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TOKYO, Japan — Japan should “disassociate itself” from its defense agreement with the U.S. and get closer to China, according to legendary American film director Oliver Stone.

The director of such classic films as “Platoon,” “Wall Street,” “JFK” and “Natural Born Killers” stopped in Tokyo on Monday to promote his 10-part Showtime documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States,” which deals with the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Stone told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan that his documentary exposes, “the myth that America had to drop those [atomic] bombs to win World War II.”

In fact, the atomic bombs were dropped to stop the Soviet Union, which had just declared war in the Far East, from gaining a foothold in Japan. The bombings ended World War II on a “dirty note” and sent the wrong message to the world, he said.

Born in 1946, a year after the war ended, Stone was raised as the conservative son of a New York stock broker. He saw combat in Vietnam before attending film school.

It was only after scandals such as Watergate in the 1970s that Stone realized that the U.S. government had been consistently lying to the American people and he set out to direct “progressive films that make a difference,” he said.

In Tokyo, Stone characterized President Barack Obama as “a snake” for “institutionalizing” illegal spy programs, and praised the efforts of whistleblower Edward Snowden to alert people to the government’s violation of the Constitution.

“Snowden is a hero to me,” he said. “He sacrificed his well-being for the good of us all.”

He also praised Russia for giving Snowden asylum.

“I think (Russian President Vladimir) Putin did the right thing, and I’m proud of him for doing it,” he said. “We need more countries to stand up to the U.S.”

Historian Peter Kuznick — who helped Stone make his documentary series — accused Japan of “cowering” under the U.S. nuclear umbrella despite having the world’s fourth-largest defense budget.

Various other reports rank Japan’s defense budget between fifth and ninth in the world. Global, for instance, ranks Japan fifth in terms of overall dollars spent, behind the U.S., China, Russia and Great Britain.

Kuznick claimed that China had not been aggressive like the U.S.

“The U.S. has fought war after war since World War II. Where has China done that?” he said, without mentioning the People’s Liberation Army’s participation in the Korean War, the Sino-Vietnamese War or bloody border skirmishes with Russia and China in the latter half of the 20th century.

Stone recommended that Japan disassociate itself from its status of forces agreement with the U.S.

“They can be a great country again and a real broker for peace in Asia,” he said. “Start by apologizing to China for what you did there and all the people you killed … and then China would suddenly look at Japan differently.”

Based on its most recent defense white paper, it’s clear that Japan is not comfortable with its neighbor to the west.

In laying out plans for next year’s defense budget — which increases slightly from the previous year — Japan’s white paper mentions China, Russia and North Korea as the three biggest threats to security in the region.

The 434-page document spends considerable time summarizing its grievances with China over claims to the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in China. The unpopulated islands, desirable mainly for their nearby fishing and energy rights, are about 100 miles from Japan’s Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture, and about the same distance from Taiwan’s northern tip.

“China has attempted to change the status quo by force based on its own assertion, which is incompatible with the existing order of international law,” the white paper states.

The defense paper also notes a sharp increase in fighter jet activity over waters near Japan.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets 567 times last year in response to aircraft coming near their territorial airspace, up from 425 in 2011. Only two of those incidents — one Russian, the other Chinese — were a response to actual airspace violations, defense ministry councilor Masayoshi Tatsumi told reporters during a policy preview briefing.

Responses to Chinese aircraft last year more than doubled, overtaking responses to Russian aircraft for the first time, Tatsumi added.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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