Article nine of Japan’s constitution, also known as the “Peace Constitution” states that the Japanese people should aspire to maintain international peace based around justice and order. It also states that Japan must give up its right to use force on land, at sea and in the air to solve conflicts.
That means that Japan must have no standing army.
On July 1, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a change to Article nine, giving Japan’s self-defense forces the ability to militarily assist allies in the region.
According to the Jiji Press Ltd., 51.6 per cent of Japan’s people oppose “collective self-defense” while 33.4 per cent do not. Abe’s cabinet support rate has decreased to 44.6% which is the lowest since Abe begun his second term.
When it comes to the topic of military presence, I need to mention the province of Okinawa located in southern Japan. Okinawa was the most miserable battlefront between Japan and the United States. It left 200,000 dead by the end of World War Two.
Article nine was created to take away Japan’s ability to fight, but it also helped end armed conflict in the region. Although it pacified Japan, the end result was peace for the country.
“The Japanese people sincerely aspire to international peace based on justice and order. 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” … “In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air force, the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
After the constitution was put in place, Okinawa was under control by the United States for 20 years almost half a century ago. Although Okinawa has returned to Japan, most of the U.S. military bases have been centered in Okinawa.
Even now, people in Okinawa suffer from problems created by the U.S. military such as the noise of the planes, crashing military vehicles and sex crimes committed by the soldiers at the base.
Yoshiaki Nitta, a member of the Okinawa prefectural assembly, announced he would protest the change to Article 9 stating, “We have 74% of U.S. military bases, so Okinawa will be likely to be a target of attack by any other countries attacking the U.S., I am prepared myself against this decision with all my power.”
One of the strike members of the self-defense forces in Japan against the change said, “I belonged to air defense force members. My task was defending Japan’s territory from combat planes and missiles. I know you are afraid that North Korea might launch a missile to Japan, but don’t worry about that. They will protect you guys from that at the risk of their life. However, collective self-defense is definitely not like self-defense forces. It makes it so they can participate in an unrelated war and kill somebody who is completely foreign to them. Like, Abe says, ‘go and fight for Japan, but you might be dead.’”
He strongly protested the changes and continued on saying, “There will be a good possibility of receiving terrorism attacks from other countries if Japan joins unrelated war for the U.S., while exercising collective self-defense. It can happened easily.” He stands for Japanese self-defense forces and repeatedly insists on what the nation is Japan itself, but the government is not.
This charter is extremely uncommon in the world. There are just three countries, Japan, Costa Rica and Panama that do not maintain active armed forces.
Additionally, what is important is that the Japanese people have accepted this constitution and have been keeping at it for 67 years.
They should be proud of it because it means they are leaders of peace.
However, the Japanese government is slowly starting to have an impact on what peace means due to their reinterpretation of article nine of Japan’s constitution.
Yet, the international community is also taking a stand. This year, article nine of Japan’s constitution was announced as one of candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize that will being awarded October 10, 2014.
Usually, this prize is for an individual or a group, but in doing this, the Nobel Prize committee is recognizing all of the Japanese who have kept article nine going for so long.
This is the time to consider what changes will come as Japan reinterpreted its constitution.
Featured image: “US Navy 051115-N-8492C-125 The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JDS Kongou (DDG 173) sails in formation with other JMSDF ships and ships assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group”, Todd Cichonowicz