Ahead of the anniversary Thursday of Japan’s surrender in World War II, former Liberal Democratic Party President and noted dove Yohei Kono expressed his views on constitutional revision proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other issues.
Kono, 76, who was known for being the most dovish among LDP lawmakers, held such key posts as chief Cabinet secretary, foreign minister and Lower House speaker before retiring from politics in 2009.
Abe is keen on revising the Constitution. The LDP, now headed by Abe, in its draft proposal defines the Self-Defense Forces as a national defense force, while allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. What is your take on this?
I do not see the need for revisions. If Japan modifies its Constitution to position the SDF as a national defense force and changes its defense guidelines to allow increased defense equipment, this would be encouraging neighboring nations to alter their defense programs.
There is absolutely no need to set the stage for a never-ending arms race. There are views that the security environment surrounding Japan is changing, but this is exactly the time when more diplomatic efforts are needed.
I understand that you have previously written about your wartime experiences, such as running to bomb shelters during air raids and your memory of listening to the broadcast of the voice of Emperor Hirohito (declaring Japan’s defeat).
They are unforgettable experiences. Time has passed since the current Constitution was written and I now see a trend that takes (the war-renouncing) Article 9 lightly. We must go back to the basics and think properly as to why this kind of Constitution came to be. We must not forget the devastation and tragedy caused by the war. Article 9 demonstrates the fundamental spirit of Japan.
There used to be LDP lawmakers who were opposed to constitutional revisions, but there seems to be no opposition these days. Why is this?
What has made a big impact is that the Lower House is comprised of people elected in single-seat districts. Under such an election system, lawmakers can’t be endorsed by the party if they do not strictly adhere to the party’s pledges.
Abe has recently indicated he supports changing the government’s interpretation that Japan can’t exercise the right to collective self-defense. What is your view on this?
At first, the direction was to modify the Constitution (and enable exercising the right to collective self-defense). But since constitutional revision is not an easy task, it is now shifting to the reinterpretation of the Constitution.
The procedure to change the interpretation can be done by a Cabinet decision, but wouldn’t that mean holding the Diet and the people in low account? It would inevitably lead to engaging in war if we exercise the right to collective self-defense, and it deviates significantly from the spirit of the Constitution.
Voices are growing in the LDP criticizing the 1995 statement issued by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizing for Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia. What do you think about that?
They must be asserting that the previous war was not a mistake, but such an argument can’t be accepted at home and abroad. It will raise Japan’s position in the international community if we admit what was wrong.
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