The Liberal Democratic Party, which has long claimed that the present pacifist Constitution was imposed on the Japanese people by the Occupation Forces, has announced a draft revision. Although the text begins promisingly enough with “The Japanese people, based on their own will and determination, establish a new Constitution as the sovereign,” it goes on to gut the pacifist principle by deleting the crucial part of the war-renouncing Article 9. It is also short on grand ideas that would guide the nation in the international community.

A constitution should make clear what ideals and goals the nation strives to achieve. The only thing clear from the draft is that Japan would create a full-fledged military force and that it would take part in “activities jointly carried out internationally to ensure peace and stability in the international community.” This could lead to military operations abroad without restraint.

The preamble of the LDP draft states in part: “Basic principles — the idea of popular sovereignty, democracy, liberalism, respect for basic human rights, pacifism and the idea of seeking international harmony — shall be inherited as inalterable values.” It also says: “Sincerely wishing for international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people will cooperate with other nations to realize it. While recognizing the existence of a variety of values in the international community, the people will make incessant efforts to eliminate oppression and the violation of human rights.”

As a mere listing of widely accepted ideas, mainly expressed in four- or six-character kanji phrases, the LDP preamble lacks a strong heart-moving statement on what Japan will strive to achieve as a member of the international community. Conspicuously, it fails to place the international position Japan should seek in historical perspective. Instead, it buries lessons from Japan’s modern war and discards the pacifist principle, although it contains the phrase “heiwa-shugi” (pacifism).

Its weakness can be clearly seen when compared with the present Constitution’s preamble, which includes the resolve that “never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government” and the declaration that the idea of popular sovereignty is a universal idea of humankind — which is antithetical to the Meiji Constitution’s basic principle that sovereignty rests with the emperor.

The current preamble presents the principle for Japan’s behavior in the international community and the position it should seek: “We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationships, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society, striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth.”

By contrast, the LDP’s preamble says: “The Japanese people share a duty to support and defend the nation and society they belong to with love, a sense of responsibility and mettle.” This reads like an anachronistic phrase aimed at mobilizing people.

The LDP draft preserves the war-renouncing Section 1 of Article 9, but it has deleted Section 2, which bans possession of land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential, and renounces the right of belligerency of the state. Instead, it calls for creation of a full-fledged military force for defense.

The drafters seem to forget that Section 2 has played an important role in restraining the equipment and activities of the Self-Defense Forces, especially by banning military operations abroad, thus contributing to Japan’s pacifist image in the international community. It must be noted that the SDF was created as an expedient in the context of the international situation in the 1950s. It appears questionable whether the LDP government has tried to exhaust every means conducive to the Constitution’s pacifist principle in its past attempts to deal with international problems. The principle should be maintained as a universal ideal toward which the nation must strive.

The LDP draft also implicitly allows government officials to support religious activities within the bounds of social courtesy, manners and customs — an apparent move to justify official visits to religious institutions such as Yasukuni Shrine. This flies in the face of the principle of separation of religion and state — a basic principle for modern democracy.

In lacking a mechanism to restrain military activities, the draft undermines the nation’s constitutional cornerstone and completely changes the description of the nation’s basic character. It would likely cause only misgivings among neighboring countries as well as the Japanese people.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.