【PART 3】 The Mystery of the Security Treaty Village (1): The Showa Emperor and the Constitution of Japan
【4】 The lie that “a treaty is only a piece of paper”
In the same report, Kitaoka also states that a treaty is a “living matter,” and that materially it is only a piece of paper. Any debate on treaties that fails to understand this assuming instead that what composes treaties or secret agreements reflects reality itself–is just “building a castle in the air.”
Many of us would be convinced if a professor of the University of Tokyo–one known as “the greatest authority on International Politics in Japan”–seriously said so. I assume that the executives of the Democratic Party who did the investigation were no different. When important secret-agreement documents were found, this theory that “a treaty is only a piece of paper” became a “theoretical ground” for the government’s illogical determination to look the other way–admitting there was an agreement document but denying that it affected the actual situation.
If you think about it carefully, however, the theory that “a treaty is only a piece of paper” is a total lie, just like the theory of “narrow and broad senses of secret agreements.”
It’s true that the extent to which treaties are put into effect would be subject to the national interests and power balances at any given time between the nations involved. In the post-war Japan-U.S. relationship, characterized by the state of Japan’s slavish obedience to the U.S., the U.S. has the right to determine whether treaties and secret agreements are valid (binding) or invalid (just a piece of paper). Japan can only accept the outline and grant a certain concession.
If the actual world reflected the contents of the past treaties and secret agreements, these agreements must be actually valid. Agreements between nations, even secret agreements, continue to be binding until they are officially abrogated. That is the very first thing to know about international law.
Kitaoka makes this claim: “Whether written in treaties or not, the U.S. cannot forcibly do anything which Japan, the host country of the U.S. Forces stationing, despises. Even if the U.S. could, doing so will leave a considerably negative feeling in Japan, so Japan practically has a right of veto.” But if this is so, why is it that the Japanese government cannot ask the U.S. to terminate the U.S. Forces’ management of the air space above the whole metropolitan area?
Why can’t the Japanese government ask them to withdraw the deployment of the Osprey aircraft, which all 41 municipal governments in Okinawa requested via a resolution of opposition? Surely this is justified on the grounds that flying over the residential areas is out the question, and that crucial training sessions are canceled in consideration of their influence on the ecosystem of bats in the U.S.
The theory that “a treaty is only a piece of paper,” based as it is on the premise that Japan and the U.S. are on equal footing, is just an absolute lie. These tricky “theories” of Kitaoka, “the greatest authority on International Politics in Japan,” function as a bulwark against repealing illegal secret agreements permanently.