EDITORIAL | Revise this Constitution, Japan needs its own armed forces

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On May 3, Japan scored the 75and anniversary of the day its post-war Constitution came into effect, even as Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine continued unabated.

Three quarters of a century have passed. And now, more than ever, the following famous passage from the preamble to the post-war Constitution seems like the height of wishful thinking, completely disconnected from reality:

We have decided to preserve our society and our existence, trusting in the justice and the faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.

The simple fact is that there are nations today that do not seek to preserve peace, nations that despise justice and honor. The post-war Constitution says nothing about how we can respond to this harsh and undeniable reality. It is a document that has not stood the test of time.

At GHQ, a small team including Major General Courtney and Beate Sirota Gordon, played the key role in drafting Japan’s post-war Constitution.

A preamble of empty ideas

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia has heavy responsibilities for international peace. However, under false pretenses, he attacked Ukraine, an independent and sovereign nation. Even now, he slaughters innocent people.

If Ukraine had followed the approach dictated in the preamble of the Japanese Constitution, there is no doubt that it would have been quickly trampled under the feet of the Russian army. Russia would have annexed, divided or made a satellite of it.

There is not even the slightest possibility that the Ukrainian people would have remained unscathed if they had obediently surrendered. Ukraine would not have been allowed to remain independent, free and democratic. Nor would Ukrainians have been able to withstand horrific atrocities, such as those perpetrated by the Russian military in towns and villages near kyiv.

However, the people of Ukraine chose not to respond in the irresponsible and weak way called for in the preamble to the Japanese Constitution. Instead, they united to defend their homeland, their communities and their loved ones, with the support of the West, including Japan.

It was not the preamble of the Constitution, nor Article 9, which ensured peace in Japan in the post-war period. Countries that believe that “might does good” – such as Russia, as well as its predecessor the Soviet Union, China and North Korea – have shown no respect for international law and the sovereignty of other nations. . Certainly, they would not respect Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

13th Japan-US Joint Security Training Exercises

Ensuring post-war peace

In the final analysis, we can say that it was the deterrence provided by the self-defense forces and the military power of the United States under the Japanese-American security treaty that preserved the peace.

Deterrence and the ability to respond to an attack are the factors that underpin national security and diplomatic clout. Many members of the opposition camp who carry the banner of maintaining the preamble and article 9 of the Constitution seem never to have been able to grasp this simple observation. They have hindered the development of realistic national security policies.

The preamble and article 9 should be the first elements amended in the process of constitutional revision.

Paragraph 2 of Article 9 reads as follows:

Land, sea and air forces, as well as all other war potential, will never be maintained.

This provision should be dropped and the Constitution amended to clearly recognize Japan’s ability to maintain armed forces. Countries that might be tempted to invade Japan would have a greater hurdle to overcome if Japan had its own military to protect the nation and its people, like other democracies around the world, and adopted the principle of security collectively in order to be able to engage in joint actions. defense with friendly nations.

Revising Article 9 would also help prevent unreasonable obstruction of national security policies.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is currently considering introducing a counterattack capability that would allow Japan to respond to missile attacks and similar forms of aggression. China, North Korea and other countries have made dramatic improvements in their missile capabilities. It has reached the point where we cannot rely solely on missile defenses to protect us against incoming missile attacks.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a message to a constitutional rally in central Tokyo on May 3, 2022 (photo by Issei Tanaka).

Start Drafting Constitutional Amendments

Despite this increasingly dangerous defense environment, opponents of acquiring a counterattack capability argue that it is contrary to Japan’s only defense position based on the spirit of Article 9. Such an interpretation shows the serious harm that Article 9 can cause.

As it stands, in its current draft revision, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party aims to clearly spell out the role of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the Constitution. This is instead of pushing for an amendment to Article 9(2), which would allow Japan without reservation to possess its own armed forces for national defense.

However, in light of the invasion of Ukraine and the rapid military expansion of China, North Korea and other countries, Japan’s choice to push for clarification of the role of the SDF instead to amend section 9 gives the impression of an outdated answer.

Either way, clarifying the role of the SDF as a step on the way to a thorough constitutional review would not be without importance. On the one hand, it would make everyone understand the essential role that national defense plays for the nation.

Explaining in school curricula the role of deterrence and other aspects of national defense would be beneficial. This would at least improve the quality of the discussion on Japan’s security.

A leader of the Democratic Constitutional Party, Japan’s main opposition party, went so far as to make the perverse statement “Defense is also the word used for the biggest attacks”, opposing the idea of ​​acquiring counter-attack capability. If the level of discussions on national defense is improved, we are likely to hear less of such nonsensical opinions.

Japan Self Defense Force engages in disaster rescue operations.

More than article 9

Article 9 is not the only part of the Constitution which needs to be revised. We continue to be at a standstill on the debate on a provision to deal with emergencies.

This debate began 11 years ago with the Great East Japan earthquake. We have no way of knowing when a major earthquake might occur along the Nankai Trough or directly beneath the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Moreover, if an eventuality were to arise regarding Taiwan, which is in geographical proximity to Japan, it would have a direct impact on Japan. We must prepare for the possibility that we cannot hold elections for the House of Representatives and the Upper House of the Diet, or that the Diet and other government bodies at different levels are not fully functional.

The Constitution Research Commissions in both Houses of the Diet must abandon their snail’s pace and get to work on drafting a revised Constitution. As the leader of Japan’s largest political party, Prime Minister Kishida must show leadership in this regard.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun

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