Reinterpretation of Article 9 a major challenge to peace in North East Asia and the rest of the world

Reinterpreting Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a challenge to Peace in North East Asia.

 

Professor Kevin P Clements

Director

National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Otago University

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision   to “ reinterpret” Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is challenging peaceful relationships in North East Asia and dividing Japanese public opinion. Shinzo Abe decided to “reinterpret” Article 9 because he did not have parliamentary or electorate support to gain a two thirds majority in the Diet and would probably lose a public referendum in support of Constitutional change.

 

For the last 65 years, Article 9 has given the Japanese Self Defence Force the right to defend mainland Japan in the event of an attack,   but has prevented it from waging wars on foreign soil or deploying its military in out of area operations. This has meant that Japan has been able to develop a robust self defence force without generating offense to or threatening others in North East Asia. Clause 2 of Article 9 also placed very specific brakes on Japan’s capacity to engage in “collective defence” of Japan or its allies. This has now been effectively removed.

 

The current reinterpretation extends the right to self defence to include collective defence in support of allies. Despite government protestations that this   new interpretation will not result in significant changes to Japanese military deployment the Japanese public remain unconvinced. Internationally the United States has signalled its satisfaction with the revision . The Japanese Prime Minister, has indicated that he would be willing to send Japanese assets to work alongside allies in the Middle East and elsewhere. He is eager, for example, for Japan to join international minesweeping operations in the Strait of Hormuz to secure the oil routes used by 80% of the tankers shipping oil to Japan.

 

This decision is unpopular in Japan. Polls show that more than 50% of the population are opposed to the decision . The Liberal Democratic Party’s parliamentary partner New Komeito (which is allied to the Pacifist Sokka Gakkai Buddhist organisation) was opposed initially to the reinterpretation but eventually capitulated under pressure from the administration . They claim that the new interpretation does not endorse the right to collective self defence whereas the wording clearly states a right to come to the aid of a friendly nation if the  attack on that country poses a danger to Japan’s survival and there is no other way of repelling the attack . Most 21st century military interventions have been justified in these terms.

 

From a peace perspective this reinterpretation is worrying for a number of reasons.

(i) It is constitutionally dubious given that Constitutional changes normally require a two thirds vote in the Diet and a popular referendum. This is an Executive not a Constitutional decision. The administration’s attempt to achieve   a constitutional revision through an ad hoc cabinet re-interpretation of the Constitution is seen by many Japanese as a fundamental attack upon Japanese democratic government and the sovereignty of the people .

(ii) When the decision is   added to the Prime Minister’s repeated efforts to reinterpret war history on such matters as Comfort Women, the Nanjing Massacre, Medical Experimentation and the decisions of the Japanese War Crimes Tribunal, it looks like an attempt to justify a return to “soft “ Japanese militarism in the 21st century . It is certainly reactivating Chinese and Korean fears about Japanese military and security intentions.

(iii) The only government to support the decision, thus far, has been the United States. The United States has ( for many years) been calling on Japan to assume a greater security role in the region while it attempts to prune its own military budget. From Washington’s perspective the initiative is well timed. Both Japan and the United States are set to revise their guidelines for Defence cooperation by the end of this year. This Constitutional re-interpretation will enable the United States to ask Japan to do more in terms of global military and security “burden sharing”. Despite insisting on a “Pacifist Japan” in the Macarthur settlement, the United States has, in recent years, chafed at Japanese willingness to provide monetary but no direct military support to its interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. The United States government would like Japan to play a more active role in the containment of China and in other US sponsored military deployments in the Middle East and elsewhere.

(iv) This Constitutional move comes on top of a Japanese commitment to considerable defence expansion over the next 5 years. Between 2014 and 2019, for example, Japan plans to buy three unmanned drones from the US, as well as 28 F-35A fighters, 17 Osprey aircraft and five naval destroyers, including two with Aegis anti-ballistic missile systems. The guidelines also include the acquisition of an additional six submarines, taking Japan’s total to 22.Tokyo is setting aside US $280 billion to fund this expansion. It is also developing marine strike capacity with the development of an amphibious force like the US marines.

All of these developments   undermine rather than reinforce peace in North East Asia and may in fact stimulate a deeper arms race in the region. They are worrying and need to be challenged both inside and outside of Japan.

 

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About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
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3 Responses to Reinterpretation of Article 9 a major challenge to peace in North East Asia and the rest of the world

  1. Ian Ruxton says:

    Greetings from Kyushu, Japan! I found your page thanks to Professor Koichi Nakano of Sophia University, Tokyo who is a member of a group of academics (Rikken Demokurashi- no Kai) opposed to Mr Abe’s unconstitutional proceedings etc. I am very glad to read some comment about Abe’s reinterpretation (i.e. hijack) of the Constitution by someone outside Japan. Sometimes it seems as if the world doesn’t really care what happens here. That would be a tragic error, of course, and not only for the Japanese people but the world as a whole. Please keep up the good work!

    Like

  2. Sue Malone says:

    One more step to a more militarized world. When will we ever learn?

    Like

  3. Greetings from Belgium.
    I totally agree with this article and regret this is a challenge to peace. Next year we’ll be 70 years after the second W.W. In the decades just after, in the population we had a quite strong peace movement. People knew we must work together for peace and against war. Now the new generation have forgotten. More than ever we must inform them that peace is not just the result of absence of conflict. We must make efforts and build up fences to avoid the horrors of the war.
    To be able to do that we must sensitize and inform the young generations, about the necessity of a democratic decision process for any decision regarding the support of our allies and the entry in any conflict and of course in a war.

    Like

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