Japan should not revise Article 9 of the Constitution because its Asian neighbors would regard such an act as proof that the country intends to wage war, nongovernmental organizations and intellectuals said at a symposium held in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Christopher Weeramantry, former vice president of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, said the war-renouncing Article 9 is one of the world’s most outstanding constitutional provisions.

While similar constitutions exist, including that of Costa Rica, Japan’s stands out because it is a major nation renouncing the right to wage war, Weeramantry said.

The symposium was held by Japanese citizens’ groups that joined an international initiative of NGOs seeking to submit recommendations to the U.N. for peaceful solutions to conflicts.

“If there is now a deliberate change in regard to Article 9, that is a sort of announcement to the rest of the world and especially the neighboring regions that the renunciation of war that Japan has announced is being actively renounced,” Weeramantry said.

Revision of Article 9 means “an indication to the countries of the region and the rest of the world of the willingness to go back to the possibility of war,” he said.

Weeramantry, a Sri Lankan judge who while serving as an ICJ judge in 1996, issued an advisory opinion that nuclear weapons are illegal, said Japan’s Constitution has symbolic value and can influence other countries to adopt similar provisions as a path to establishing world peace.

Dennis Lin, member of Peace Time Foundation of Taiwan, a Taiwanese NGO, said Taiwanese remember Japan’s occupation until the end of the World War II and oppose its moves to resume its militaristic stance by amending Article 9.

“Japan should be a great power of peace, not a great power of military,” Lin said. “That is the way that Japan can be a country that receives respect from the rest of Asia.”

Tatsuya Yoshioka, director of Japan-based NGO Peace Boat, said civic groups from Northeast Asia that joined the international initiative regard Article 9 as a significant idea that prevents possible armed conflicts in the region.

Yoshioka said the initiative, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, was started by the European Center for Conflict Prevention, based in the Netherlands, in response to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s call in a report in 2001 for civil society to do more to prevent conflicts.

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