Thursday, May 3, 2007

Japan's constitution turns sixty

As Japan celebrates Constitution Day, marking the anniversary of the promulgation of the postwar constitution, the Abe Cabinet has renewed its push to revise the constitution — read Article 9 of the constitution — on the heels of bilateral meetings with the US that pointed to a more globally active US-Japan alliance.

In Washington, Defense Minister Kyuma told the Washington Post that revision will go forward, but with "restraint" and with the goal of enabling Japan to uphold UN resolutions, a position that sounds rather similar to DPJ President Ozawa Ichiro's "UN-centric" foreign policy activism.

Meanwhile, on 2 May, at a press conference in Cairo, Abe emphasized that Japan must explain constitution revision to the US and to surrounding countries in Asia so "to not be misunderstood," as the Diet prepares in the coming weeks to pass the legislation establishing a national referendum system for constitution revision.

The problem with coverage of the Abe Cabinet's comments on revision, however, is that these reports take for granted the ease with which Abe will be able to get his way on drafting revisions. Despite this recent Mainichi survey that showed 51% of those polled in favor of revision, other surveys have suggested that support for revision is far from overwhelming, especially where the first clause (renouncing war) of Article 9 is concerned. Of course, even within the political system support is far from assured — with the DPJ opposed to revision at this juncture and moderates within the LDP concerned about the outline of revision — raising questions as to whether the Cabinet would be able to muster the necessary two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet. (And if Abe's bid to make this summer's election about constitution revision results in a disastrous defeat for the LDP, will constitution revision retain a prominent position on the national agenda?)

Again, as with the transformation of the US-Japan alliance, what matters is the process: if constitution revision results from a genuine debate, engaging all parts of Japanese society, as opposed to being imposed from above, then indeed constitution revision can play an important part in rejuvenating Japanese society in the twenty-first century. But if it just perpetuates heavy-handed, top-down rule from above by authorities in Nagata-cho and Kasumigaseki, then constitution revision is the wrong policy at the wrong time for the Japanese people.


tornados28 said...

The fact is that the war ended over 60 years ago. It amazes me that any country, including Japan, would have to explain any constitutional revisions to any other country.

Yes, some will debate that Japan has never fully atoned for the past. However, I do not think some countries (China) will ever be satisfied with watever atonement is given for WWII. The fact is, most countries, including America, Russia and especially China, have some pretty big issues to attone for in their own history.

Ken said...

I agree with tornados to some degree. I don't see any reason why Japan should feel as though it needs to win the confidence of the rest of the world before embarking on constitutional reform. It spent the past 60 years being a responsible world citizen (and doling out hefty sums of cash in the form of FDI), and I think has earned some trust.

that said, Japan did not atone for the past as well as it could have. It's job would be easier if it could swallow some pride.

newmarketNDPer said...

tornados28 should understand that the world and the people of Japan have a right to demand justification for dropping the Pacifist Constitution due to the death and destruction of the militarists. (60 years is a short time in Japanese history)
Why isn't Mr. 28 protesting how that biggest "any other" country, the USA has been pushing Japan into rebuilding its armed forces so it can carry on armed invasions in other parts of the world?
The Japanese military never apologised for its massive scam-kickback program (Secret Instruction 363) at the end of the war that transferred vitually all food stocks, supplies, treasure, and savings to an elite group of war contractors and military and public officials. This pushed the Japanese people into near starvation levels for the following five years and the black market wealth went on to found the LDP.
Why create a new army when the last one ran away to save their own necks and left tens of thousands of Japanese civilians stranded in Manchuria to face disaster at the hands of the Red Army?
The Emperor never apologized for pushing the Japanese people into the war and for causing an ocean of pain, death, and poverty for Japan and the world.
The Japanese have a choice of following the militarists into imperialism, war, and eventual disaster and poverty or to continue to the a example to the world on how peace means prosperity.