Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that he will seek to change the government's long-standing interpretation of the Constitution to lift the ban on Japan exercising the right to collective self-defense. If he succeeds, this means that Japan will be able to take military action overseas when a country with close ties to it is attacked — even if Japan is not under attack.
Abe is, in effect, attempting to gut the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 without going through the amendment procedure, which requires the support of at least two-thirds of the members of both houses of the Diet and ratification by a majority of voters in a national referendum. His effort to change the constitutional interpretation in question merely through Cabinet approval could serve as a precedent for future prime ministers to void any clause of the Constitution just by adopting an interpretation backed by a decision of their Cabinet, thus undermining the foundations of Japan's constitutional democracy. This will endanger the Constitution's status as the supreme law of the country that binds the power of government and stands above ordinary laws.
Lawmakers and ordinary citizens, irrespective of their views on defense and security matters, need to realize what his attempt means for the nation's rule under the Constitution.