It is high time for the Diet to start debating the issues that matter most for the nation. That was the strongest impression we got after listening to the questioning by party representatives that began on October 28.
Issues brought up in the questioning of top government officials included problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic, rejection of some of the new nominees for the Science Council of Japan, and the goal of achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
On the other hand, questioners totally ignored other critical issues. Most conspicuously, members of both the ruling and opposition parties hardly even touched on the defense of Japan. Is it really proper for Japan’s parliament to act in such cavalier fashion?
The most important duty of a national government is to protect its citizens and defend its land, seas and air. Political parties and Diet members should not be avoiding issues related to defense and national security.
Be that as it may, there were no questions related to the Senkaku Islands. None of the questioners discussed China and Russia or the menace posed by North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles. Nor did they offer any policies for protecting the Japanese people.
The only Diet member to raise the problem of repeated intrusions by Chinese government ships into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus was Tetsuro Fukuyama of the Constitutional Democratic Party. Even Fukuyama’s questioning only dealt with how Japan was responding diplomatically to these Chinese provocations. However, Japan needs to bolster both its diplomacy and defense capabilities to be able to deal with this threat.
The fact is that Chinese government ships have been becoming more aggressive, lingering in Japanese waters longer than ever in the past, and chasing and driving off Japanese fishermen. A Chinese navy vessel operating in waters near the Senkaku Islands even had the temerity to order a Japanese Coast Guard aircraft to “leave Chinese airspace.” All these incidents constitute grave violations of Japanese sovereignty.
Furthermore, only two Liberal-Democratic Party Diet members, namely Seiko Noda and Hiroshige Seko, brought up the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept that the government is promoting.
Concerning the Science Council of Japan controversy, representatives from Constitutional Democratic Party and Japan Communist Party called for the government to reverse its decision, while the representative of Nippon Isshin (Japan Innovation) Party said that it should be considered as part of overall administrative reform.
Although the prime minister indisputably has the right to approve or disapprove nominations, the public is due a bit more explanation about why he made the decision he did, as well as the analytical process that led him to that decision.
Unfortunately, the Diet did not even debate the opposition of Council members to military-related science and technology research and the impact of their opposition on efforts to improve Japan’s security posture.
The Science Council has stated that it continues to stand by its declaration of 2017 that it “absolutely would not” condone military-related science and technology research. Such a position defies common sense, since it effectively rejects the development of any deterrent to forestall invasion or attack by foreign adversaries.
We would hope that for the sake of the Japanese people the Diet would clearly recognize military-related science and technology research designed to protect the public. That means also reforming the system so that we never end up helping to bolster the very same Chinese and North Korean militaries that pose a direct threat to Japan.
(Read the editorial here in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun