Towards Peace in Northeast Asia
: From a Japanese Woman’s View

Kozue Akibayashi, Ed.D.
International Vice President,
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Associate Professor, College of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto, Japan)


"Peace"in Northeast Asia has been a long-standing issue to be more rigorously pursued by the governments as well as the civil society of the region, however, visions and paths to achieve it are yet to be clear. In this short presentation, I intend to identify some of the key problems that hinder the achievement of peace in the region, and introduce civil society endeavors particularly from a gender perspective, as I have been committed in demilitarization movement of feminists.
"Peace"when defined narrowly is understood as absence of armed conflicts and wars. From this perspective, peace exists in Northeast Asia as since the ceasefire of the conflict in Korean Peninsula, there has not emerged a war in Northeast Asia. Peace is, however, defined rather broadly in the field of peace studies since the framework was introduced by the peace researcher, Johan Galtung of Norway in late 1960s, Galtung, J. (1969). "Violence, peace and peace research".  Journal of Peace Research 6:3. in which he proposed mainly two aspects of peace: negative peace and positive peace. He argued in more details, but in sum, negative peace refers to absence of direct/personal violence, including armed conflicts and wars, whereas positive peace refers to absence of structural violence or forms of violence that are structured into our social system such as all forms of discrimination or poverty. In the words of Betty Reardon, the feminist peace researcher, positive peace is a condition in which human rights of all are fulfilled. Reardon, B. A. (1993). Women and peace: Feminist vision of global security. New York: State University New York Press.
 From this perspective, then, one can question whether peace exists in Northeast Asia, and it is this aspect that I try to pursue the issue in this presentation.

1. Political context and issues
 When looking at the current situations in the Northeast Asia, it is clear to me that comprehensive peace is not achieved in the region. Not only in the aspect of positive peace, but also even in the aspect of negative peace. Although there has not been a declared war waged in the region in recent years, potential of armed conflict and more importantly, preparations for wars have always been present. Below, among many problems, I will touch upon three points as the political context in Japan for discussion on peace in Northeast Asia: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Missile incidents and its ramifications in Japan, the intensifying militarization of Japan, and US military presence in Japan and other parts of Asia.
 The Japanese public seems to believe that we live in a peaceful region: We have not witnessed any armed conflict in on our soil since the end of Asia-Pacific War in 1930s and 40s., being oblivious to other wars in Asia. Some nationalists who hope for stronger military capability of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces so that "Japan can protect itself on our own" argue that the absence of war made the Japanese people unclear about the danger of the real world, coining a term Heiwa-boke (blinded by peace). By using the term, they particularly ridicule the general public sentiment and peace movements to support the Article 9 of the Japanese constitution that renounces war as a means to solve international dispute and possession of armed forces. This faction of people tried to provoke the public mainly through the Internet on the danger of DPRK as a potential threat to the security of Japan when they launched missiles earlier this year. In fact, not only this small number of self-claimed nationalists, but also the major media bought into the frenzy of amplifying the danger without scientific analysis of the military capability of DPRK. While the action by the DPRK government needs to be strongly condemned as it significantly undermine peaceful diplomacy of the Six Party Talk and other international efforts to achieve peace in the region, there are those who take advantage of such action by DPRK to legitimize militarization of Japan, "warning" the general public for being na?ve about military threats.
  In fact, I, too share some of the criticism of "blinded by peace"or the naivete of the Japanese public about peace and war, that the Japanese public is so unmindful of its own military and its increasing capability, and its unconstitutionality.
 Militarization of Japan has become increasingly visible since the Koizumi Administration (2001-2006), one of the most loyal allies of the Bush administration. The two governments agreed on closer military ties between the US military and JDSF. The call for expansion of military capability of JSDF seems to have come from two directions: within Japan and from the United States.
JSDF was established as Police Reserve in the post-WWII period in Japan in 1950 while it was still under occupation by the United States. Although the political system was changed from the imperial military regime that invaded other Asian nations in 1930’s and 40’s, some members and a part of the structure of the Imperial military remained as the foundation of the Police Reserve and continue to be so in JDSF. With the constraints of the Constitution, JSDF has long engaged in disaster rescues within the country. However, there has always existed a discussion on expanding the missions of JSDF to defend the nation from external threats in order to be a "normal" nation.
JSDF has expanded its mission in recent years particularly since the Defense Agency was promoted to the Defense Ministry in 2007. Unlike its major mission to be confined to domestic matters, now JSDF are more widely deployed overseas for varied missions not only for rescue mission but assisting US forces in its war on terror. JSDF is now deployed in the Indian Ocean for replenishment operation for the US forces, in the coastal areas of Somalia to cope with pirates. These are a few examples of expanded operations of JSDF, ongoing increasing militarization of Japan.
 The United States government also pushes the Japanese government to increase its military
capability. In 2005, the bilateral committee on security, Security Consultative Committee, comprised of Secretaries of State and Defense of the US and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Japan, issued a joint statement titled "U.S.-Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future," that laid the foundation of the development of closer military ties between the two countries in the name of "interoperability" between the two militaries. It emphasizes the need for closer bilateral cooperation in the era of global uncertainty without clearly identifying the nature of "uncertainty."  Security Consultative Committee. (2005, October 29) U.S.-Japan alliance: Realignment and transformation for the future. This document and the Roadmap of implementation of realignment plan issued in 2006, Security Consultative Committee. (2006, May 1). United States-Japan roadmap for realignment implementation.
 gave details of military build-up in Japan, including the controversial plan to relocate 8,000 US marines from Okinawa to Guam, the unincorporated territory of the United States and an important post in the Pacific region that facilitates deployment of US military for operations in Asia. The relocation plan, they argue, is to reduce the burden of Okinawa, where about 75% of the US military facilities exclusively used by the US military in Japan is located. Okinawa was occupied by the United States until 1972 and even after its reversion to the Japanese administration, the heavy presence of the US military on their islands did not change, and it has been a long hope and demand of people of Okinawa to at least reduce the US military presence.
 The argument of SCC that the relocation of Marines is to reduce the burden of Okinawa is highly questionable. First, they only discuss the number of troops removed from Okinawa but it is not clear how many will remain. Second, the entire realignment plan includes build-up of a new state-of-the-art military facility in the northern part of the Okinawa main island, adjacent to an existing US Marines Corps Camp, thus, overall, the realignment plan will not reduce the presence of US military in Okinawa, but reinforcing the military power of the US military in Japan.
Additional to the above points on the current situations, or more precisely, the underlying issue in discussing peace in Northeast Asia, is the history of the region, namely the colonization and invasion of other nations by Japan. Not only the historical experiences, but also the failure of the Japanese government to redress the damage imposed on other Asian nations. It is the responsibility of the Japanese government to officially apologize and compensate the damage and it is the responsibility of the Japanese citizens to express political will to urge our government to take such action. Intensifying militarization of Japan causes more anxiety among neighboring nations because of this past and present failure of Japan.
 At the end of laying out the political context, a new political development needs to be introduced, though briefly. At the Lower House election held on August 30 2009, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition government partner Komei Party suffered a severe defeat, and as the result, a new coalition government of the Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the People’s New Party was formed. While more detailed picture of the foreign policy of the new government is not yet shown, there may be some changes in the policies around US military presence and the ties between US military and JSDF, and other issues relating to peace in Northeast Asia. 

2. Civil society efforts from a gender perspective : Denuclearization and demilitarization
My task at this conference is to share my view as a Japanese woman on the issue of peace in Northeast Asia. Therefore what I have discussed here is my personal view formulated by my experience as a Japanese woman, the majority of ethnic Japanese. It needs to be noted however that there are ethnic minorities in Japan and their experience are diverse. Japan is a multi-ethnic society, contrary to the repeated comments by some public figures that it is a single-ethnic country. It is widely acknowledged maybe more so outside of Japan, as in, for example, the report by UN Special Rapportuer, Doudou Diene on contemporary racism and xenophobia. The report identifies the ethnic minority groups in Japan: descendants of former colonies, namely China and Korea, who constitutes the largest groups of ethnic minorities; the Ainu, who recently finally recognized as an indigenous population living in the northern part of Japan; Okinawans living in the south, who once was an independent Kingdom of the Ryukyus; and other migrants who came to Japan for job. 
My commitment to women’s peace movement is mainly two-folds: Activities related to Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom(WILPF), and solidarity action with Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence based in Okinawa. The two are separated actions but the issues that they address are interconnected.
WILPF Japan is a section of WILPF, one of the oldest women’s peace organization established in 1915 by the conference in the Hague where 1300 women mainly from Europe and the United States gathered to halt WWI. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. #briefhistory retrieved on September 22, 2009. It was recently discovered that the organizers of the Hague conference indeed invited Japanese women but for many reasons, participation from Japan did not happen. Nakajima, T. & Sugimori, N. eds. (2006). 20 seiki ni okeru josei no heiwaundo [Women’s peace movement in the 20th Century]. Tokyo: Domesu Shuppan. A few years later, some women from Japan were connected to the women who formulated WILPF, and started what later was organized into WILPF Japan.
The philosophy of WILPF when established is unique in their analysis of war, that WILPF declared that it would address the root causes of war, connecting the problem of poverty or discrimination to war, a similar concept to Galtung’s comprehensive peace. Thus, for almost a century, WILPF has taken actions around the world to achieve peace in the world, a world free from violence. With these ends in mind, recent actions of WILPF particularly those by our Geneva headquarters and New York office have focused on disarmament, including nuclear abolition, and abolishing gender-based violence under armed conflict situations. These two aspects of WILPF activities have, I believe, significant implications in achieving peace in Northeast Asia: denuclearization and demilitarization.
WILPF international has a program devoted to nuclear disarmament, Reaching Critical Will. Reaching Critical Will. retrieved on September 22, 2009. Through RCW, WILPF has monitored UN activities on disarmament, lobbied at the UN, and coordinated international and local NGOs working on disarmament.
 In WILPF, the second focus on abolishing gender-based violence is addressed by another program, PeaceWomen. PeaceWomen. retrieved on September 22, 2009. PeaceWomen was established after UN Security Council Resolution 1325, "Women, peace and security" was adopted in 2000. WILPF was among the other NGOs to formulate a coalition to push the adoption of UNSCR 1325, to introduce for the first time a gender perspective in security council discourse and resolutions. The idea for such gender-related Security Council resolution derived from the lobbying for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995, whose 12 critical areas of concern included "armed conflict and women." Women’s peace organizations around the world who gathered at the conference of the UN Commission on the Status of Women who is responsible in review of BPFA started a discussion on the possibility for a gender perspective to be included in security discourse at the UN. After intensive lobbying, they achieved the resolution to be adopted unanimously by the Security Council. While adoption of UNSCR 1325 is a major success of international women’s peace movement, assuring implementation of the provision remains a challenge. The resolution calls for the member states, the UN and its agencies, parties to armed conflict to include a gender perspective in peace negotiations, post-conflict reconstruction and all peace and security policies. PeaceWomen has been monitoring the implementation and lobbying at the United Nations.
It is probably the feminist peace movement in Okinawa who most critically analyses and challenges militarism from a gender perspective, calling for demilitarization. Akibayashi, K. & Takazato, S. (2009). Okinawa: Women’s struggle for demilitarization. in Lutz, C. ed. The bases of empire: The global struggle against U.S. military posts. 243-269. London: Pluto Press.
 Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence is a network of women’s peace and human rights organizations in Okinawa, officially established in November 1995 after a delegation of 71 women from Okinawa had participated in the NGO Forum of the Beijing Conference and had mounted protest actions against the sexual violence case committed by US soldiers in September 1995 in Okinawa. OWAAMV offers a feminist analysis of the military as a social institution in which violence is intrinsic thus gender-based and sexual violence by soldiers are an inevitable result. Their analysis came from their historical and daily experiences as women in Okinawa who are forced to live in a community occupied by US military who are trained day and night to prepare for war. It is, they argue, in their training for killing the enemy, many kinds of discrimination are systematized, and the foremost and deepest is misogyny that enables soldiers to dehumanize the others, the enemy. OWAAMV have compiled sexual crimes by US soldiers since 1945 that includes many cases that are not included in official statistics, which has been revised seven times now Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence. (2008). Post-war Sexual Crimes by US soldiers in Okinawa. 8th edition..
They challenge the militarized national security by posing a question, "whose security?" As their life and livelihood in Okinawa have always been made insecure by the very presence of the military whose rationale of being in Okinawa is "security." Their challenge is also rooted in their colonial past by Japan and tremendous damage during the Asia-Pacific war by Japan in which one-third of the population, majority of them were non-combatant civilians, were killed in the course of the Imperial Japanese military strategy to sacrifice Okinawa to protect the mainland Japan and the Emperor. The military does not protect its people, is the hard lesson they learned.
OWAAMV women, therefore, call for demilitarization of the world, envision a world without the military and a world in which disputes and conflicts are solved by diplomacy and communication, not by power and the military power based on misogyny, racism and other forms of discrimination.
Their call and vision are embedded in their critical experiences and here, I, too, see a path to achieve comprehensive peace in the Northeast Asia.

 As a conclusion of my thoughts around peace in Northeast Asia, my emphasis lies on the need to address problems of colonial past in the region and ongoing militarization of the region. To achieve peace in our region, denucliarization, disarmament, and demilitarization, and policies to implement these concepts will be the key to the future.


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