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In Japan, Abe Still Wants to Repeal the Peace Constitution

Translated Sunday 14 May 2017, by Tyler Gates

Shinzo Abe hopes to realize the nationalists’ long-time dream of repealing the post-war constitution imposed by American occupying forces.

Photo: Reuters

Taking advantage of tensions with North Korea, the Prime Minister announced his plan to bring about constitutional reform by 2020. Two years ago, a law permitting the country to send troops abroad incited the Japanese to take to the streets for months.

Tensions with North Korea allowed Shinzo to advance his military agenda. The Japanese Prime Minster announced his intention to revise the Peace Constitution, adopted after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, by 2020. This declaration comes during the celebration of sixty years under this basic law. Last Saturday, the leader of the nationalist party attended a ship-launching ceremony for their largest naval vessel, the Izumo-class helicopter carrier, which was sent in support of the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Carl-Vinson off the coast of the Korean peninsula. This is the first operation of its kind since the adoption of the 2015 security law permitting Japanese troops to fight abroad in support of its allies. This legislation had incited fierce debates and protests not seen in decades within the archipelago.

Change of Opinion

This new statement concerning constitutional revision confirms above all that Shinzo believes in his destiny. And in his re-election. His main focus is a revision to article 9, which requires Japan to renounce war definitively. The Prime Minister hopes to obtain a specific distinction for Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF), so that they no longer appear unconstitutional. "According to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, North Korea possesses the ability to hit Japan with a sarin-tipped ballistic missile", reports public broadcaster NHK. Since North Korea has attempted several missile launches - one of which was aborted over the Sea of Japan - Japanese opinion has changed with regard to constitutional revision. According to a poll produced for the Asahi Shimbun, 41% of the population would be in favor. That number could be as high as 48%, according to the Mainichi. As opposed to 26% during the debates in 2015. At that time, the constitutionalists had, for the most part, judged this reform to be unconstitutional. As not to rush the parliament, the Prime Minster stated, "while only a national referendum, at the end of the day, can decide if the constitution will be changed or not, only the National Diet can introduce an amendment.”

Pressure from the U.S.

During the current decline in the security situation, the Prime Minister would like particularly to ralize the nationalists’ long-time dream of repealing the Peace Constitution imposed by occupying American forces. Conservatives are making the rebuilding of military capacity a question of sovereignty. This constitutional revision, backed by ex-President Barack Obama during his presidency, could potentially involve Japan in American wars. "Without article 9, Japanese leaders would not have been able to say ’no’ to the war in Iraq." pointed out the constitutionalist Higuchi Yoichi in the Japan Times. Today, Donald Trump continues to repeat that he hopes his allies in the Asian Pacific will do their part in the financing of their defence. These assertions, which created heightened tensions with countries in the region, added to the American President’s desire to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. At their first meeting at the White House in February, Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe commended the strength of the ties between the two countries. Since then they have been happy to demonstrate their good chemistry through regular telephone contact.

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