Thursday, March 6, 2014, 08:24
Tokyo's disoriented agenda
By Lu Yaodong

Abe and his party aim to change the Constitution to remove the pacifist 'shackles' to regain its power of belligerency

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempt for constitutional revisions-which he is determined to achieve-is primarily meant to amend Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, which defines three major guiding principles: sovereignty lying with the people, fundamental human rights and pacifism.

At the core of Article 9 is pacifism: "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. In order 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."

It is this constitutional guarantee that prevents the possibility of a resurgence of militarism in Japan forever.

The Japanese people have realized that the ultimate goal of Abe's attempt to revise the Constitution is to amend Article 9. Because of this, Abe's determination for constitutional revisions has encountered opposition from the public. So the question now is whether or not Abe will be able to abandon pacifism-Japan's historical "pledge".

Makoto Koga, former secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in an interview with the Shimbun Akahata that this pacifist principle is the foundation of the current Japanese Constitution and is "a world heritage". Koga defends the foundation of the "pacifist constitution" and emphasizes the historical origin of the pacifist principle embodied in the Japanese Constitution.

After World War II, the US forces stationed in Japan remodeled and rebuilt the defeated Japan in a democratic manner-beating out the Japanese militarist forces, abrogating the emperor's autocratic system, and drafting the pacifist constitution for Japan. Abe argues that constitutional revisions are Japan's internal affairs, but a historical fact should not be denied- that is, the pacifist constitution was drafted to eliminate Japanese militarism.

The pacifist constitution is not only widely praised in Asia and the world; it is also accepted by the Japanese people and has played an irreplaceable role in Japan's economic rise. The Japanese right-wing forces and conservatives, however, regard it as the biggest obstacle for them in their attempts to deny Japan's history of aggression in Asia.

Since the promulgation of the peaceful constitution in 1947, the Japanese conservatives and nationalist elements have never ceased their attempts to revise the Constitution, mainly Article 9. Japan's ruling party-the Liberal Democratic Party-has always desired to "draft an autonomous constitution" and has pursued it as one of the principles for the formation of the party. It considers making an autonomous constitution as one of the values for the existence of the LDP. Therefore, "constitutional revision" has become the predestination of the LDP.

The "draft constitution" released by the LDP indicates that Article 9 of the Constitution on the renunciation of war and the right of belligerency will be revised, a goal pursued by the LDP since its formation.

Abe has been an advocate for revising the pacifist constitution in an attempt to change Japan's image as a defeated country, and to make Japan a "truly sovereign state" as well as a "country with self-confidence". For this purpose, Abe has been instigating frequent disputes with Japan's neighbors, which has led to the deterioration in relations with neighboring countries and damaged regional stability.

For Abe and other right-wingers, the best excuse for seeking constitutional change is to instigate geopolitical conflicts in the Northeast Asian region. And they, using the excuse of a "threat from neighboring countries", could achieve their ambitious goals of unshackling the restrictions of the pacifist constitution and making Japan a big military power.

Abe has intentionally fabricated "enemies" in Asia and exaggerated frictions and disputes with neighboring countries by using the islands disputes with China, the Republic of Korea and Russia, as well as playing up the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula in a move to "unshackle Japan from the postwar system". The conservatives in the LDP, citing island disputes with China and South Korea, have even called for changes in the constitutional interpretation, as well as the change of the Self-Defense Forces into a full fledged military.

Abe's erratic remarks that Japan does not need to explain the constitutional revisions to China and South Korea show it is an abnormal move. It is natural that it would arouse vigilance and concern from Asian countries, including China and South Korea. Abe and the nationalists, by the means of distorting history and pushing forward the "nationalistic spirit," are trying to make Japan a so-called normal country by "unshackling it from the post-war system".

On the issue of constitutional revisions, Abe shows a political stance that is tougher than politicians who were born before that war. In the eyes of Abe, constitutional revisions hold the key to making Japan a "normal country" and achieving the goal of making Japan a big political and military country. Such a political pursuit is meant to restore some of the state rights and power in dealing with foreign countries that were "lost" due to its invasion of China and South Korea during WWII.

The attempts by Abe to revise Article 9 of the pacifist constitution and to seek to make Japan a big political and military power damage the security environment of the Asian region. Japan is naturally becoming isolated and opposed by the peoples of Asia and the world as a whole. This is a grave fact that Abe and the conservatives should face up to.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. www.chinausfocus.com