Path to Militarism
Japans Verfassung, Artikel 9
JAPAN'S PATH TO MILITARISM
By Global Article 9 Campaign
On December 16, key figure of Japan’s ideological conservative right Abe Shinzo was elected as Japan’s new Prime Minister. Elected on a nationalist platform, Abe won a landslide victory of the Liberal Democratic Party in the lower house of Parliament.
During his first tenure as Prime Minister in 2006-2007, Abe ardently pushed for the revision of war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution in the name of building a “strong Japan.” His track record includes overseeing the creation of the Ministry of Defense, advocating for the re-interpretation of Article 9 to expend the mandates of Self-Defense Forces’ missions and allow collective action. Back in power, Abe is determined to push his agenda forward.
New LDP’s draft constitution
Last April, before Abe returned to power, the LDP drafted a new constitution, with the changes it would like to see adopted as part of its broader agenda "to reclaim Japanese sovereignty" by getting rid of the current constitution, which, according to Abe, fails “to provide a necessary condition for an independent nation”.
Changes proposed by the LDP’s draft constitution include: deleting "the right to live in peace, free from want and fear" granted in the current preamble; removing Article 97, which guarantees fundamental human rights and the supremacy of the constitution; increasing the Emperor’s powers; limiting the freedom of speech "for the purpose of interfering public interest and public order"; loosening the prohibition to inflict torture and inhuman treatments; revising human rights provisions to place them in the context of “the State's history, culture and tradition"; curtailing the independence of the judiciary from political control; and imposing a number of obligations on the people, such as respecting the flag and national anthem, obeying commands from the State and having obligations and compensations for freedoms and rights.
Critics are utterly concerned that the LDP draft constitution leans towards authoritarianism and would bring the country back to pre-WWII Japan. It also represents a serious setback in terms of peace and human rights. "It is very clear from this document that their world vision is detached from the more common understanding of fundamental human rights," said Lawrence Repeta, a professor of law at Meiji University.
Article 9 – Regarding Article 9 that famously “forever renounce[s] war… and the use of force as means of settling international disputes”, the LDP draft deletes the provision stating that armed “forces and other war potential shall never be maintained." Instead, the draft document sets up a “National Defense Force” under the prime minister as “commander-in-chief”. It also adds a third paragraph to Article 9(2), by which the new force is granted the mandate not only to defend the territory from a foreign attack, but also to participate in peacekeeping operations, maintain domestic public order and protect individual rights.
The LDP draft also enables the prime minister to declare a state of emergency.
Constitutional changes – On December 31, Abe told the Upper House: "I will start with amending Article 96 of the constitution, a move that many factions (inside his Liberal Democratic Party) support."
Article 96 establishes that constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in both houses, and must be ratified by a referendum. Under the LDP draft, a simple majority in the two houses would be sufficient to enact constitutional amendments.
Although Abe’s LDP party and its coalition partner New Komeito currently have the needed two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet (82% according to some estimates), they fall short of it in the upper house. Elections for half of its members will take place this coming July.
Seen as less political than revision of Japan’s peace clause and other fundamental rights, the move is however very significant, as it will open a Pandora's Box for further revisions of the constitution.
In parallel to constitutional reforms, Abe’s government is seeking to change the current interpretation of Japan’s peace constitution that prohibits Japan to exercise collective self-defense.
On February 8, Abe reconvened the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security – a panel he set up in 2007 during his past tenure as prime minister.
The panel’s report, published in April 2008, advocated that Japan's exercise of the right to collective self-defense be allowed to defend U.S. naval vessels in the event of an armed attack on the high seas or to intercept a ballistic missile against the U.S. It also advised that Japanese Self-Defense Forces be authorized to use of weapons to defend other countries’ troops engaged in international peacekeeping operations and to provide logistical support to other countries in peacekeeping operations.
But by the time the panel published its recommendations, Abe had resigned as Prime Minister. His successors were not keen on following these recommendations, and the government never acted upon the report.
Now that he is back in office, Abe is seeking to revive the panel’s work and broaden its mandate to consider other scenarios in which Japan should be, in the view of the panel, authorized to exercise a right to collective self-defense.
In yet another move to strengthen Japan’s military posture, Abe has ordered the review and replacement of Japan’s five-year national defense guidelines adopted in 2010, which called for a gradual reduction in defense spending. Instead, he wants to bolster the country’s military and announced an increase of 40 billion yen ($440 million) in defense spending – the first increase in 11 years.
According to the draft budget proposed on January 27, the defense budget will rise by 0.8%, bringing defense spending on equipment, personnel and operations by Self-Defense Forces to a total of 4.68 trillion yen ($51.7 billion).
“While Japan has been cutting defense spending for the past ten years, other countries in the area have gradually been increasing their budgets. I want to ask for a budget that will make it possible for us to secure a more certain defense system,” explained Japanese Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori, commenting the draft budget. The document will have to be approved by the Diet before it takes effect in April.
In 2012, Japan’s defense budget stood at 4.65 trillion yen, or $53.3 billion, making Japan’s military budget the world’s 6th largest (with 3.6% of global military spending) and one of the largest and most advanced militaries in Asia, in spite of a tacit limit on military spending of 1% of the country’s GDP.
A survey carried out by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and a University of Tokyo research team shows that a short majority of voters are in favor of revising the constitution, with 45% of voters in favor of allowing Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense. Further, according to polls, 62% of Japanese voters support the Abe Cabinet, 48% of which because of its policies (notably for his economic strategy to tackle recession). 54% of the respondents indicated they support the government's plan to increase defense spending, against just 33% who do not support it.
In this political context, many citizen’s groups are getting organized to initiate a public debate and raise awareness about the grave consequences Abe’s policies would have on Japan, the regional context and the image Japan has abroad.
On January 28, as the new Abe administration was meeting for its first Diet session, a coalition of citizens groups held an event in the Diet building. Diet members, a former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, members of groups such as the Global Article 9 Campaign, the Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, and other CSO representatives made statements opposing the revision of Article 9, changes in history textbooks that deny the role Japan played during WWII, and other policies being pushed forward by Abe.
With elections in the upper house of parliament scheduled for July 21, key Japanese peace groups, along with a large number of constituencies including religious networks, are coming together to oppose these warmongering policies and mobilize public opinion, attract media coverage and send a strong signal against this trend of militarism.
Several events are being planned, including the Global Day of Action on Military Spending
(GDAMS) on April 15; a major mobilization across Japan (with Tokyo as its epicenter) on May 3 for Constitution Day, with the expected attendance by heads of political parties; a fourth edition of the Asia Inter-religious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia; and last but not least, the holding of an international conference on Article 9 on October 14, 2013 in Osaka.
The Japanese peace movement is, in parallel, reaching out for support from the global peace movement.
In light of the dire political situation in Japan, the Global Article 9 Campaign invites you to renew your support for the campaign and to send messages of support for Japan’s peace constitution and against the government’s trend to nationalism and its path to militarism.
To read more on this topic:
- Japan Today: "Abe vows to change constitution, reestablish 'proud Japan'"
- South China Morning Post: "LDP charter change will return Japan to pre-war authoritarianism, critics warn"
- Asahi Shimbun: "Abe restarts discussions on collective self-defense right"
- New York Times: "Japan Is Weighing Raising Military Spending"
Picture credit: Yuriko Nakao, Reuters
Global Article 9 Campaign · B1, 3-13-1 Takadanobaba · Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075