Subject: Japanese church leaders oppose Japanese troops in East Timor

The following letter was received from the Japanese Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, and is circulated with their permission. For more information contact Sr. Monica Nakamura at

30 June, 2001

Carlos Ximenes Belo, Bishop, Diocese of Dili, East Timor Manuel Carrascalao, Chair, National Assembly of East Timor Kai Xanana Gusmão, Former chair, National Council of Timorese Resistance Jose Ramos-Horta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, East Timor Transitional Administration Taur Matan Ruak, Commander, East Timor Defense Force

Statement of our Position on the Proposed Dispatch of Japanese Self Defense Forces to the Peacekeeping Operation in East Timor

We are very conscious of how busy you, Bishop Belo and National Assembly Chair Carrascalao, are at this time when East Timor is preparing for the Constituent Assembly elections in August, and we assure you of our fervent prayers for Our Lord's blessing on your work. Please allow us to explain why, even at this busy time for you, we feel it necessary to make known to you our views on the above issue.

As you know, out of our reflection on the Pacific War, we Japanese enshrined in our Constitution, as Article 9, the renunciation forever of " war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." In order to realize that end, we declared in the same Article 9 that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." At the same time, we pledged ourselves to strive for the realization of peace and the well-being of our fellow human beings throughout the world, a task which we work to achieve through non-military means such as defense of human rights, prevention of war, and provision of humanitarian assistance.

Now, however, there are growing moves within the Japanese Government to turn away from our war-renouncing Constitution and the concept of a strictly non-military contribution to world peace. Recently politicians have been calling for a revision of the existing PKO Cooperation Law and the dispatching of peacekeeping troops from the Japanese Self Defense Force to East Timor. This was made clear on June 21, when the head of Japan's Defense Agency met with United Nations Deputy Secretary Frechett in New York. The Defense Agency chief said that when the task and scope of the post-independence peace keeping operation is clarified, the Japanese Government would consider sending Self Defense Force troops to East Timor in light of the needs of the UN effort and the situation in East Timor itself.

We cannot help but be amazed by this sudden outburst of concern to send military personnel to East Timor. At the time of the UNAMET-held popular referendum, the Japanese Government sent only three civilian police to help, and these were confined to work at headquarters. In the wake of the September 1999 devastation, not even one civilian police officer was sent to help. But most disconcerting is the fact that the Japanese Government refuses to acknowledge that throughout this period the Indonesian military was directly or indirectly involved in the violence in East Timor or the fact that it is not only the militia which poses a threat to security in East Timor, but the Indonesia military and police, which turn a blind eye to what the militia are doing and, in some cases, give them aid and assistance. This is a fatal oversight for a party which would take upon itself the defense of the security of East Timor. In fact, the Japanese Government to this day continues to claim on its homepage that it was a "volunteer force", not Indonesian army troops, that invaded East Timor in December 1975, in spite of repeated attempts by the solidarity movement in Japan to enlighten it about the facts in the case.

Given this background, we cannot help but believe that the real intent behind the plan to send Japanese troops to post-independence East Timor is actually the following:

1) To remove, under the guise of making an "international contribution" in East Timor, the present legal restraints on Self Defense Force participation in PKO activities, restraints that derive from its nature as a force tasked solely with "national defense," and, by progressively normalizing overseas activities of the SDF, to pave the way for a revision of Article 9 of the Constitution, enabling Japanese troops to participate in wars in defense of Japan's national interest.

2) To earn the recognition of the international community by it's participation in the military section of the peace keeping operation to be newly organized after independence, and use that as a springboard for achieving it's goal of admission as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Most Japanese people want Japan to contribute to world peace first and foremost by strictly adhering to its war-renouncing "peace constitution." They believe that Japan can best contribute to the rebuilding of East Timor by providing humanitarian and economic aid in keeping with the principles of our Constitution and by an active diplomacy with Indonesia to punish crimes against humanity, facilitate the return of the refugees and ensure a secure environment for the new nation of Timor Lorosae. The present government plan to send the SDF to join a peace keeping operation in East is directly opposed to theses, the fervently held wishes of our people.

Furthermore, this newly planned dispatch of Japanese troops to East Timor is particularly callous in light of the Government's refusal to this day to fully acknowledge, apologize for, or compensate the army's sex slaves and other victims of Japan's occupation of East Timor during the Pacific War.

Defense Agency Director Nakatani has indicated that he will soon be visiting East Timor in the context of the above SDF dispatch plan. We humbly ask that you keep our concerns in mind and do all that you can to ensure that Japan's assistance to East Timor will not be only a means of pursuing its own national interest, but will take a form that will be a true and meaningful contribution to your country and indeed to the peace of the whole world.

Michael Goro Matsuura, Bishop in charge of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace Leo Jun Ikenaga, Archbishop of Osaka, President of the East Timor Desk of the Japanese Bishops' Conference Paul Yoshinao Otsuka, Bishop of Kyoto, President of the Catholic East Timor Association Noel Keizo Yamada SJ, Professor of Economics of Sophia University

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