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[FOUNTAIN]Will Japan shed Article 9?

Aug 23,2006
In 1948, the Japanese Ministry of Education published “Atarashii Kenpo no Hanashi,” or “Tales of the New Constitution,” a commentary on the constitution that was enacted the year before. The book offers a noteworthy interpretation on Article 9. Article 9, also known as the peace clause, forever renounces war and the possession of war potential as well as the right of belligerency.
However, the validity of the interpretation expired after only two years, when the Korean War broke out, completely changing the situation. The National Police Reserve was organized, and the National Safety Agency was formed. Tokyo dodged Article 9 with a claim that the two groups were organizations with minimal power. And so an army with no war to fight was born.
The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party, founded in 1955, advocated legislation of a new constitution as its party platform. However, the party has not been able to attain its goal because of the safeguards in the Constitution. So the Japanese government began interpreting Article 9 more liberally.
It argues that exercising its defense right is separate from exercising the right of belligerency, and the use of arms does not mean the use of armed forces. Tokyo is often criticized for having made a “constitutional revision through interpretation,” meaning Japan accomplished a revision by liberally interpreting the constitution to suit its own needs. The Japan Self-Defense Forces have been sent abroad to regions of conflict, and a law has been passed to allow the Self-Defense Forces to get involved in emergencies. Some even argue that the Self-Defense Forces might strike first. Only the shell of Article 9 remains today. We could even call it dead. Some think the coexistence of Article 9 with the Self-Defense Forces is the cleverest political compromise in history, while others consider it an example of the art of ambiguity.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who will most likely succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, has recently pledged a comprehensive constitutional revision as his policy platform. The focus is on the peace clause, and he reportedly hopes to state clearly that Japan possesses self-defense forces. Mr. Abe said, “The framework of the country has to be created from a blank by the hands of the Japanese citizens. That way, Japan can get back to true self-reliance.”
The peace clause has been Japan’s vow not to wage war against its neighbors as well as a brake on the world-class military strength of Japan. If Japan shakes itself free from the restraint of Article 9, the consequences will be no trivial matter.


by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.


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