WASHINGTON – Japan must consider revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of its Constitution if it wants to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday.
He said it is “entirely” up to the Japanese people to decide on whether to do so.
Powell also tacitly urged Japan to reconsider its oil development deal with Iran, given that Tehran is allegedly trying to build nuclear weapons through a uranium enrichment program.
He reiterated U.S. support for Japan’s quest for permanent U.N. Security Council membership and acknowledged the importance of Article 9 to the Japanese people.
“If Japan is going to play a full role on the world stage and become a full active participating member of the Security Council, and have the kind of obligations that it would pick up as a member of the Security Council, Article 9 would have to be examined in that light,” he said.
“But whether or not Article 9 should be modified or changed is absolutely and entirely up to the Japanese people to decide, because the United States would not presume an opinion.”
Article 9, the centerpiece of Japan’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 a means of settling international disputes.”
Powell’s comments echoed remarks made by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in July. Armitage told a group of Japanese lawmakers that it would be difficult for Japan to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member if it cannot play a greater military role for international peace.
Obtaining permanent U.N. Security Council membership is one of Japan’s priority foreign policy goals. Tokyo insists that Japan is eligible for the post because it has been the second-largest contributor to the United Nations and is involved in various U.N. peacekeeping operations.
On the Japan-Iran oil development deal, Powell said the U.S. hopes Japan will take into account Tehran’s suspected nuclear arms development.
Powell said it “seems clear to us that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon” and accused Iran of resuming construction of centrifuges for its uranium enrichment program.
Japan and Iran signed an agreement in February on an oil development project in Azadegan, southern Iran, one of the world’s largest oil fields.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s suggestion that Japan should consider rewriting its war-renouncing Constitution in order to get a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council drew fire from opposition lawmakers in Japan on Friday.
“He’s wrong,” said Hirohisa Fujii, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan.
Powell made the remarks Thursday in Washington in an interview with Japanese reporters.
Tadayoshi Ichida, head of the Japanese Communist Party’s secretariat, said, “You can’t virtually urge another country to change its constitution to enable the exercise of armed might.”