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Abe's quixotic quest for constitutional change

Publication Date : 04-03-2014

 

After becoming Japanese prime minister for the second time, Shinzo Abe made it clear that revising Japan's pacifist Constitution is one of his political goals. Currently, Abe's Cabinet is trying to change the interpretation of the Constitution to allow Japanese Self-Defence Forces to exercise the right to collective self-defence.

Once a breakthrough is made in the key issues concerning constitutional revision, it will radically change the country's pacifist Constitution, which will seriously challenge the postwar international order, and inevitably undermine the alliance between Japan and the Untied States and hurt the interests and authority of the US.

After World War II, under the guidance of the supreme command of the allied powers, Japan adopted its current Constitution, which stipulates that Japan adheres to the path of peaceful development. Article 9 reads: "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes" and that in order to accomplish this aim "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised."

Since coming to power in 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party has made changing the Constitution its political platform. In 1957, during the administration of Nobusuke Kishi, Abe's grandfather, an investigation committee was set up for the first time in a bid to promote constitutional revisions. But the "1955 system", under which the LDP was the dominant political party, collapsed in 1993 without the dream of a revised Constitution being realised.

With Japanese politics turning right again after entering the 21st century, the calls for a new constitution, focusing on rewriting the second paragraph of Article 9 to allow clearly the existence of military forces and the right to collective self-defence, have become louder.

Under Article 96 of the Constitution any amendments must be proposed with the support of a two-thirds or more of both houses of Japan's parliament and then be approved by a simple majority vote in a national referendum. The LDP has suggested that a simple majority in both houses of the Diet and a national referendum would suffice.

The first purpose of Japan's constitutional revision is to change the postwar arrangement imposed by the US. After World War II, the allied occupation forces completely disbanded Japan's army and designed a pacifist Constitution in case of the resurgence of Japanese militarism.

However, Japan has long been trying to break through the postwar arrangements imposed by the US. Abe argues that Japan should have a Constitution established by the Japanese themselves to replace the existing Constitution imposed by the US after Japan's defeat. Due to US leniency against a number of militarists some of whom became active postwar politicians and their refusal to teach young people in Japan about the country's war atrocities, Abe has clinched support from growing groups of right-wing nationalists while trampling on anti-war voices.

The second purpose of Japan's constitutional revision is to remove restrictions on Japan's military development and the use of military force and make the Self-Defence Forces a full-fledged military. Abe is eager for the SDF to have the right to exercise collective self-defence, so they can be used overseas, as this will further speed up the country establishing a fully fledged military, which goes in the opposite direction of the current Constitution.

Besides trying to revise the Constitution and build a military, Japan's long-term goals include returning to the international political arena, independently participating in regional and global affairs without US influence and using force in settling international disputes.

To amend the Constitution, Japan has to break through the postwar international order established by the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, which is equivalent to challenging the international community.

The postwar international order has already been championed and advocated by countries all over the world, and the desires of the Japanese right-wing forces should be checked for the sake of peace and humanity.

The author is an expert in Japanese studies with the Academy of Military Sciences.

 

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