Abe rattles his saber

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Abe rattles his saber

Japan’s military posture is near a turning point as Tokyo tries to lift military limits for the first time since World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citing a government-appointed panel’s recommendations, made it official that the government will reinterpret the postwar Constitution’s Article 9 to allow it the right to so-called collective self-defense. In other words, Japan can come to the military aid of an ally attacked outside of Japan.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will conduct a review with its coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, so the cabinet can reach complete agreement on defining Japan’s collective self-defense before the sensitive constitutional amendment heads to the Diet for approval. Under the pacifist Constitution drawn up by the United States after the war, Japan has strictly restricted its Self-Defense Forces, the name of its military, to self-protection and peacekeeping activities overseas in accordance with Article 9, which stipulates, “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

When the self-imposed ban is lifted, Japan will be able to send troops to other countries and use weapons to protect its own nationals and those of its allies, namely the United States. Its military will no longer be restricted to a “self-defense” posture and could become involved in global military operations. The postwar Constitution will be pacifist in name only. The change could be a watershed for Japan’s new military and security posture.

Neighboring countries that still bear bitter memories of Japan’s past aggressions are naturally concerned about any further empowerment of its military. They cannot but have dire suspicions about Tokyo’s intentions with a nationalistic prime minister who visits the Yasukuni shrine, which honors Class A war criminals, and takes an unabashedly revisionist attitude toward Japan’s wretched history during the war.

Polls show a majority of Japanese are actually against changes to Article 9. The legal changes should be done in the most transparent way to convince the people of Japan and nearby countries of intentions that are above board. Mostly, any military decisions that involve the Korean Peninsula must have prior consent from Seoul. Collective self-defense rights must be exercised strictly for the purpose of contributing to regional and international peace and stability. The seas around Asia are in flux due to China’s aggressive assertiveness. The last thing we need is Tokyo stirring the pot further.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 16, Page 30

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