The case of Japan's outspoken military chief was resolved today in a government compromise that measured out a light punishment for the general who had challenged longstanding official defense policy.
The goverment faced down opposition demands that Gen. Goro Takeda be disciplined with a quick dismissal for questioning policy on military defense and conscription.
Instead, Takeda was "cautioned" by his civilian boss and instructed to resubmit his resignation. He had already planned to retire in mid-February, and it appeared that the only punishment would be to advance his retirement date a few days.
Takeda ignited a controversy by questioning the level of Japan's defense expenditures, challenging the idea that Japan constitutionally can take only defensive military measures and objecting to the government's reason for opposing conscription.
His remarks, in a magazine interview, brought a roar of protest from opposition leades demanding that he be summarily dismissed because he had challenged the principle of civilian control of the military.
The opposition members brought government business to a halt for 24 hours by refusing to take part in a budget committee hearing.
As part of a compromise agreement to get things rolling again, Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki today publicly promised to watch carefully over the issue of civilian control of the military.
The affair was brief but ticklish one in this officially pacifist country where many still remember the past dominance of military men.
"It is clearly a challenge to civilian control when the highest ranking uniformed officer criticizes the basic policy of the prime minister, who is the supreme commander of the self-defense forces," said Asahi newspapers.
On the other hand, Takeda's comments were defended by several Cabinet ministers and members of parliament who said the general had a right to express his private views.
Their vocal support and the light admonition administered to Takeda were in contrast to the reaction when, in 1978, another military leader, Hiroomi Kurisu, challenged official policy. He was promptly dismissed.
Unlike that period, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party now has a commanding majority in the parliament, and there is broader support for a military point of view.
Takeda had objected strongly to the official doctrine that Japan's soldiers are restricted to purely defensive actions and could not challenge an adversary overseas, even to protect their country.
He also had objected to an official interpretation holding military conscription to be unconstitutional because it amounted to involuntary servitude.