmines Convention, she did not ratify it yet. By ratifying the Convention, Japan makes the decision not to allow the transportation of landmines through Japanese soil and not to supply them to American forces.

At the Bakan festival last year, two warships of the Self Defense Maritime Forces, like a pioneer gesture of the New Guidelines, were scheduled to enter the Shimonoseki harbor to participate in the city's festival, but the event met with public opposition of various organizations and citizens' groups. This year, the committee for the promotion of the Bakan festival has stated that, they will not give an invitation to the warships to come to the festival. This has been received with joy by the citizens of Shimonoseki. They see it as a success of the public declaration of a few citizens. During the national activities for peace that will take place this year, at the 10-day peace period in the beginning of August, the customary peace-walk campaign of the citizens of Shimonoseki has started its preparations with the following slogans: “Abolition of Nuclear Weapons”, “Ratification by the Japanese Diet of the Antipersonnel Landmines Convention”, “Scrapping of the New Guidelines”.


From the Editor

§§§ The Jesuit Volunteers Seminar report has, already, been published in Japanese. We will send it to those who ask for it. Starting with this issue we made space in this Bulletin to publish, from now on, contributions written by the participants to the seminar, concerning volunteer activities conducted by the schools. Please, feel free to contribute.

§§§ July was a noisy election time. An acquaintance from Cambodia who just came temporarily back said, “Now in Cambodia they are distributing the ballots for the election of parliamentarians with a circle around some special names to vote for.” Cambodians and Japanese let's, at least, take the elections seriously.

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