Two constitutional scholars who this month rekindled debate over security reforms have restated their assessment of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security bills as unconstitutional.
They slammed his reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution, and one of them mocked the ruling party for slurs against his credibility.
If the administration’s official reading of the Constitution is changed as arbitrarily as Abe did it, “the role of the Constitution to limit political power would almost evaporate,” Yasuo Hasebe, a professor at Waseda University, told a joint news conference in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
“Any interpretation of any constitutional clause seems now up for grabs,” warned Hasebe, who is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative constitutional scholars in Japan.
“If I say what is congruent with interests of the government, they say I am an expert. If I say something against interests of the government, they allege I’m not an expert,” Hasebe said sarcastically. “This is quite astounding.”
The other expert speaking at the event was Setsu Kobayashi, a professor emeritus at Keio University.
“Japan should concentrate her power to defend herself, with her territory and its surroundings. This is constitutional, reasonable and economical,” Kobayashi said.
The two were among three constitutional experts who were invited by lawmakers to express opinions at a Lower House session on June 4.
It was particularly ironic that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party had recommended Hasebe’s inclusion in the group.
Their testimony caused a public sensation and provided much ammunition to opposition lawmakers and media outlets critical of Abe.
Some senior LDP lawmakers have now argued that constitutional scholars lack expertise in security issues and are unqualified to discuss issues involving national security.
But Hasebe pointed out that the LDP had previously invited him as an academic expert to contribute to another Diet session on a government-sponsored state secret protection bill, which the LDP said is essential to protect information related to national security.
Hasebe had maintained that such a law was necessary.
Reinterpreting the Constitution allows Japan to exercising the right of collective self-defense, or using force to come to the aid of an ally under attack, even if Japan is not itself under attack.
Article 9 of the Constitution had long been interpreted by the government as limiting Japan’s use of force strictly to self-defense, and as banning the use of collective self-defense.
Abe has declared this interpretation defunct, submitting security bills to the Diet that would expand the scope of joint military operations with an ally based on his own interpretation of the charter.