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Today, Japan’s peace constitution is – more than ever – in danger.
In a context of exacerbated regional tensions, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has accelerated his efforts to change war-renouncing Article 9, to allow Japan to exercise collective military action, and bolster the country’s security and military posture regionally and internationally.
On July 1, Abe forced through a Cabinet decision that substantially eviscerates Article 9 of its principles and steps away from a number of the key principles that have governed Japan for decades.
Claimed to be a component of a new doctrine of “pro-active pacifism”, the cabinet decision is the latest of a long series of initiatives that overstep Article 9 and some of the country’s longstanding peace policies. These measures include formulating a new national security policy; establishing a National Security Council; revamping defense guidelines; announcing yet a further increase of the country’s military budget for 2014; and drastically relaxing the long-held arms export ban.
The decision to lift restrictions on Japan’s exercise of the right to collective self-defense needs to be understood in the context of the security cooperation between Japan and the US. Indeed, Washington, which has long prodded Tokyo for an increased Japanese participation in the US “Pivot to Asia”, has welcome the move, while Japan’s neighbors, notably China and South Korea, have expressed their concerns that it may further destabilize the fragile peace in the region.
Domestically, the move represents a “political coup”: not only does it overturn consistent interpretation by all past administration for decades, but it also bypasses the due democratic process for constitutional amendment (of approval by a 2/3 majority of the Diet and national referendum) and disregards broad public opposition.
Yet, the Cabinet decision to re-interpret Article 9 does not have the force of law, as more than a dozen laws still act as legal barriers to the constitutional reinterpretation and will need to be amended by parliament in order to enact the change.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution:
“ARTICLE 9. 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) 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.”
Japan’s Peace Pledge
Japan adopted its war-renouncing constitution following World War II. Article 9 is a pledge to Japan itself and to the world, particularly neighboring countries that suffered under Japanese invasions and colonial rule, to never repeat its mistakes.
Despite constitutional restrictions, Japan has developed and gradually expanded its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to become one of the world’s top military spenders and one of the most advanced militaries in Asia. Yet, to date, the existence of Article 9 – and the Japanese people's support for its principles – have forced the government to maintain peace policies, including non-export of arms, a non-nuclear policy, and not deploying the SDF for active combat.
Global Impact of Article 9
Article 9 is not just a provision of the Japanese law. It also acts as an international peace mechanism towards reducing military spending, supporting conflict prevention, promoting nuclear-weapon-free zones, recognizing the human right to peace, and more.
Risks for Regional/International Peace and Stability
At the regional level, Article 9 has served as “the foundation for collective security for the entire Asia Pacific region."
In today’s context of exacerbated regional tensions involving Japan, China, and the Koreas, changing the interpretation of Article 9 – coupled with the passing of a number of other measures that significantly undermine Japan’s longstanding pacific policies, as well as a series of controversial remarks on historical and reconciliation issues – threaten to destabilize the fragile peace in Northeast Asia, triggering an arms race and escalating into a regional – if not global – conflict.
Global Article 9 Campaign
Launched in 2005 by a coalition of civil society organizations in Japan, the Global Article 9 Campaign seeks not only to locally protect Article 9; it also acts to educate people around the world about existing international peace mechanisms such as Japan’s Constitution and encourage governments to work towards disarmament, demilitarization and a culture of peace.
Call for support
Japanese civil society is mobilizing and seeking your urgent support – for Japan’s peace constitution and against the Japanese government’s trend of nationalism, historical revisionism and its path to militarism that would have grave consequences for Japan, the regional context and international peace.
More information on the Global Article 9 Campaign: www.article-9.org - Contact email@example.com