Former leader of Japan’s ruling party against raising defense profile


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.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Thanks for the article and to Mr. Kono fr granting the interview.

    I found this to be an interesting point about the electoral system, of which I know little

    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.

    Tow the party line or find another party…

  • Michael Craig

    Mr. Kono made absolute perfect sense! He should come out of retirement and return to the LDP to change their minds or form a new party to counter Abe’s plans!

    The LDP needs more men like him!

  • U Nyunt Shwe

    Long Live Kono Yohei Sama!!!!!!!!! Peace!!!!!!!

  • vasu

    Prudent thoughts not abandoned by Japanese think tank but that doesn’t mean all responsibility of keeping peace in the sub-continent rests upon it only as for punitive action for its past misdeeds .Indeed now no country can claim of its perfect and clean record in this matter .It’s getting worse by the day,instead.

  • Paldo

    This is the recent news that make sense. The LDP is hi-jacking their candidates and in turn hi-jacking the common people. Jp has no backbones to admit the guilts, no courage!

  • Each of his address makes sense, voice of Japanese conscience, hope he’s going to stand on.

    ~Rebuttals and queries for frequent compositions of Constitution amendment pursuit~
    1. It’s not comfortable to suit to something “forced” by a foreign party.
    2. Because it’s not what we’ve chosen.
    3. Following an order what we didn’t choose is not honorable, doing not honorable thing is not comfortable.
    4. Because it seems enough time passed to get entitled to make it by our own.
    5. We think we’re already entitled, or prepared to do so.
    6. Then why don’t we?
    7. Is there any reason for us not to do so?
    8. Because it’s old, too much aged, not for use with current age anymore.
    9. We might be going to get stood off from all over the world if we were not going to contribute to these of international peace keeping operations by force.
    1. Why would we have been coerced to adopt it?
    2. Should anything forced be let to dismiss? Does a constitution really need to be branded of our own? And why?
    3. How far would the honor have to be taken care of? Was there any prior failure in weighing it in the past? Does the uncomfortableness mean much enough to give priority?
    4. Does time fix up everything?
    5. Do we have to do anything we can?
    6. Does a capability or opportunity always mean a rational reason to do something?
    7. Do we have to do anything we can?
    8. Is an old thing always not enough? Is there any contribution that we’re not aware of in what our constitution has made to abroad to ease foreign people?
    9. Then what sacrifice would be supposed to come if we were not? And is it more than we’re supposed to lose by going militaristic again?