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Amending Japan’s peace Constitution

To maintain regional security balance in East Asia it is necessary that Japan moves for amendment of Article 9 only when it faces grave national security threat. 

Over the Course of past few months, after assuming office, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to amend the Japanese Constitution specially Article 9 and Article 96 of the Constitution which was enforced by the victorious American Forces led by General Douglas MacArthur after World War II. Article 9 calls for Japan to maintain a self defence force for protecting its territorial integrity and disbanded the Imperial Japanese Army for the fear of rise of Japan as a military power after World War II. Article 96 is first in line to amendment because it would allow the Japanese Diet to pass any constitutional amendment through a simple majority for further national ‘special’ referendum.

What is Article 9?

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (the famous peace clause) renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential and also renounce threat or use of force as a sovereign right in order to maintain international peace and security. Japan after the end of World War II accepted these provisions so as that it wont ever become a military leader and indulge in genocide and war crimes. To overcome the Constitutional restraints in maintaining the armed forces, Japan has used Article 51 of the UN charter which recognises the right of self-defence as an inherent right of every nation and thus it has named its defence forces as Self Defense Force. Japanese forces cannot invade nay other country and if they do so then it will be a gross violation of its Constitution. When the language of Article 9 was being debated in the Diet in 1946, it was argued that Article 9 would put Japan in the vanguard of a new movement toward international peace. Constitutional change has been the primary goal of Shinzo Abe led Liberal Democratic Party that says that Japan needs to build a constitution with Japanese characteristics and enforces Japanese tradition and culture and not western ideals. He wants “to reclaim Japanese Sovereignty” by getting rid of the Constitution which fails “to provide a necessary condition for an independent nation”. Abe government’s initiatives through the LDP’s draft constitution of April 2012 assume broader scope with far reaching consequences. The arguments put forth for the revision are: (a) the present constitution should be changed as it was imposed during the US occupation; (b) should be changed as its time has passed; and (c) Japanese people are sovereign and should be entitled to revise their constitution.

The preferred modus operandi appears to amend Article 96 at first, by “lowering the bar from two-thirds or more of all the members of each house of the Diet to just more than one-half of both chambers” required for constitutional amendment.

Regional Security Dilemma-Maintaining Status Quo?

Japan has for the first time in 2012 increased its defence budget in more than 10 years and seeks to spend nearly US $ 240 billion over the course of the next 5 years in buying up submarines, drones, and stealth fighter aircrafts. Japan contends that China is becoming increasingly assertive and flexing its military muscle in the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean where its interest collide. The recent flaring up of the Senakau/Daioyu islands dispute has further added to the tension between the two countries. China had recently created an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the Senakaku Islands whose control lies clearly with the Japanese.

Neighbouring countries such as China and South Korea have over time raised concerns over such a Constitutional Amendment fearing the rise of a Nationalist Japanese Army with Pre World War II intentions. China-Japan relations have never been solid and they have always been on the warpath. War crimes committed by the Japanese Forces during World War II still on Chinese nationals have been egged on their memory and greatly fear the revival of Japanese Army if the Constitution is amended. China has increased its defence budget largely in the past 10 years and after the Economics crisis in 2008 has come to the forefront of global power politics and has been asserting its authority over disputed territories with various countries including Japan.

Even though Japan has a security treaty with the United States of America that states US would come to protect the territorial sovereignty incase Japan is attacked, many argue that the Treaty Of Friendship, 1951 would not be enforced by US citing its own complex relationship with China and hence Japan would be left on its own to protect itself.

Amending Japan’s Peace Constitution-Increasing Regional Security Imbalance in Asia?

Over the Course of past few months, after assuming office, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to amend the Japanese Constitution specially Article 9 and Article 96 of the Constitution which was enforced by the victorious American Forces led by General Douglas MacArthur after World War II. Article 9 calls for Japan to maintain a self defence force for protecting its territorial integrity and disbanded the Imperial Japanese Army for the fear of rise of Japan as a military power after World War II. Article 96 is first in line to amendment because it would allow the Japanese Diet to pass any constitutional amendment through a simple majority for further national ‘special’ referendum.

What is Article 9?

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (the famous peace clause) renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential and also renounce threat or use of force as a sovereign right in order to maintain international peace and security. Japan after the end of World War II accepted these provisions so as that it wont ever become a military leader and indulge in genocide and war crimes. To overcome the Constitutional restraints in maintaining the armed forces, Japan has used Article 51 of the UN charter which recognises the right of self-defence as an inherent right of every nation and thus it has named its defence forces as Self Defense Force. Japanese forces cannot invade nay other country and if they do so then it will be a gross violation of its Constitution. When the language of Article 9 was being debated in the Diet in 1946, it was argued that Article 9 would put Japan in the vanguard of a new movement toward international peace. Constitutional change has been the primary goal of Shinzo Abe led Liberal Democratic Party that says that Japan needs to build a constitution with Japanese characteristics and enforces Japanese tradition and culture and not western ideals. He wants “to reclaim Japanese Sovereignty” by getting rid of the Constitution which fails “to provide a necessary condition for an independent nation”. Abe government’s initiatives through the LDP’s draft constitution of April 2012 assume broader scope with far reaching consequences. The arguments put forth for the revision are: (a) the present constitution should be changed as it was imposed during the US occupation; (b) should be changed as its time has passed; and (c) Japanese people are sovereign and should be entitled to revise their constitution.

The preferred modus operandi appears to amend Article 96 at first, by “lowering the bar from two-thirds or more of all the members of each house of the Diet to just more than one-half of both chambers” required for constitutional amendment.

Regional Security Dilemma-Maintaining Status Quo?

Japan has for the first time in 2012 increased its defence budget in more than 10 years and seeks to spend nearly US $ 240 billion over the course of the next 5 years in buying up submarines, drones, and stealth fighter aircrafts. Japan contends that China is becoming increasingly assertive and flexing its military muscle in the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean where its interest collide. The recent flaring up of the Senakau/Daioyu islands dispute has further added to the tension between the two countries. China had recently created an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the Senakaku Islands whose control lies clearly with the Japanese.

Neighbouring countries such as China and South Korea have over time raised concerns over such a Constitutional Amendment fearing the rise of a Nationalist Japanese Army with Pre World War II intentions. China-Japan relations have never been solid and they have always been on the warpath. War crimes committed by the Japanese Forces during World War II still on Chinese nationals have been egged on their memory and greatly fear the revival of Japanese Army if the Constitution is amended. China has increased its defence budget largely in the past 10 years and after the Economics crisis in 2008 has come to the forefront of global power politics and has been asserting its authority over disputed territories with various countries including Japan.

Even though Japan has a security treaty with the United States of America that states US would come to protect the territorial sovereignty incase Japan is attacked, many argue that the Treaty Of Friendship, 1951 would not be enforced by US citing its own complex relationship with China and hence Japan would be left on its own to protect itself.

Conclusion

Many Argue that Article 9 should be amended to allow Japan to protect its economic interests in its periphery and since they are already engaged in peace keeping operation under the Command of UN forces the very basic nature of the Article is nullified. However in order to maintain regional security balance and stability in East Asia it is very much necessary that Japan maintain the status quo and move for amendment of Article 9 only in time when it faces grave national security threat. Japan’s amendment will obviously bolster its security and army but it will become a point of insecurity for surrounding states such as China and South Korea. Japan should not take the first step in arms race buildup in East Asia and should show restraint of the outmost nature.

Piyush Singh is a law student with an interest in India-China relations and nuclear law and energy. He is completing his internship with the Takshashila Institution. 

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  1. Conflict Observer Project | Japan: An overview of the recent National Security Strategy - February 6, 2014

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