Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to overturn constitution's post-war pacifist policy

After World War II, the Japanese government crafted a constitution after declaring their unconditional surrender to the Allied powers that eliminated the country's standing army.
By Aileen Graef  |  June 30, 2014 at 3:24 PM
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TOKYO, June 30 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is expected to overturn the pacifist policy of Japan's constitution Tuesday that would make it easier to engage in overseas conflicts.

Abe and his cabinet are expected to adopt a resolution that would overturn the ban that prevents Japan from having a standing army or coming to the aid of an ally if Japan itself is not threatened. The clause, which is in Article 9 of the constitution, prohibits all use of military force to respond to international conflict.

Abe and his proponents have said it is preventing Japan from protecting itself and its allies, especially given North Korea's nuclear activity and Chinese territorial aggression. He plans to introduce legislation that would widen the interpretation of Article 9 that would only require a simple majority vote in both houses of parliament.

The only other solution would be to change the wording of the constitution, which would be difficult for the prime minister. While his party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has a majority in the lower house and controls the upper house of parliament, the resolution needs two-thirds majority in both houses and a simple majority in the vote for a nationwide referendum.

Abe's decision is in defiance of public opinion and has caused an outcry across the country. In a poll published Monday in the Nikkei, a Japanese business paper, 50 percent of voters were against overturning the ban while only 34 percent were in favor.

Dr. Jeff Kingston, professor of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan, wrote an op-ed in the Japan Times saying Abe's choice to circumvent a formal revision is "undemocratic" and slammed Abe and the U.S. for encouraging the gutting of Article 9.

"Abe is ramming through a reinterpretation of the Constitution, cynically undermining the rule of law and the Constitution by sneaking in the back door like a thief in the night. This is undemocratic, setting a dangerous precedent in bypassing and making a mockery of constitutional procedures. Abe seeks to overturn the interpretation of Article 9 barring collective self-defense that numerous Liberal Democratic Party-led Cabinets have supported for more than three decades."

The left-leaning publication Asahi Shimbun said Abe did not allow significant public debate.

"This policy initiative, if it is pushed through, will leave the pacifist principles of the constitution totally eviscerated and the nation's public opinion bitterly divided," wrote the editorial board. "It will also leave the Japanese voting public even more distrustful of politicians."

Abe said it is necessary to protect Japan from being dragged into conflict and that he encourages debate on the matter.

""To develop legislation aimed at protecting the lives of citizens will lead to an increase in Japan's deterrent capabilities and reduce the possibility of being dragged into a war," said Abe. "It is necessary to appropriately interpret the constitution. A decision on a constitutional revision should be made as the public debate deepens. I hope to see a national debate on the matter.

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