IF Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party wins a two-thirds majority of the Diet’s Upper House in Sunday’s elections, will he move to amend Article 9 of Japan’s present Constitution?
Yes, he would. This is the fear of Japanese who love their “Peace Constitution.” Many people of other countries also abhor the re-emergence of a militarily mighty Japan—like the country of Emperor Hirohito that attacked Pearl Harbor, invaded China and the rest of East Asia and the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia, and fought beside Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy against the Allied Powers.
Abe and his LDP have ardently campaigned for the removal of Article 9’s “no war” pledge that limits Japan’s postwar military to the sole purpose of national defense. This limitation has been a defining element in Japan’s success as, until dislodged by the People’s Republic of China, the second-biggest economy in the world (after the US) and, until now, Japan’s prestige as America’s partner in being the virtual political shepherd of the East Asian and Southeast Asian part of the globe (except China).
Article 9 is the only entry under the Constitution’s “Chapter II. Renunciation of War.” It reads:
“Article 9. (1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, 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.
“(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, 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 recognized.”
The fact, however, is that the Japan Self-Defense Forces, abbreviated to JSDF or SDF, do have land, sea and air components that match in training, preparedness, and advanced equipment, facilities and materiel the military establishment of other modern countries except the US. There is even a seldom spoken notion that Japan is ever ready to assemble in a jiffy the latest nuclear arms capabilities if it ever became necessary to do so.
Abe is an idol to rightwing nationalists, conservatives and other Japanese who like his advocacy of the new security arrangement and the revision of the Constitution in order to achieve it. He has tried to get the Diet to pass the constitutionally required laws to initiate the revision process. But the process is difficult. The Constitution’s Chapter IX, Article 96, requires amendments to be “initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such election as the Diet shall specify.”
‘Zero possibility’ of constitutional revision?
Abe’s people have for years been trying hard to write and pass a new referendum law. They passed one in 2007, when the PM was also Shinzo Abe. Another law updated this in 2014, reducing the voting age from 20 to 18. The Upper House election tomorrow is the first time 18- and 19-year-olds will vote in Japan.
If the LDP wins a two-thirds majority, Abe’s desired constitutional amendments could surely be passed. LDP and its longtime coalition partner Komeito, together, already hold a two-thirds majority in the Diet’s Lower House.
Last Tuesday, LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura said in a TV interview that “there is zero possibility” that Abe will move to amend the Constitution’s no-war Article 9 even if the pro-revision forces win a two-thirds majority of the Upper House in elections tomorrow. This is because, said Komura, Abe and the LDP want to focus on the economy and social welfare.
Japan’s main opposition, the Democratic Party, immediately attacked Komura’s statement. The DP called it a tactic to disarm voters and make them forget the threat against the “Peace Constitution.” They pointed out that Komura’s declaration was neither the official line of the LDP, which has constitutional revision on its platform, nor the true desire of Abe.