Group makes no secret of opposition to bill

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo

In the face of moves to amend the postwar Constitution, about 500 people gathered in Tokyo on Saturday to promote the importance of maintaining its pacifistic ideals.

At the outset of the gathering, sponsored by the pro-constitutional Article 9 Association, Yasuhiro Okudaira, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told the crowd that although a state has the authority to wage war and withhold information, constitutions exist to act as a brake on government power.

Turning to the administration-proposed secrecy protection bill now being debated in the Diet, Okudaira said that if enacted it will prevent people from debating the nation’s diplomatic or security policies by denying them necessary information.

He said this would inevitably lead to the first revision of the Constitution since it came into force in 1947, as intended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The government aims to pass the bill, which would impose a prison term of up to 10 years on people who leak “special secrets,” in the current Diet session, in time for the planned launch of a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council that aims to better respond to security threats.

Abe has said it is vital for Japan to prepare a legal framework for exchanging sensitive information with other countries.

Special secrets cover information concerning foreign and defense policies as well as spying and terrorist activities.

Citing the 1971 U.S. media coverage of the Pentagon Papers — a secret government report relating to the Vietnam War — Okudaira said, “The U.S. administration under President Richard Nixon tried in vain to halt its publication, and the media reports on what the U.S. government said was secret did not cause any turmoil.” Rather, the document provided the public with material for examining the Vietnam War, he added.

“We should not accept the enactment of the secrecy protection bill,” he said.

Okudaira is one of the nine founders of the Article 9 Association, which was launched in 2004 to counter calls for constitutional amendment, particularly Article 9, and has generated more than 7,000 like-minded groups across Japan so far.

Another founder, Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel laureate in literature, also attended the gathering. Oe, who has also been involved in anti-nuclear activities since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant began in 2011, said it is the duty of modern people “to hand on a world where humans can continue living to the next generation.”