Detesting war renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution

Akahata's new series "Young pro-arms buildup lawmakers incline towards bipartisanship in support of warlike security and diplomatic policy" began on June 29. Following is the translation of part one: "Detesting war renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution".

A group of young lawmakers representing the national defense-related interests has attracted public attention since the war-contingency bills were enacted with minor "amendments" agreed upon by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party. This is how a kind of bipartisanship is emerging in Japan in relation to security and diplomatic policies.

The group is led by Defense Agency Director General Ishiba Shigeru, Vice Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzo, and former Defense Agency Director General Nakatani Gen. Their group is often referred to by mass media as a "neo defense interests group". Let's take a look at their arguments.

'Break the postwar spell'

"We, young Dietmembers born after the end of World War II, are called upon to establish a new constitution for the Heisei era (that began with the present emperor's accession to the throne in 1989). By so doing can we break ourselves from the postwar spell (of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution)."

Vice Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzo made this public statement calling for a constitutional revision in his speech on June 15 in Morioka City in Iwate Prefecture. Also at a May 10 lecture in Osaka, he stated, "I think the Constitution must be revised. We must be determined to make an overall review."

Abe made these remarks in answer to the question, "What will you do if you are the prime minister?" In a daily Yomiuri Shimbun survey on a "likely next prime minister", Abe ranked second next only to Koizumi Jun'ichiro. In the Koizumi Cabinet, Abe has been working on the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals. It may be within this context that he showed his arrogance.

Forced labor?

Abe is not the only senior official who argued for constitutional amendments. Defense Agency Director General Ishiba was speaking at a meeting of the House of Representatives Council on the Constitution on May 23, 2002. That was before he became the director general of the Defense Agency. He stated, "Some people in Japan say that a conscription system is unconstitutional in Japan. No one in the world would make such a an argument. A country does not deserve to be called a country if it allows for the argument that national defense is hard slavery work." This naturally caused repercussions.

Although he "corrected" his statement after he became the Defense Agency director general, saying, "I didn't mean that Japan should have a conscription system" (April 24, House of Representatives special committee on contingency legislation). But what he stated has not been erased.

Former Defense Agency Director General Nakatani used his website to call for "the Constitution to be amended so that everyone can understand it without difficulty." He also insisted on the need to define Japan's commitment to the international community as well as the people's awareness of their duty.

In the past, calls for constitutional amendments have been made only by elderly LDP politicians who have careers as prewar-Home Ministry bureaucrats. Now, members of the new group of "Dietmembers representing national defense-related interests" do not hesitate to publicly advocate constitutional changes. They are attempting to raise the matter as a common topic of discussion.

Right to collective self-defense

This mood in favor of constitutional amendments is permeating some opposition parties. The June 16 issue of AERA, a weekly magazine, published findings from a survey of 45 lawmakers of the LDP, Democratic and Liberal parties. They were between 20 and 39 years of age. Twenty-seven answered 'Yes' to constitutional amendments.

Edano Yukio, DPJ Policy Research Council chair, on a TV discussion program on June 15 insisted that it is constitutional for the Self-Defense Forces to transport weapons and munitions in Iraq, saying,"If it is in violation of the Constitution, the Constitution should be revised."

DPJ Maehara Seiji in a discussion on 'agreement-making' on the contingency bills with an LDP counterpart, stated, "If I were the prime minister, I would call for the constitutional interpretation of the right of collective self-defense' so as to allow the SDF to carry out logistical support" (monthly "Voice" December 2001 issue).

Exercising the right of collective self-defense means paving the way for Japan to go abroad and use its military in joint operations with U.S. forces. The government has so far made it clear that Japan is barred from exercising the right of collective self-defense. Now, young politicians forming a group promoting national defense-related interests now publicly speak about this interpretation with hatred. Abe said that it's a shame for the government to interpret the Constitution that way because it is tantamount to declaring Japan incompetent. (end)

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