Abe’s intention to revise constitution will exacerbate tensions in Asia-Pacific

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/9 19:33:39

Editor's Note:

At a recent gathering to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Constitution, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a video message that he wanted to make "explicit the status" of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDFs) by amending the Constitution by 2020. How will Abe's new move affect the situation in the Asia-Pacific region? How should China respond to Japan's growing ambition for military development? Global Times reporter Yang Chuchu and Ma Linna interviewed two Chinese scholars on this issue.

Li Ruoyu, assistant research fellow at the Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

In 2016, after the 24th House of Councillors election, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) occupied two-thirds of the seats in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, passing the threshold for constitutional amendment.

After the election, it seems that 2017 will be the year that Japan revises its Constitution. However, the Moritomo Gakuen scandal has become a focus of the National Diet and diverted Abe's attention, distracting him from the constitutional amendments.

It is worth noting that with LDP extending the presidency tenure from six years over two terms to nine years over three terms, Abe's tenure can be extended from 2018 to 2021. Therefore, it will give him enough time to prepare the revision. Besides, Japan will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which will have positive economic effects and be conducive to boosting the support for both Abe and the constitutional amendments.

In addition to votes in the Lower and Upper houses, revising the Constitution also requires more than half of the votes from a national referendum, which is a challenge for the Abe administration. Hyping up external tensions can help Abe gain more national support.

North Korea and China are often regarded as two of Japan's external threats, offering the excuse for Japan to improve its defense. Recently, the North Korean nuclear crisis has sparked tensions on the Korean Peninsula. In this case, the Abe administration definitely will play up the impression that Japan faces threats from North Korea so as to gain more support for revising the Constitution.

Abe has already lifted the ban on collective self-defense and broken the limits set by article 9 of the Constitution. What's more, Japan's SDFs have started its overseas activities. If Japan can complete its constitutional revision by 2020, Japan's ability to cooperate with the US military will be strengthened, which will greatly impact the security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Liu Jiangyong, professor with the Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University

If Abe acquires the support of both houses of the National Diet and the ruling party, it is certain that constitutional revision would take place. The national referendum will only be a formality after the ruling LDP secures a two-thirds majority in both houses of the National Diet.

Although constitutional revision falls under internal affairs, the content and intent of it deserve global attention. After all, the historical Constitution of the Empire of Japan has once been utilized to launch a series of wars.

Upon reflection, the pacifist constitution has been enacted to refrain from militarism and to maintain a peaceful postwar environment. The 70 years of peace in and around Japan can be attributed to it.

However, if Abe is intent on reviving militarization, the tension in Northeast Asia would only be aggravated. It is unknown whether Japan would wage or interfere in a war in the future. The officials who have weathered the storm of wars are no longer in power, and consequently, can exert little influence on those postwar generations unfamiliar with the devastation of armed conflicts.

The constitution revision is put forward under the excuses of the "China threat" and the "North Korea threat." Abe would use North Korea's missile launches as an excuse to continue his propaganda for revising the constitution, and exaggerate the "China threat" when referring to the Diaoyu Islands.

If Abe succeeds in accomplishing his most cherished goal, his country will be heading down an entirely different path than the postwar peaceful development Japan had intended to pursue. In that case, contradictions between China and Japan would significantly intensify in the Asia-Pacific region. Thus, China should be vigilant toward Japan's moves.


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