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2018 October 10 - 16 [POLITICS]

Abe uses SDF to realize his ambition to change Constitution

October 16, 2018

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has repeatedly stressed the need to revise Article 9 of the Constitution in order to legalize the existence of the Self-Defense Forces. Recently, Abe expressed this ambition before officers and personnel of the SDF.

Abe on September 3 at a gathering of high-ranking SDF officers said that it is politicians’ responsibility to create an environment where all SDF members can perform their duties with pride. He showed his determination to fulfill this responsibility. Abe effectively declared his commitment to work to constitutionalize the SDF in front of a group of top SDF officers.

At a review of SDF troops on October 14, Abe made the same remark he made in September. He said that the SDF in the past was criticized as being unconstitutional, but its members performed their duties without complaining. Noting that now 90% of the general public respect the SDF, Abe asserted that it is politicians’ turn to do their jobs.

The prime minister is the commander in chief of the SDF. When the prime minister speaks before SDF members in an official capacity, his/her words will be interpreted as instructions given to them.

PM Abe touched on the need to amend Article 9 in his speech to SDF members, which is tantamount to tacitly urging them to support constitutional revision. This amount to a move to use the SDF to realize his political ambitions.

Abe disregarded the generally-accepted principle that the political neutrality of armed forces must be strictly maintained. In addition, he ignored his constitutional obligation to respect and uphold the supreme law.

Abe justifies his move to constitutionalize the SDF by saying that it will enable SDF members to have pride in performing their service to the nation. However, what Abe’s constitutional revision will bring about will most likely be a higher possibility that SDF members will be dispatched to overseas missions and forced to face the situation of killing or being killed.

With the current Constitution prohibiting Japan from maintaining war potential, successive governments have argued that the SDF is not a military force because it is aimed exclusively at defending Japan and that therefore it cannot use weapons abroad. If the legal status of the SDF is stipulated in the Constitution, the government will no longer need to support the constitutionality of the SDF by restricting its activities. As a result, the government will have a free hand in dispatching SDF units on overseas missions involving the use of arms.

The Abe government has asserted that revision of Article 9 is necessary to deal with threats from North Korea. However, this assertion is becoming less and less convincing as North Korea and the U.S. have started talks to ease tensions. Still, PM Abe insists on the need for constitutional amendment. This indicates that what Abe wants to do in reality is to have SDF troops take part in U.S. wars at any time anywhere.

SDF members are presently tasked to defend Japan. They should not be asked to take pride in conducting overseas military operations which have nothing whatsoever to do with Japan’s defense.
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