Article 9 hailed on Constitution’s birthday

by Akemi Nakamura

Marking the 61st anniversary of the enforcement of the postwar Constitution, hundreds of people gathered Saturday in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park to call for keeping Article 9, which renounces war.

Japan should keep Article 9 to avoid becoming an aggressive military force, said Ann Wright, a diplomat-turned-activist from the United States who participated in the gathering, which was organized by pacifist civic groups.

Wright was formerly a colonel in the U.S. Army and served as a diplomat. She resigned in 2003 to protest the Iraq war.

“It’s very important also to retain your Constitution of not selling weapons to other countries and to always be a nuclear free country,” she said. “My country is totally opposite.”

She also said the Constitution, which was basically drafted by the U.S., is a model the rest of the world must emulate.

In recent years, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been making steady progress toward amending the Constitution with an eye to changing Article 9, which prohibits Japan from possessing a military and renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

In 2005, the LDP unveiled a draft of its proposal for a new Constitution. In it, Article 9 recognized the Self-Defense Forces as a legitimate military that would be allowed to take part in international missions to maintain peace.

Two years later, under the hawkish stint of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the LDP-led ruling coalition passed a law that spelled out the procedures for holding a referendum on amending the Constitution.

Now Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is gearing up to propose a permanent bill that would allow Japan to dispatch the SDF overseas for humanitarian activities and take part in international peace keeping operations at any time.

“I sense a growing crisis over the move,” said Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party. “The permanent law could directly connect war to the SDF, which is prohibited by the Constitution.”

Based on his experience during and right after World War II, Eiji Ishizawa, 80, from Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, said Japan must never again be involved in war.

“Whenever I recall the orphans left behind in the charred ruins of Tokyo (after the war), my heart aches,” said Ishizawa, who was in the Imperial Japanese Navy. “I was responsible for the children having to face such a hardship. I don’t want any children to go through that again.”