The campaign for the Dec. 16 Lower House election began Tuesday with candidates running from a dozen parties. The election results will have a great impact not only on people’s daily lives but also on the general future direction of Japan. Voters should carefully weigh each party’s stance on various issues before casting their ballots.
While Japan faces pressing issues such as how to revive the nation’s economic activities, how to stabilize people’s lives, including rectification of the rich-poor gap, and what to do about nuclear power generation, the most critical issue is the one related to the Constitution, the supreme law that determines the basic character of the nation. The Liberal Democratic Party and some so-called third-pole forces including the Japan Restoration Party are calling for a revision of the Constitution, which would include a revision of the war-renouncing Article 9, and the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.
It is regrettable that these parties are talking about changing the Constitution without first initiating wide and highly informed public discussions. This issue should not be treated lightly by just inserting a call for constitutional revisions in campaign pledges. Attempting to change the no-war principle of the Constitution without holding thorough public discussions is highly dangerous.
The parties that are trying to revise Article 9 should carefully consider the fact that by following the spirit of the war-renouncing Constitution, Japan has succeeded in gaining the international community’s trust. The efforts include taking the strict defense-only stance for the Self-Defense Forces and the SDF’s participation in peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the United Nations while upholding Japan’s strict constraints on the use of weapons.
Given Japan’s military aggression in the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s and ’40s, changing Article 9 would only create suspicions about Japan’s true intentions among neighboring countries and beyond for that matter, thus destroying the international community’s trust in Japan. It could also lead to a fierce arms race in Northeast Asia, increasing tensions and destabilizing relations in the region. The parties calling for a revision of Article 9 should realize that their stance would not even serve the purpose of enhancing Japan’s security. Instead, it would greatly harm Japan’s overall security and national interests.
The LDP calls for changing the SDF to the National Defense Force by revising Article 9. The LDP’s draft constitution says that the proposed NDF, under a specific law, can take part in international cooperative activities to help maintain peace and security in the international community.
Because the concept in this clause is both extremely vague and sweeping, it could be used to justify Japan’s participation in virtually any type of military mission abroad. Exercising the right to collective self-defense would also open the way for Japan’s involvement in military conflict not directly affecting it, thus unnecessarily putting Japanese nationals in harm’s way. Voters must pay heed to this critical constitutional issue, which will have a great impact on the nation’s future, when they cast their ballots.