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Universities are for learning not war

TOKYO (AsiaNews): The Kansai University, a private institution based in Osaka in Japan, has forbidden the members of its staff to participate in a programme sponsored by the Ministry of Defence aimed at achieving a technological development of national security.

The university president justified the decision by saying, “The research can be used against peace, without scientists even knowing about it.”

In 2015, the Ministry of Defence launched a project in Tokyo to finance two seemingly diametrically opposed concepts, the military and peaceful was of using technology.

It involves the use of university researchers, state and private institutions, which can receive up to US$262,000 ($2 million) a year for three-year project cycles.

To date, 19 applications for the fiscal year of 2015 and 2016 have been received.

But on December 7 last year, Kansai University rejected the offer. The president of the institute said, “It is the responsibility of scholars to know where their research can lead.”

He added that under Kansai University’s existing ethical standards, its academics “may not engage in research practices that violate people’s dignity or basic human rights, as well as peace and the welfare of humankind.”

Toshihide Maskawa, a Nobel Laureate in Physics who specialises in the elementary particle theory, said, “I have a feeling of fear that the distance between the division between academia and the military is gradually closing. I hope this (declaration) will be an example for other institutions to follow.”

In October 2015, the national Niigata University also held a review of parts of the code of conduct for its scientists and formally spelled out that they are “not to conduct research for purposes that contribute to the realm of the military.”

Hiroshima University also has decided not to allow its staff members to apply for the ministry programme.

The dispute between the government and academic institutions is part of the debate on the revision of the constitution being pushed by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and approved by the Diet last year.

Since the end of World War II, the role of the Japanese military has been limited by constitution, which clearly states in Article Nine the non-aggression of its armed forces.

Tokyo now wants to adopt an aggressive military policy, but the decision is being opposed by large sections of civil society.

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