Article 99 of the Constitution states, "The Emperor or the Regent as well as Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this Constitution." Over the past year, the Abe administration and the ruling coalition parties have tweaked the government's long-standing interpretation of the Constitution to circumvent its pacifist principles. And members of the administration and the governing alliance are now talking ever more loudly of amending the nation's highest law 68 years after it took effect in 1947.

Following the reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 in a Cabinet decision last July, the administration is preparing a set of legislation that would enable Japan to engage in collective self-defense and expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces' overseas missions. Without amending the Constitution, the move represents a major departure from the nation's postwar defense posture under the Constitution.

True, the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit Japan from exercising the right to collective self-defense, or defending an ally under attack even if Japan itself is not being attacked. However, postwar Japan has refrained from sending the SDF abroad on combat missions by upholding the spirit of Article 9, which renounces "war as a sovereign right of the nation." For decades, the government maintained the view that the Constitution bans the nation from engaging in collective self-defense. The "defense only policy" — repelling an enemy with a minimum necessary force only when Japan is attacked — has represented the maximum allowable limit under Article 9.