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Issue Date:  August 25, 2006

Japan's peace clause endangered, says bishop


Japanese Bishop Goro Matsuura, in a recent visit to the United States, appealed directly to U.S. Catholics for their help in a campaign to prevent the Bush administration from pressuring Japan to abandon its post-World War II posture as a nonaggressive power.

Matsuura, who is president of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace made his comments July 30 during a keynote address to the Pax Christi USA national conference at Duquesne University. Following the conference, Matsuura went to Washington, where he visited Congressional offices on Capitol Hill, met with representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Catholic leaders.

Matsuura, who said the United States maintains 135 military installations in Japan along with 36,000 U.S. personnel and 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles, wants U.S. Catholics to help stop the Bush administration’s efforts to get Japan to remove a peace clause in its constitution, a necessary step in order for Japan to step up its involvement in the war on terror.

“In the global design of the U.S., Northeast Asia -- meaning Japan -- Okinawa and South Korea are given a special geopolitical prominence as a major hub of its global military operations,” Matsuura said. “The mode of American military presence in this sub-region is now being drastically modified under the U.S. defense transformation involving changes in the location and organization of its military bases.

“It has become clear that the redefined U.S.-Japan military alliance, together with the U.S.-South Korea alliance, is no longer just for the putative defense of Japan or South Korea, but is given the mission of serving the entire global strategy of the United States ... [for] fighting the long war.”

Matsuura said a campaign that Bush pushed for during a June 29 meeting in Tennessee with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi calls for Japan to amend Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which states in part: “Land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Matsuura said, “There are substantial grounds for believing that the U.S. government is encouraging, and even pressuring, Japan to change the peace clause of its constitution. In fact, constitutional change is very much needed if the Japanese military forces are to be integrated into the U.S. military machine.”

Although Japanese troops were deployed to Iraq in 2003, Article 9 required the troops to serve in a noncombat zone “with an objective only of humanitarian aid,” Matsuura said. Not a single Japanese solider was killed during the three-year deployment in Iraq, he said. The “existence of Article 9 has served to restrain any use of aggressive Japanese military measures in Iraq,” he said.

The Pax Christi audience responded with applause when Matsuura said, “Because of Article 9, Japan has not been involved in any war for 60 years. Japan as a state has not killed a single combatant nor has any member of the [Self-Defense Forces] been killed.”

Matsuura said the United States is proposing to relocate the global headquarters of its 1st Army Division from Washington State to Camp Zama near Tokyo, where it will command global operations of U.S. Army expeditionary task forces.

Accompanying Matsuura were Masataka Nagasawa, executive secretary of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace and Sr. Filo Hirota, a board member. Nagasawa is a permanent deacon.

While the battle over Article 9 has divided Japanese Catholics, Hirota, who served as Matsuura’s interpreter, said both the Japanese Conference of Major Superiors and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan are behind the effort to save Article 9.

In Washington, Matsuura met with several Congressional foreign policy aids who were “astounded at this information” about Article 9, said Jean Stokan, Pax Christi USA’s policy director who handled Matsuura’s Washington itinerary.

“In his speech, Matsuura thanked Fr. Robert Cushing of Augusta, Ga., who last year, during a “Pilgrimage for Reconciliation,” presented a letter of apology to the Japanese people from Pax Christi Augusta to atone for the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

Hirota recalled that when Cushing read his letter of apology in the cathedral in Hiroshima, a woman told him, “My father was killed 60 years ago today here in Hiroshima, and this is the first time that I have met an American who asked forgiveness for the atomic bomb. I have not been able to accept an American until today.”

A year ago, Cushing was fired from his job as parochial vicar at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in the wake of the controversy his Japan trip ignited in this Southern conservative town. At the conference, Cushing announced he has been appointed pastor of St. Theresa Church in South Cordele, Ga., as of Sept. 1.

Matsuura said nonviolence is the only answer to the world’s problems. “To resist the force that imposes violence as a way to organize human society is a duty for all of us committed to peace and nonviolence,” he said.

Pax Christi USA may not have the highest profile in many Catholic circles, but its persistent advocacy of the church’s social justice tradition is attracting new adherents, according to organization officials, who cite a 20 percent membership increase -- to a total of 20,000 -- since the attacks of 9/11.

About 500 attended this year’s conference. Presenters at the conference included Barbara Major of New Orleans, who was appointed to help lead the “Bring Back New Orleans” Commission addressing post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding; Phyllis Bennis, fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies; Dr. Arturo Chávez, program director of the Mexican American Cultural Center; Donna Grimes, education specialist with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Pax Christi USA national council member; Marty Haugen, internationally-renowned liturgist; Chris Marston, AFL-CIO community services coordinator; and Fr. John Rausch, chair of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and syndicated columnist.

Patrick O’Neill is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C.

Related Web site
Pax Christi USA

National Catholic Reporter, August 25, 2006

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