TÖKYÖ — Public opinion in Japan is divided over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to reinterpret the country’s pacifist constitution to engage in collective self-defense. One side insists that reinterpretation could eventually drag Japan into a war, while the other side supports Abe’s attempt to make Japan a “proactive contributor to peace” amid a changing security landscape.
Abe said the Self-Defense Force must be given an expanded role to protect Japan, citing security threats posed by North Korea and terrorists.
The government’s move “waters down Article 9 of the Constitution and threatens the safety of people’s daily life,” said Yoshiaki Ishigaki, co-head of the executive committee for “The Nobel Peace Prize for Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.”
Article 9 states that Japan forever renounces war. In April, the Nobel Prize Committee nominated the article as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, as requested by the civic group based in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.
“This will be the most serious of the Abe administration’s crimes,” said Ishigaki, who believes the administration has engaged in a series of unconstitutional acts, including overseeing enactment last December of state secrets legislation, which, Ishigaki says, violates constitutionally protected rights.
Itsuki Kurosawa, co-head of a group of young lawyers, believes it will be a denial of the Constitution if each administration is allowed to freely alter its interpretation.
“To allow the SDF to exercise the right to collective self-defense would be tantamount to a denial of Japan’s postwar pacifism,” he said. “Japan may become a country that can go to war anywhere and anytime.”
However, Jumpei Kiyohara, chairman of a group to create a new constitution for Japan, supports lifting Japan’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense. “The United Nations recognizes Japan’s right to collective self-defense, and it is stated in the preamble of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, so there will be no problem exercising the right with the reinterpretation,” he said.
“Kuwait did not express its gratitude to Japan although Japan provided massive financial aid during the Gulf War (in the early 1990s). Since then, Japanese people have shifted to the principle of multilateralism from one-country pacifism,” Kiyohara added.