The positive side of a less pacifist Japan Regarding "Japan plots a less pacifist role," (Jan. 15): Your story spells out concerns that Japan's new coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Liberal Party raises the possibility of a remilitarized Japan, which could some day develop nuclear weapons. Those concerns are without foundation.

The Japanese Constitution literally bans the country from possessing a military at all. But Japan actually has one of the top six defense budgets in the world.

When the Soviet threat made it imprudent to keep Japan entirely disarmed, Washington and Tokyo came up with the idea of a Japanese self-defense force. Effectively constrained to operate on Japanese territory and nearby airspace and seas, it was nonetheless an important defensive capability during the Cold War.

In 1991, Japan finally agreed to send minesweepers to the Persian Gulf - but only after Operation Desert Storm was over. Japan also sent peacekeeping troops to Cambodia - in modest numbers and with severe restrictions.

The new coalition proposes to go further by allowing Japanese troops to participate in any multilateral security operation authorized by UN Security Council resolution - not just peacekeeping. And it wants to pass legislation allowing Japan to carry out new responsibilities in support of US troops based in Japan.

Major American newspapers should not be encouraging paranoia about Japanese efforts to do more to share the burden of maintaining global stability. In fact, Japan should go much further.

We would like to see Japan participate more fully in peacekeeping operations, provide humanitarian relief, and even rescue hostages or conduct counterterrorism operations in conjunction with the forces of the United States and other countries if needed.

Japan should someday be able to come out from under the shadow of World War II.

Kaori Lindeman and Michael O'Hanlon Brookings Institution, Washington Foreign nationals in US military

Concerns about American soldiers who are foreign nationals are unfounded ("Noncitizen soldiers in U.S. Ranks," Jan. 6), and retired General Blount's statements are outrageous . He said, "there is a question of whether the country has recruited a mercenary force," and that "it gets ... away from the image of the American public."

What is mercenary about men and women performing military duty as a door to the opportunity of citizenship? And what is more American than the act of new immigrants serving their country?

Suspicion of such fine people as immigrants who serve in the US Armed Forces is unwarranted and amounts to xenophobia. They deserve far better.

Wes Koerner, Albuquerque, N.M.

Tax-free savings a great idea Regarding your opinion piece, "State of the Union - candy or honesty?" (Jan. 22): It is a wonder why our politicians can't be so clear-thinking as author Ann Hymes.

Especially noteworthy is the suggestion that income taxes be removed from earnings on savings accounts. That certainly would go a long way to help achieve the goal of saving Social Security because it would send a message that Americans must assume responsibilities for their futures and that the government would help them do it. More money in savings would mean more money to support business growth, home building, urban renovation, etc. - a win-win on the face of it.

It is information, opinions, and insights like those expressed by Ms. Hymes that set the Monitor apart.

Gail A. Moeller, Dayton, Ohio

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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