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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 July 9 - 15  > Article 9 kept Japan from sending SDF to Vietnam
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2014 July 9 - 15 [POLITICS]

Article 9 kept Japan from sending SDF to Vietnam

July 9, 2014
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution kept Japan from sending its defense forces to Vietnam during the Vietnam War, while South Korea joined the U.S. military intervention which cost the lives of about 4,700 South Korean soldiers in the name of collective defense.

The United States in June 1954 established its puppet regime in South Vietnam. Three months later, the U.S. formed an anti-communist alliance called the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and placed South Vietnam under U.S. “protection”.

The full-scale military intervention began with a bombing campaign against North Vietnam in February 1965. As the rationale for this assault, the U.S. used the UN-based collective self-defense right and the SEATO-based defense obligations as well as the request by the South Vietnamese government for help.

With South Korea, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines, and New Zealand which were core members of SEATO taking part in the warfare, the U.S. wanted Japan to also be part of the anti-communist intervention.

However, the U.S. knew that it was almost impossible for Japan to employ armed force abroad due to the Japanese Constitution (note, August 1954, Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs, U.S. State Department).

Yet, the U.S. authorities kept up their pressure on Japan to join the war alliance. In February 1958, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II demanded that Japan expand the applicable range of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to the western Pacific. There again due to constitutional restraints, the answer was “No.” The wording of the Japanese Constitution prevented Japan from meeting the U.S. demand (document, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan).

South Korea went in the opposite direction. It dispatched troops to Vietnam in exchange for U.S. economic assistance, resulting in the 4,687 war deaths. South Korea had a mutual defense treaty with the United States for collective defense. In addition, the absence of a constitutional provision like Japan’s war-renouncing Article 9 enabled the South Korean government to send its troops to war.

Japan offered up the free use of U.S. military bases in Japan, turning Okinawa into a sortie base for the U.S. war in Vietnam. What if Japan had had no Article 9? It would have enabled the SDF to fully participate in the Vietnam War.
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