• Kyodo

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U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a Japanese lawmaker Wednesday that the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution is becoming an obstacle to strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Armitage indicated Japan must revise the Constitution and play a greater military role for international peace if it wants to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member, Hidenao Nakagawa, chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters after meeting with Armitage.

Armitage communicated the ideas as his personal opinion and said the Japanese people should decide on the issue of constitutional revision, Nakagawa said.

Article 9, the centerpiece of the nation’s pacifist Constitution, stipulates the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

Nakagawa said Armitage told him the United States strongly supports Japan’s bid to obtain permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

But permanent Security Council members are required to use military force in some cases for the benefit of the international community, Armitage was quoted as saying.

Armitage said if Japan cannot do this, it will be difficult for the country to become a permanent Security Council member, according to Nakagawa, now on a four-day U.S. tour.

Japan is working to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member, insisting it has been the second-largest financial contributor to the United Nations and involved in various U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Armitage’s remarks are considered an indication that the U.S. hopes Japan will revise its Constitution to pave the way for Self-Defense Forces troops to be deployed abroad for operations to maintain security, in addition to reconstruction and humanitarian assistance missions now allowed for the forces.

Debate is growing in Japan over whether to revise the Constitution to cope with various changes that have taken place since it came into effect in 1947.

Armitage told Nakagawa that Japan had already endorsed the use of the right to collective defense when it signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 to formally put an end to World War II in the Pacific theater and the U.N. Charter in 1956 to join the United Nations.

The Japanese government interprets that under international law Japan has the right to collective defense — which involves coming to the military aid of allies under attack — but that the Constitution forbids the exercise of that right.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said the Constitution should be revised to allow the SDF to take joint action if U.S. forces fight to defend Japan under the U.S.-Japan security arrangement.

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