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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 May 24 - 30  > Top SDF officer should remember his obligation to abide by Constitution
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2017 May 24 - 30 [POLITICS]

Top SDF officer should remember his obligation to abide by Constitution

May 25, 2017

Akahata editorial

The top officer of the Self-Defense Forces made controversial remarks on a constitutional amendment plan proposed by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who is also the President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. In response to a foreign journalist who mentioned that Abe repeatedly expressed his intent to give constitutional legality to the SDF by adding a new clause to Article 9 of the supreme law and to have the proposed revision take effect in 2020, chief of the Joint Staff Office (JSO) Kawano Katsutoshi said, “As a member of the SDF, I think that the proposal would be a big help.” This has provoked public criticism. SDF members are civil servants who are obliged to respect and comply with the supreme law according to Article 99. Every new recruit to the SDF has to sign and submit the oath of performance of duty that states, “I will abide by the Japanese Constitution and laws.” It is a reckless deviation from the oath to proclaim that a constitutional revision is something desirable.

Top SDF officer aware of problems in his remarks

Kawano made this statement at a formal occasion, a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Japan. In response to a question concerning the Prime Minister’s aspiration for a constitutional change, Kawano said that it would be inappropriate for a JSO chief to comment on the Constitution-related issue because it is highly political. However, he went on to say that as a SDF member, he appreciates Abe’s proposal. It is illogical to claim that commenting on constitutional revision is improper for a top officer but acceptable for an individual SDF member. When making the comment, Kawano was most likely fully aware of how contentious his remark would be.

Article 99 of the Constitution stipulates, “Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this Constitution.” The oath of performance of obligation, which is based on enforcement regulations of the SDF Act, requires all military personnel to fully realize the mission of the SDF and to strictly abide by the Japanese Constitution and laws.

No matter whether Kawano made the remarks as JSO chief or as an SDF member, the fact remains that he neglected his duty to respect and uphold the Constitution. His behavior is highly suspect and is a clear breach of the obligation to comply with the supreme law.

In the first place, PM Abe himself has turned his back on the prime minister’s duty to respect the Constitution by repeatedly expressing his intent to add a clause to legitimize the SDF to Article 9 in an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun and in his video message sent to a rally held by constitutional revisionists. Abe claims that he made the comments not as prime minister but as LDP president, but the Yomiuri carried that article as an interview with the “prime minister”. Abe’s claim is a deceptive tactic which was also used by Kawano.

PM Abe has recently instructed LDP executives to draft constitutional amendments by the end of this year. This shows that his ambition to change the pacifist Constitution has become an imminent danger.

Stop the military from running wild

In December 2014, even before lawmakers began to discuss the unconstitutional national security bills, Kawano told the chief of staff of the U.S. Army that the bills would pass the Diet “by next summer”. This remark came to light during Diet deliberations on the war bills and Kawano was harshly criticized for violating his obligation as a civil servant.

In prewar Japan, under the despotic Tenno (Emperor) system, the Imperial military pushed ahead with the war of aggression in defiance of the Diet and the general public, which resulted in catastrophic consequences. In light of this painful fact, the remarks made by the top SDF officer should not be taken lightly.

With regard to Kawano’s latest statement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said, “There is no problem as it is a personal opinion.” This attitude is tantamount to turning away from the horrible tragedy of war caused by a reckless military.

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