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The Land of the Rising Sea

Sept. 26, 2015 - Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, pushed a bill through the lower house of  Parliament last week which authorizes expansion of the military in Japan.  Japan was shorn of its military subsequent to World War II and today, the move is not a popular one amongst the Japanese.  They have grown unaccustomed to bearing responsibility for a well-armed military.  It will cost Japan a lot of money, for one thing.  In addition, the island nation is not well known for friendly relations with its neighbors.  The United States, however, supports the move, since it can ill afford to continue in its post-war role as world policeman.  Help from an ally would be very welcome.

Japan’s primary motivation is China’s growing military.  The actual building of islands in the South China Sea has disturbed all of China’s neighbors, with good reason.  It would appear their purpose in creating the islands could well be an aggressive one.  It bears pointing out that North Korea is, at best, an unstable neighbor, and that there is no love lost between South Korea and Japan.

In my opinion, there are two other reasons to be taken into account vis a vis Japan’s remilitarization.    One would be the fact, already stated, that Japan is an island nation.  We know from reports issued by various government and scientific agencies that islands will suffer enormously because of rising sea level.  There are already a few that have, to all effects, disappeared, necessitating the relocation of their populations.  Far more of this kind of tragedy lies ahead.  Does sea level rise threaten Japan?  Let’s take a look.

In the Japan Times issue of July 12, 2014, author Elena Johansson tells us that a one- meter rise in sea level could cause catastrophic beach erosion for the half of the Japanese population that lives along the coast.  Combined with the winds and rain associated with typhoons – there’s been a very active typhoon season this year – the encroachment of salt water could be life threatening.  Given that more than one meter is now the expected sea level rise, island life does not hold out great promise.

The other reason for Japan’s remilitarization might have to do with the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  While decontamination moves forward in the 105 municipalities affected, the nature and extent of the work make its completion widely subject to question.  Furthermore, the cost of making the hundreds of square miles of land impacted livable again, if we are honest with ourselves, may never be known.  Seventy-nine thousand people have had to be relocated.

Can a tiny nation with a population of 127 million make do without hundreds of square miles of land over the long term?  Is it possible that, between the land lost to salt water incursion and the land lost to nuclear contamination, Japan may need more land, or even an entirely new place to live? Will they go about seeking a new homeland through the auspices of the United Nations?  Or will they simply take matters into their own hands?  With the reactivation of the Japanese military, there’s a lot to consider.

With thanks to the New York Times, Japan Times,  Los Angeles Times, and Wikipedia

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