Japan moving toward constitutional revision to allow a military

Posted on : 2013-08-05 15:40 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Following election victory, Abe government now has enough seats to make a firm push away from historical pacifism

By Jeong Nam-ku and Seong Yeon-cheol, Tokyo and Beijing correspondents

Now that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has gained a secure number of seats in both the lower and the upper houses of the Japanese Diet following its victory in the House of Councilors Upper House election last month, it is accelerating efforts to depart from the post-war pacifist system.

Attempts to recognize the right to collective self-defense, which would to make it possible for Japan to wage war, are becoming more noticeable, and historical revisionism is becoming more blatant. Japanese cabinet members were given permission to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Even the Kono Statement, in which the Japanese government recognized and apologized for forcing the so-called comfort women into sexual slavery and for the involvement of the Japanese military, is facing an existential crisis. Aug. 4 was the 20th anniversary of the publication of the statement.

On Aug. 3, the Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Shinichi Kitaoka, president of International University of Japan, who is the vice chairman of the Council for Reestablishing the Legal Foundation for a Guarantee of Safety, a body of experts set up by Abe.

We are planning to propose a new constitutional interpretation that would permit the full exercise of collective self-defense,” Kitaoka said during the interview. “This would go beyond the four categories of collective self-defense that were considered during the first Abe government.”

The right to collective self-defense is a right under international law that enables a country to regard the invasion of an ally as an invasion of its own territory and to participate in hostilities on that basis.

Based on the current constitutional interpretation called the “Peace Constitution,” past Japanese administrations have concluded that Japan cannot exercise the right to collective self-defense.

But by pushing forward a new constitutional interpretation that Abe failed to achieve during his last term as prime minister, he is essentially trying to revise the constitution.

“The administration is planning on preparing a number of protocols to prevent abuse of the right of collective self-defense, such as requiring the advance approval of the Japanese Diet,” the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

While the Japanese constitution forbids the country from possessing an army, in reality, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces serve as a military. If Japan also gains the ability to fully exercise the right to collective self-defense, the so-called “Peace Constitution” would be rendered effectively meaningless. Kitaoka said, “The completed report would be submitted between September and December.”

Japanese media reported that Abe intends to replace the director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, an organization that plays an important role in changes in constitutional interpretation. The new director-general is to be Ichiro Komatsu, the current Japanese ambassador to France, who is a supporter of the right to collective self-defense.

Japanese cabinet members are also becoming more overt in their attempts to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines class-A war criminals from World War II.

State Minister of Administrative Reform Tomomi Inada is planning to visit the Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, which marks the end of World War II in Japan, and received approval from the prime minister’s office on Aug. 1, the Asahi Shimbun reported. The paper added that Sanae Takaichi, policy chief for the Liberal Democratic Party, is planning on visiting the shrine on the same day.

Abe is defending cabinet members’ visits to the shrine and is waiting for his own chance to visit.

Such moves on the part of Japan are increasing concerns in other countries in the region.

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao met with former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Aug. 3. Hatoyama was in China to take part in a UN meeting on the environment

“Currently, China and Japan are confronted with a grave and challenging situation,” Li told Hatoyama. “Both sides must face up to history and reality and use history as a mirror for solving problems for the future.”

“We hope that Japan will not forget its past but instead treat it as a useful lesson for the future,” Li added.

“Japan must abide by the Peace Constitution and the principle of defense-oriented policy,” said an official in the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in regard to Japan moving to change its constitutional interpretation. “It must act in a transparent way so as to contribute to the peace of the international community,” on condition of anonymity.


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