Government Stands Divided on Revising War Charter

News & Views - May 7th, 2014
japan-weighs-revision-of-constitution

Hundreds of people rallied in Tokyo to protest against plans to revise the war-renouncing charter on the day commemorating Japan’s postwar constitution, as the nation grows more divided over its perceived role in war.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long advocated a reinterpretation of Japan’s post-World War II constitution to allow its self-defense forces to exercise their right to “collective self-defense,” a move widely supported by the US.

The Diet is moving to pave the way for potential revisions without having to win public approval and is set to enact a law to lower the national referendum voting age to 18 from 20 this year.

Abe’s ruling conservative party says he is pushing for “limited” collective self-defense in which Japan could defend allies such as the US. But lawmakers also raised concerns about where the line should be drawn.

“Collective self-defense falls under the minimum necessity for self-defense,” Vice President Masahiko Komura of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Sunday.

“We are not necessarily against a reinterpretation,” New Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa said on an NHK program. “But we need to have a clear standard if we recognize limited collective self-defense.”

Opposition parties are also divided on a revision. In a statement, The Democratic Party of Japan said that “there is room for reinterpreting the Constitution to reflect the changing security situation” but such a move could undermine the constitution.

According to an NHK survey last month, 28 percent of 1,600 respondents said Article 9 (which outlaws war) should be amended, down 14 points from the previous year. Those who are against a revision are up by 10 points with 26 percent, while 40 percent were neutral on the issue.

As for collective self-defense, 34 percent said the nation should exercise it either by amending or reinterpreting the Constitution, while 41 percent are opposed to it.

“We citizens must stand up, take action and raise our voice to stop Abe, or this country could return to a Japan that wages war with Asia as it has done before,” said protest organizer Ken Takada.

Image: “Diet at Dusk” by Nokton/Flickr