Japan will open a box that brings endless trouble if it amends constitution: Global Times editorial
Published: Jul 12, 2022 01:00 AM
Japan's Prime Minister and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Fumio Kishida (center L) places a red paper rose on an LDP candidate's name to indicate the victory in the upper house election, along with his party executives at the party's headquarters in Tokyo on July 10, 2022.

Japan's Prime Minister and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Fumio Kishida (center L) places a red paper rose on an LDP candidate's name to indicate the victory in the upper house election, along with his party executives at the party's headquarters in Tokyo on July 10, 2022.

As the result of Japan's upper house election showed on Monday, Japan's governing party led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and its coalition partner scored a major victory. The forces that advocate constitutional amendments obtained more than two thirds of the seats, passing the threshold required for starting the process of constitutional amendments. At a press conference on Monday, Kishida said that he will facilitate parliamentary debate as soon as possible over four constitutional amendments proposed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) including writing the Self-Defense Forces into article 9 of the constitution. Many analysts believe the obstacles for Japan to change its pacifist Constitution have been basically cleared, and the possibility for constitutional amendments is more likely than ever before.

The current constitution of Japan was implemented in 1947, and its ninth article clearly stipulates that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be sustained" and "the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized." Hence the name "pacifist Constitution." This was not only a prerequisite for Japan's return to the international community after the war, but also one of the cornerstones for lasting peace in East Asia. Although Japan implemented a new security law in 2016 to lift the ban on the "right of collective self-defense" and break the restrictions on sending troops overseas which had been in place since 1945, which has largely already overridden the country's pacifist Constitution, whether to make the official move of constitutional amendments is still a very important weather vane.

Because of this, the motion of constitutional amendments is still facing fierce controversy not only in Japan, but has also caused wide-ranging concern throughout Asia-Pacific neighbors and the international community, including many clear-cut voices of opposition. Under such circumstances, if Self-Defense Forces are included in Article 9 of the pacifist Constitution, Japan will send a dangerous signal to its neighbors and across Asia to deny the postwar history and the path of peaceful development. In this sense, whether or not to amend Article 9 of the pacifist Constitution is by no means entirely a case of "Japan's internal affairs." Victims of Japanese militarism have reasons and the necessity to express concerns and question Japan's constitutional amendments.

Japan still hasn't made a profound apology to its Asian neighbors on historical issues nor reflected on it. Instead, the Japanese right wing forces have been seeking to completely untie its military power, which is an important reason for Japan's constant lack of trust and disagreement with its neighbors. Although the right wing forces have regarded the country's pacifist Constitution as a thorn in their side that must be removed sooner or later, peace-loving public opinion in Japan has been suppressing these forces like a massive mountain for the past decades. Now Abe's assassination is likely to help the LDP gain more sympathy, accelerate their stalled agenda, and help turn back the wheel of history further.

Kishida mentioned on Monday that Japan is now facing one of the most difficult times in the post-war period. What he said is true. Issues, such as the sluggish economy, soaring prices, and uncontrolled COVID-19 epidemic, have made the life of the Japanese people difficult. But no tool can be pulled out from the box of the "constitutional amendments" to address these urgent problems. Instead, it is likely to unleash forces of monster that bite. The pacifist Constitution restrains Japan's militaristic impulse, and it has never stifled the energy of the nation's peaceful development - It greatly ensures the development. It is totally unnecessary for the Japanese right wing to amplify the sense of insecurity deliberately.

Over the last decade or so, Japan's right-wing politicians have been using crises to declare that the pacifist Constitution has become out of date and flagging the need to find "alternative ways" to make it a mere scrap of paper. Previously, there was a forcible push for a new security law. Now, there is the introduction of NATO into the Asia-Pacific and the use of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to make a big deal over the Taiwan question. It is certain that if Japan spends a tremendous amount of money to expand its military power, and even upgrade the Self-Defense Forces to be an army and regain the right to launch a war, the result will be that Japan will move from its safe position to a dangerous or even desperate situation and the entire East Asia region will be dragged into a new round of crisis.

On this issue, the role of the US must be mentioned. Japan today still cares about Washington's opinion the most. Without US' permission, Japan would not be bold enough to amend its constitution. The US, on one hand, wants to indulge Japan to play the role as a geopolitical thug, and on the other hand, is also on guard against Japan's right-lean tendency which may result to it getting rid of Washington's control. Washington's two-pronged consideration has influenced the pace of constitutional amendments of Japan. Right now, apparently the US is eager to push Japan to the forefront of confronting China in Asia, so it does LDP a favor on the issue. But we have to say that Pearl Harbor attack still exists in living memory. 

Now Tokyo is no longer shy about its desire to amend its constitution. It is fully interested in playing a military role, even a little being carried away under encouragement of the US. But peace-loving forces inside and outside Japan can never sit idle. They should do utmost to prevent Tokyo from opening the magic box of constitutional amendments. The Japanese government should realize that the end of militarism is abyss. History has proved it once. It doesn't need to be proved twice.