[EDITORIALS]On Japan’s constitutionJapan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party has made public its first draft of a constitutional revision, in which the clause renouncing Japan’s right to wage war is omitted. The draft does not spell out a right to collective self-defense, but can be interpreted as permitting that. It is the first time the governing party has offered a revision to the constitution, in writing, since it was ratified in 1947.
Currently, conservatives have a great deal of influence in Japan. In a survey conducted last year by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, 59 percent of the people polled supported a constitutional revision similar to the one now being proposed. Except for certain parts of the draft, the country’s major opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, does not oppose it, and so its ratification seems only a matter of time.
Japan has long argued that it needs to have military power in proportion to its economic might, and that it needs to become a “normal country.” If the constitution is revised, that wish is likely to become a reality. The projection of Japanese military force abroad will become a possibility; Japan could participate in wars alongside its ally, the United States.
Any sovereign country has the right to change its constitution to accomodate the changing times. But there is something that Japan must keep in mind. It needs to demonstrate that it cares sincerely about the concerns of South Korea, China and its other neighbors over Japan’s militaristic past. Only then can the global community trust Japan as a “normal country.”
But Japan seems to be going in the other direction. Proof of this can be expected soon, as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visits the Yasukuni Shrine, where major war criminals from World War II are honored. This demonstrates that Japan is not engaging in self-examination when it comes to its past.
A Japan that does not reflect upon its past, but opts instead to become a military power, could become a factor in making the unstable geopolitical situation in East Asia even more volatile.
Japan may not attempt to take a leading role in the region outright. Nevertheless, considering remarks that have been made by some within the governing party, one cannot help but worry.
In revising its constitution, Japan needs to focus its efforts on true reconciliation with its neighbors. Doing so will be in its national interest.