CONSTITUTION OF JAPAN (1947), ARTICLE 9 (THE NO-WAR CLAUSE) AND SHINZO ABE'S AMBITION TO CHANGE IT

CONSTITUTION OF JAPAN (1947)


original signatures on the 1947 Constitition of Japan

The American-imposed Japanese constitution was instituted on May 3, 1947. A revision of the 1889 Meiji constitution, it created a constitutional monarchy based on the British model and was imposed by the United States and was largely American written.

The constitution of Japan was hastily put together — a large part of it was written in only six days — and pushed through the government by American Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Among its main features are that the Emperor is the symbol of the state and that Japan renounces war as a sovereign right. The fundamental human rights of speech, assembly, press and religion are guaranteed as is the right of women to vote.

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The American Occupation of Japan was premised on the notion that the thorough demilitarization and democratization of the defeated nation would make the world forever safe from the renewed threat of Japanese aggression. The drafting of a new, democratic constitution was considered essential to Japan’s recasting as a peaceful member of the community of nations. After a Japanese commission failed to produce a new national constitution sufficiently progressive for the Occupation’s liking, a document was drafted (over the span of only a week’s time) in-house by American staff and presented to the Japanese government for translation and enactment. [Source: Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|> ]

“The Japanese had no choice but to follow orders and the new constitution, somewhat awkwardly worded as the result of its English-language origins, was promulgated in November 1946 and came into effect on May 3, 1947. Many scholars have noted the irony of the Occupation installing democratic political institutions in Japan through transparently authoritarian means: the Japanese, it has been said, were “forced to be free” by their American occupiers. Nonetheless, the 1947 Constitution was readily embraced by the Japanese people and has endured (with not a single amendment over the past six decades) as a sound basis for Japan’s postwar democracy.” <|>

The Japanese Constitution is sometimes referred to as the "Peace Constitution." It denies Japan the right to declare war and forbids the establishment of a large army or navy. The preamble states: "We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time...We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time." An amendment to constitution has to be approved by a two third majority by both houses and then by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

Good Websites and Sources: Post World-War-II Japan hartford-hwp.com Essay on Allied Occupation of Japan aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Essay on Postwar Japan 1952-1989 aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Essay on 20th Century Japan aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Birth of the Constitution of Japan ndl.go.jp/constitution ; Constitution of Japan solon.org/Constitutions/Japan ; Takazawa Collection at the University of Hawaii on Social Japanese Social Movements takazawa.hawaii.edu ; Documents Related to Postwar Politics and International Relations ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Japan Echo, a Journal on Japanese Politics and Society japanecho.com; Books: Making of Modern Japan by Marius Jansen (2000);Inventing Japan: (1853-1964) by Ian Buruma (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2003). Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John Dowser of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1999.

Good Japanese History Websites: ; Wikipedia article on History of Japan Wikipedia ; Samurai Archives samurai-archives.com ; National Museum of Japanese History rekihaku.ac.jp ; Japanese History Documentation Project openhistory.org/jhdp ; Cambridge University Bibliography of Japanese History to 1912 ames.cam.ac.uk ; Sengoku Daimyo sengokudaimyo.co ; English Translations of Important Historical Documents hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/iriki ; WWW-VL: History: Japan (semi good but dated source ) vlib.iue.it/history/asia/Japan ; Forums Delphi Forums, Good Discussion Group on Japanese History forums.delphiforums.com/samuraihistory ; Tousando tousando.proboards.com

Article of 9 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)

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1947 constitution
Article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbids all military activity except as a last line of defense. It states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right and the threat of use of force as means of settling disputes" and armed forces "will never be maintained." Japan's pacifist stance has a lot to do with its distrust of the military. The military in Japan is not called the armed forces; rather it is called the self-defense force.

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The most celebrated section of the 1947 Constitution is Article 9, often called the “no war” clause. Debate swirled immediately around Article 9, which was very popular among the Japanese people but which proved troubling to the United States. Although American Occupation officials drafted the “no war” clause, American military planners soon sought a remilitarized Japan as an ally in the Cold War and found Article 9 a serious impediment. [Source: Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|> ]

Article 9 reads: “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.” [Source: “Sources of Japanese Tradition”, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur L. Tiedemann, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 1029-1036]

According to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution Japan can not fight outside the country and is restricted in what it can do within the country. In 1995, the Japanese military was prohibited by these rules from entering Kobe to help out after the earthquake there. The constitution, according to the way it is interpreted, bans the export of weapons. Aerospace manufacturers export parts listed as for “commercial” airlines when actually they intended to be really used in military aircraft.

Japanese servicemen almost never wear their uniforms in public. They work and risk their lives for an organization that is technically illegal and can quit any time because in the eyes of the law they are civilians. In the 1960s an admiral was thrown off a train for wearing his uniform.

Preamble of the Japanese Constitution (1947)


Preamble of the Nihon Kenpo (Japanese Constitution

We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. [Source: “Sources of Japanese Tradition”, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur L. Tiedemann, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 1029-1036 <|>]

Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances and rescripts in conflict herewith. <|>

We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace.loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. <|>

We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want. We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations. We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources. <|>

Chapters I and II (with Article 9): The Emperor and Renunciation of War


Third page of the Nihon Kenpo

Article 1. The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power. [Source: “Sources of Japanese Tradition”, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur L. Tiedemann, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 1029-1036 <|>]

Article 3. The advice and approval of the Cabinet shall be required for all acts of the Emperor in matters of state, and the Cabinet shall be responsible therefor [ sic]. <|>

Article 4. The Emperor shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in the Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government. . . . <|>

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. 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. <|>

Chapter III: Rights and Duties of the People

Article 11. The people shall not be prevented from enjoying any of the fundamental human rights. These fundamental human rights guaranteed to the people by this Constitution shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations as eternal and inviolate rights. <|>

Article 13. All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs. <|>


1946 Rowell memo: an American memo, which helped script the Japanese constitution

Article 14. All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin. Peers and peerage shall not be recognized. . . . <|>

Article 15. The people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them. All public officials are servants of the whole community and not of any group thereof. Universal adult suffrage is guaranteed with regard to the election of public officials. In all elections secrecy of the ballot shall not be violated. A voter shall not be answerable, publicly or privately, for the choice he has made. <|>

Article 19. Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated. <|>

Article 20. Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The state and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity. <|>

Article 21. Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press, and all other forms of expression are guaranteed. No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated. <|>

Article 22. Every person shall have freedom to choose and change his residence and to choose his occupation to the extent it does not interfere with the public welfare. Freedom of all persons to move to a foreign country and to divest themselves of their nationality shall be inviolate. <|>

Article 23. Academic freedom is guaranteed. <|>

Article 24. Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce, and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes. <|>

Article 25. All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living. In all spheres of life, the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health. <|>

Article 26. All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law. All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary educations as provided for by law. Such compulsory education shall be free. <|>

Article 27. All people shall have the right and the obligation to work. Standards for wages, hours, rest, and other working conditions shall be fixed by law. Children shall not be exploited. <|>

Article 28. The right of workers to organize and to bargain and act collectively is guaranteed. <|>

Article 29. The right to own or hold property is inviolable. Property rights shall be defined by law, in conformity with the public welfare. Private property may be taken for public use upon just compensation therefore [ sic]. <|>

Article 35. The right of all persons to be secure in their homes, papers and effects against entries, searches and seizures shall not be impaired except upon warrant issued for adequate cause and particularly describing the place to be searched and things to be seized, or except as provided by Article 33. Each search or seizure shall be made upon separate warrant issued by a competent judicial officer. <|>

Article 36. The infliction of torture by any public officer and cruel punishments are absolutely for bidden. <|>

Chapter IV: The Diet

Article 41. The Diet shall be the highest organ of state power, and shall be the sole lawmaking organ of the state. <|>

Article 42. The Diet shall consist of two Houses, namely the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. <|>

Article 43. Both Houses shall consist of elected members, representatives of all the people. <|>

Article 44. The qualifications of members of both Houses and their electors shall be fixed by law. However, there shall be no discrimination because of race, creed, sex, social status, family origin, education, property, or income. <|>


Japanese goverenment under the Constitution of Japan


Chapter X: Supreme Law

Article 97. The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age.old struggle of man to 1036 postwar Japan be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate. <|>

Article 98. This constitution shall be the supreme law of the nation. . . . <|>

Revising Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution

The LDP, Japan’s ruling political party, has proposed constitutional amendment that would officially recognize the military and give the military greater freedom to operate overseas.

Military threats from China and North Korea and the rise of terrorism have given nationalists an excuse to call for beefing up the Japanese military and increased involvements by Japan in military affairs in Asia and the world.

There are plans to revise the Constitution, with Article 9 being the primary target. According to a 2003 poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 42 percent of Japanese believe Article 9 should be reformed. 30.3 percent said it should be treated as it has in the past and 17.9 percent said it should be followed strictly (9.5 percent had no answer). The number of people who favored changing the constitution for reasons related to defense rose from 9 percent in 1995 to 16 percent in 2003.

In May 2007, a law to set up referendum procedures for constitutional amendments was passed allowing a referendum to be held on revising the constitution as early as 2010. The law was seen as an important step in revising the constitution, a goal that seems difficult to achieve in that most Japanese oppose the amendment and for an amendment to be approved it needs approval by a two third majority by both houses of the Diet and then by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

Shinzo Abe's Plan to Change Japan’s Constitution

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to radically revise Japan’s post-war "peace constitution". This is a long-held dream of not only Abe but also of his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi who was prime minister of Japan in the 1950s. According to the BBC: Many on the right in Japan believe that constitution was forced on Japan by the United States and is a humiliation. It imposes not only pacifism, but also Western notions of human rights and civil liberties. It rejects Japan’s uniqueness in favour of "universal values". [Source: Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC, December 26, 2013 ^^]

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Shinzo Abe
According to The Economist: “Ever since its founding in 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has wanted to write a constitution to replace the ultraliberal one which America drafted for the devastated country in a matter of days in 1946. Throwing off the framework imposed by the former occupiers is the life’s work of Shinzo Abe. Many Japanese who do not support Mr Abe’s right-wing views also favour revision, at least of article nine. This is what makes the constitution a pacifist one, for in it Japan renounces war as a sovereign right and even vows not to keep a standing army, air force or navy. Japan’s sense of itself as a pacifist nation remains extremely popular. But according to the constitution’s current interpretation, Japan may not even come to the aid of allies if they are attacked. Re-interpreting, rather than amending, the constitution would legitimise collective self-defence. Still, for many Japanese it rankles that Japan’s “self-defence forces”, formed in 1954 and among the world’s most sophisticated armed forces, cannot call themselves a standing army. There is broad support for changing the constitution, which has never been amended, so that they can. It is a matter of national pride as much as anything else. [Source: The Economist, June 1, 2013 >>>>]

“The LDP’s draft is heavily influenced by Mr Abe’s revisionist wing of the party. The revisionists gloss over militarist Japan’s atrocities in the region and want Japanese children to be taught a beautified picture of a past in which a harmonious society thrived under the fond gaze of the emperor. The draft elevates the concept of “public order” as a limit on individual freedom. It restores the emperor as the head of the state, and even seems to remove his obligation to uphold the constitution. It deletes entirely an article in the current document guaranteeing human rights. To a clause on equal rights written by the late Beate Sirota, a 22-year-old American interpreter at the time who is a heroine among Japanese feminists for her advocacy of women’s rights, the LDP adds a homily on the family, whose members, it says, must help each other. >>>>

Tobias Harris wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Recognizing that Japan's constitution is among the hardest in the world to revise, the LDP has focused its attention on first simplifying the constitution's amendment process. Article 96 of the constitution stipulates that an amendment must pass with two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Diet and then be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum. The LDP wants to replace the supermajority requirement in both houses with simple majorities, clearing the way for other, more drastic amendments. [Source: Tobias Harris, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2013, Mr. Harris is the author of Observing Japan, a blog on Japanese politics /^/]

“Discussion of constitutional revision in Japan often focuses on Article 9, by which the "Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation." Yet the draft constitution released by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2012 calls for wide-ranging revisions such as an extensive list of obligations borne by citizens and new emergency powers for the prime minister. Above all else, Mr. Abe and other members of his party believe that Japan cannot fully regain its sovereignty until Tokyo has effectively replaced the constitution drafted by post-war occupation authorities in 1946. /^/

The Japanese government insists it is not seeking to deny Japan’s wartime role with its campaign to amend the Japanese constitution. Yosuke Isozaki, a key Abe ally and a leader of the group pushing for constitutional change, told the Washington Post: “There are some misunderstandings that the Liberal Democratic Party is trying to deny history, but we don’t intend to do that at all...Amending the constitution can only be done if the people agree. Also, this requires the agreement of two-thirds of both houses of the Diet. So it’s a very difficult challenge.”[Source: Anna Fifield, Washington Post, May 23, 2015 *|*]

Shinzo Abe's Effort to Change Japan’s Constitution

Anna Fifield wrote in the Washington Post,“In July 2014, Abe’s government “reinterpreted” the constitution with a cabinet resolution ending a ban on the deployment of Japan’s military overseas.” In September 2105, the Diet passed “a package of bills that revised national security laws to, among other things, allows Japan’s self-defense forces to act in “collective self-defense” if the United States, Japan’s closest ally, came under attack. A 2015 Kyodo news agency poll found that almost half of respondents oppose the revised guidelines, while a third support them. The proposed changes have also raised hackles in the region, fueling fears on the Korean Peninsula and in China that Abe wants to remilitarize Japan. [Source: Anna Fifield, Washington Post, May 23, 2015 *|*]

“Separately, the government is accelerating its efforts to formally revise the constitution, imposed under the U.S. occupation after World War II. The LDP and its partners have a 60 percent majority in upper house and a 68 percent majority in the lower house. "If approved by parliament, changes would be put to the public in a referendum. To destigmatize the idea of amending the constitution, the government is expected to start with relatively noncontentious issues such as environmental management and human rights. “The people of Japan, including lawmakers, don’t have any experience of making constitutional amendments. So there is some hesitation,” Isozaki said. *|*

Tobias Harris wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “If the LDP hoped to dodge controversy by focusing on the seemingly innocuous question of amendment procedures, its ruse failed. The newspapers are filled with editorials about the inadvisability of constitutional revision, and the LDP's draft has drawn scrutiny from the domestic and international press. The political obstacles to revising Article 96 are considerable. First, lacking a two-thirds majority in either house of the Diet, the LDP needs political allies in order to amend the constitution. Komeito, the LDP's formal partner in government, has refrained from indicating whether it supports the amendment. [Source: Tobias Harris, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2013, Mr. Harris is the author of Observing Japan, a blog on Japanese politics /^/]


original copy of the Constition of Japan


“Even if an amendment were to clear both houses of the Diet, it remains an open question whether the Japanese public would support revision. Mr. Abe admitted in the Diet” in 2013 “that if a national referendum on revising Article 96 were held today, it would lose based on the latest public opinion polls. For example, a recent poll by the Asahi Shimbun, a center-left daily, found 54 percent of respondents opposed to revising Article 96, compared with 38 percent in favor. /^/

“But the question remains as to why Mr. Abe has felt such a strong urge to focus on constitutional reform in the first place. His core motivation is likely more psychological than tactical. Mr. Abe has long spoken of himself as a "conviction politician" with a mission to reshape Japan for the 21st century—a mission he literally inherited from his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, the postwar prime minister (and suspected war criminal) who founded the LDP after serving in Tojo's World War Two cabinet. Part of Mr. Abe's mission is to remove the lingering traces of Japan's defeat, of which the constitution is the most prominent example. In doing so, the prime minister hopes to restore what he believes to be the diminished pride of the Japanese people." /^/

As part of the effort to amend Article 9, "authorities have begun distributing a comic book featuring a family questioning a constitution written by Americans to “make Japan powerless.” “Japan must never again pose a threat to the world,” the cartoon has Maj. Gen. Courtney Whitney, one of the Americans who drafted Japan’s constitution in 1946, saying. The family then discusses how the document could be updated. *|*

“Many experts, here and in other countries, are deeply troubled by the Abe government’s approach of preparing the way by “reinterpreting” the constitution’s language regarding the military. “I don’t think there is any way that you can read the constitution and, with a clear mind, say that it allows collective self-defense,” said Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Tokyo’s Sophia University and a critic of the Abe government. “This is basically changing the constitution through the back door. The constitution that is supposed to constrain the government is being de facto changed by the government,” he said. Reiichi Miyazaki, a former director general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, said the proposed changes were clearly unconstitutional. “They would open a way to unlimited execution of force overseas as long as the U.S. requests,” Miyazaki said. *|*

U.S. policymakers, by contrast, have welcomed Abe’s moves because they fit with Washington’s vision of a more robust Japan capable of acting as a counterweight to China. “Prime Minister Abe is leading Japan to a new role on the world stage,” President Obama said.But Craig Martin, an expert on Japan’s constitution at Washburn University School of Law, said that Americans ought to be a little bit more circumspect about Abe’s plans, which, he said, were “entirely illegitimate” and could “do violence to the constitutional order and undermine democracy in Japan.” “It’s an end run around the amendment procedures in the constitution,” Martin said, adding that it was as if the Obama administration were to try to reinterpret the Second Amendment so that Americans no longer had an individual right to bear arms. “It would be inconceivable,” he said. “It would be outrageous.” *|*


Pro-article 9 banner


Japan’s Parliament Approves Overseas Combat Role for Military

In September 2015, Japan’s parliament passed a bill that allows the country’s military to fight in wars overseas, something which many think is prohibited by Japan’s “peace constitution,” which only allows the use of military force for self-defense. Jonathan Soble wrote in the New York Times, “In a middle-of-the night vote that capped a tumultuous struggle with opposition parties in Parliament,” Abe “secured final passage of legislation authorizing overseas combat missions for his country’s military...The legislation had been expected to pass; Mr. Abe’s governing coalition controls a formidable majority in the legislature. But analysts said the grinding political battle and days of demonstrations that accompanied the effort could hurt his standing with a public already skeptical of his hawkish vision for Japan’s national security. [Source: Jonathan Soble, New York Times, September 18, 2015 *=*]

“The debate often doubled as a forum for airing views about Japan’s most important ally, the United States. Many were hostile. “If this legislation passes, we will absolutely be caught up in illegal American wars,” Taro Yamamoto, a leader of a small left-leaning opposition party, said in a committee debate. The debate ended with lawmakers piled on top of one another in a melee for control of the chairman’s microphone.” Earlier, “Mr. Yamamoto held up the voting by taking a slow-motion “cow walk” to the podium to cast his ballot. Other opposition groups entered symbolic censure motions against Mr. Abe and officials in his Liberal Democratic Party or made long, filibuster-like speeches, often repeating the conviction that a military with expanded powers would end up being dragged into an unjustified American war. “We must not become accomplices to murder,” said Mizuho Fukushima of the Social Democratic Party. Similar sentiments have been echoed — usually in less provocative terms — by newspaper columnists, political scientists and members of the general public. The opposition’s obstructionist tactics delayed Mr. Abe’s victory until after 2 a.m., but could not prevent it. *=*

“Mr. Abe’s critics have a variety of grievances against the defense legislation. Not least is the question of its constitutionality: In multiple surveys of constitutional specialists, more than 90 percent have said they believe that it violates Japan’s basic law, laid down by the United States in the postwar occupation, which renounces the use of force to resolve international disputes. The legislation is likely to be challenged in the courts. Most constitutional scholars say the legislation violates Japan’s pacifist postwar charter. However, Japanese judges have generally been unwilling to overrule the government on security matters.” *=*

“Mr. Abe’s government has kept a number of limits on military deployments in the new legislation. The Self-Defense Forces will be able to engage in combat overseas to protect allies, but only when all peaceful options are exhausted and not intervening would threaten “the lives and survival of the Japanese nation.” Critics say those criteria are dangerously vague.” *=*

Japan’s Overseas Military Combat Bill

According to the New York Times: The overseas military combat legislation — a package of 11 bills — permits “the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to cooperate more closely with the militaries of allies like the United States, by providing logistical support and, in certain circumstances, armed backup in international conflicts. [Source: New York Times, September 17, 18, 2015 ><]

“The bills allows Japan to engage in combat overseas to defend allies, but only when all peaceful options have been exhausted and when failure to intervene would threaten “the lives and survival of the Japanese nation.” Currently, the military is barred by law from using force except in direct defense of Japan. ><

“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the restrictions on the military, imposed by the United States after World War II, were inadequate to meet potential threats. He also said the legislation would let Japan be a more equal partner in its military alliance with the U.S. Opponents said the bills violated Japan’s Constitution and could lead to unnecessary involvement in foreign wars. ><

“The legislation is a significant shift for a country whose armed forces have not seen action since World War II. The United States imposed Japan’s pacifist Constitution after its wartime aggression, and antiwar sentiment remains widespread in Japanese society. In the past, the Self-Defense Forces have played noncombat roles in United Nations peacekeeping operations and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the use of force has been limited by law to the direct defense of Japan. ><

“Mr. Abe and other conservatives argue that the strictly defensive security policy that Japan has followed since the end of the war is inadequate to meet modern-day threats like the growing military power of China. Critics worry that abandoning the policy would lead to Japan’s becoming involved in unnecessary foreign wars, and they contend that the legislation violates Winning final passage of the legislation is an important victory for Mr. Abe, who has dedicated his career to correcting what he sees as an excessive, outdated national pacifism that is a legacy of Japan’s disastrous wartime experience. His defense agenda is opposed by a majority of the public, however, according to opinion polls.” ><

Concerns Japan’s Overseas Military Combat Role


Pro-artilce 9 demonstration in May 2014

Jonathan Soble wrote in the New York Times, “But a less abstract fear of being “caught up in war” has been just as important in fueling opposition to the legislation, exposing a strain of public unease about the United States-Japan alliance that is usually kept out of view.Japan has accepted American protection for ever since the end of the United States’ occupation, and today there are more than 40,000 United States military personnel stationed in the country. Yet the arrangement has come at the cost of Japanese independence, many here believe. The trade-off has taken on new significance now that Japan could be asked to risk the lives of its own soldiers and sailors for the United States in “Japan is caught between fear of entanglement and fear of abandonment,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow at the Tokyo Foundation, a policy research group. “It’s partly about public distrust of Japan’s own government. People think Japanese leaders are too weak to say no to the U.S.” return. [Source: Jonathan Soble, New York Times, September 18, 2015 *=*]

“Mr. Abe argues that Japan needs to play a more active role in the alliance in order to strengthen it against threats like the growing military power of China and a nuclear-armed North Korea. His legislation has won support from United States policy makers, who have welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security at a time when American resources are increasingly stretched. But a central question for many Japanese is whether loosening restrictions on the military will put Japan on a more equal footing with the United States, as Mr. Abe has argued, or, as critics contend, turn it into an American “deputy sheriff” in Asia, its new military powers at Washington’s disposal. *=*

“Leftist politicians and peace campaigners have been the most vocal proponents of the latter view, but they are not alone. Some to the right of Mr. Abe are also concerned. Yoshinori Kobayashi, a right-wing author and manga artist, came out against Mr. Abe’s plans at a gathering of foreign journalists last month, saying, “We must not be caught up in American wars of aggression.” Such attitudes are partly fueled by the war in Iraq, though they have existed in one form or another at least since Vietnam. Although Japan did not fight in Iraq, its government was a vocal supporter of the war and sent troops from the Self-Defense Forces, as the military is known, to play a noncombat rebuilding role during the American occupation. “Japan has not been careful about choosing when to support the United States, which is the biggest worry,” said Kiichi Fujiwara, a professor of international politics at Tokyo University who was otherwise broadly supportive of the legislation. *=*

“He said the main aim of the changes was to allow Japanese and United States forces to coordinate responses to contingencies on Japan’s doorstep, such as any destabilization of the Korean Peninsula, not to get Japan involved in faraway wars. And he noted that the risk of military entanglement runs both ways: American leaders, for instance, worry about being drawn into a potential conflict between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. *=*

”That’s not something you hear about in Japan,” Mr. Fujiwara said. “There’s this assumption that it’s America that will get Japan into trouble, when it could just as easily be the other way around.” Mr. Abe has said it is “inconceivable” that Japan might be caught up in an Iraq-style war, but many average citizens remain wary, seeing the changes as a slippery slope. In several surveys conducted by news organizations in May 2015, after Mr. Abe first made that pledge, only one in six respondents found it convincing. *=*

“Outside the Parliament building, that doubt was the prevailing sentiment. Crowds over the three days leading up to the final vote reached between 10,000 to 30,000 at peak times, according to estimates by the police and the Japanese news media. “American’s power has been weakening and they can’t bear all the military costs on their own, so they want Japan to share the costs,” said Taketo Yamanouchi, an office worker from Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, who had traveled to the capital to join the demonstration. “My impression is that Japan is legislating the security bills in response to the U.S.’s request.” Yoshie Baba, a history student, worried that backing the United States in places like the Middle East could earn Japan dangerous enemies. “If Japan shares the same policy beliefs with the States, Japan could be targeted by terrorists just like Britain and other U.S. allies,” she said. “I am concerned Japan could be involved in conflicts or troubles.” *=*

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org *~*; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Library of Congress; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO); New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Daily Yomiuri; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun, The New Yorker, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC, Eyewitness to History , edited by John Carey ( Avon Books, 1987),, History of Warfare by John Keegan, Vintage Books, Eyewitness to History.com, The Good War An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel, Hamish Hamilton, 1985, BBC’s People’s War website and various books and other publications. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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