Armitage wrong to link UNSC bid with reform of Article 9, officials say

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Government officials on Friday dismissed advice by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and said Japan will not revise its Constitution to gain a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

“I don’t think there is a direct link between (the war-renouncing) Article 9 (of the Constitution) and Japan gaining permanent membership,” Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba told reporters.

“I think Japan has been contributing to world peace and stability under the current Constitution, which prohibits the exercise of the right to collective defense,” he said.

Hidenao Nakagawa, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters Thursday that Armitage had said to him in Washington that it would be difficult for Japan to become a permanent Security Council member unless it was ready to use military force in some cases.

Nakagawa also said Armitage also told him that Article 9 is becoming an obstacle to the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Armitage’s remarks are considered an indication that the U.S. hopes Japan will revise its Constitution so it can play a greater role in the maintenance of international peace and stability.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday tried to play down the impact of Armitage’s remarks, saying, “Japan maintains a good relationship with the U.S. under the current Constitution.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said: “I realize the United States fully understands Article 9 and our Constitution. If Deputy State Secretary Armitage did mention these things, I think he just gave his personal view.”

Keidanren eyes change

Staff report OYAMA, Shizuoka Pref. — Japan’s largest business lobby will propose changes to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution “as soon as possible,” Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), said Friday.

“Personally, I think Article 9 is written in unbeautiful Japanese,” Okuda said at a news conference following a two-day Nippon Keidanren forum here, which was attended by some of the nation’s most powerful business leaders. “The wording is also vague and subject to multiple interpretations.

He added, however, that the issue was “a very difficult one” and that their proposal won’t be made until well into 2005.

Support not conditional

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States on Thursday dismissed concerns among Japanese politicians and officials that Washington might conditionally support Japan’s bid to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member.

“Our position on Japan and the Security Council has not changed,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a regular news briefing.