MANILA, Philippines- Japan has no intention of waging war under its new security policy that will see its military defend the country and its allies if they are under attack.
Tetsuro Amano, Japanese deputy chief of mission and consul general in Manila, gave that assurance following the reinterpretation by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan's pacifist Constitution that expanded the role of the Japanese military.
Last week, Japan's Cabinet approved a resolution that allowed the country to exercise its right to collective self-defence, a move that has given a broader role for the Self-Defence Forces (SDF).
In essence, the resolution allows the SDF to help allies like the Philippines and the United States even if Japan itself is not under attack.
It came amid tensions between Japan and China over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea, where both countries claim a group of uninhabited islands called Senkakus by the Japanese and Diaoyus by the Chinese.
"We do not want to wage any war," Amano said, stressing that Tokyo actually aims to help keep the peace in the region under its new security policy.
In a talk with the Inquirer last week, Amano was thankful to the Aquino administration's continued statements of support for Japan's new security policy. It was during Abe's meeting with President Aquino in Tokyo last week that the Japanese government announced the new security policy.
Malacañang said it would support any action that would move toward promoting peace in the region. The Department of Foreign Affairs described Tokyo's new security policy as a "step in the right direction."
Amano noted that Aquino pushed for Japan's bid to reinterpret its American-drafted Constitution during his meeting with Abe.
Aquino said the Philippines was not alarmed by Abe's bid to revisit Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, which bans the right to collective self-defence. A reinterpretation would allow Tokyo to fulfil its international obligations and Manila would benefit as well, he said.
"This is a big contribution to international society and regional stability, especially in the Asian region," Amano said. "We are ready to expand our contribution to international society in order to keep stability in the region by use of our self-defence force."
Japan has a military force of 200,000, according to Amano. He said the Japanese forces had been limited to responding to disasters, relief and peacekeeping operations.
The implementation of the new security policy also comes at a time when "Japan's society is very connected to international society," Amano said.
He said, however, that Tokyo still had to iron out details of the implementation of the new policy.
Once fully defined, the plan will be presented to the Diet (Japan's parliament) for discussion, Amano said.
He said he did not know how soon the new security policy could be implemented, but expressed hope that it could be done within the year. Amano said "current established regulations" would also be amended in order to implement the new security policy. In 1947, two years after World War II ended, Japan wrote a new Constitution under the direction of the United States. The Constitution states that the Japanese people "forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation." That clause was written in to prevent a repeat of Japan's invasion and occupation of many countries in Asia, including the Philippines, during the war. Abe, the first Japanese premier born after the war, pressed for an amendment, citing a deteriorating security environment, notably China's aggressive rise as military power and the nuclear threat from North Korea.
But as Japan expands its military role in the region, it is also opening up to more tourists and foreign workers and among the expected beneficiaries will be Filipinos.
Amano said Japan would relax its tourist visa procedures, specifically for multiple-entry and one-time visit visas. Tokyo officials are looking into the proposal to expand the duration of stay under these two types of visa, he said.
The current three-year stay under the multi-entry visa would be expanded to five years under the proposal, Amano said. For the one-time visit visa, the current 15-day stay would be extended to 30 days, he said.
There is also a proposal to simplify the visa procedures for visitors on package tours by dropping the birth certificate requirement, he said.
Amano said the changes were being worked out and the Japanese Embassy in Manila was waiting for instructions from Tokyo. The new visa regulations will benefit both the Philippines and Vietnam, he said, adding that the changes signal Japan's move toward a no-visa requirement for foreign visitors.
"This is a critical milestone toward visa cancellation, a step toward no visa, maybe in the near future," he said.
Amano said Japan was preparing for the no-visa policy by stepping up its campaign against human trafficking.
"[I]f we open up with a visa-free [policy], this might be used [by human traffickers]. So we need to make some preparations," he said.