We received this flier, from the Japan Social Democratic Party (i.e., the socialists), in our postbox this morning.
First, as a bit of background, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution forbids Japan from going to war except in self-defense. Previously, this article was interpreted in the strictest sense–that Japan could only go to war if its homeland was directly attacked first. Such an interpretation does not leave much room for collective self-defense, for taking action that might prevent an attack, or even for engaging in peacekeeping operations overseas.
Prime Minister Abe came to office vowing to amend the constitution so that, for example, if the US went to war with China and Japanese interests were deemed as being at stake, the Japanese military could coordinate with the American military and join in the attack. However, Abe’s plan to amend the constitution was through means that were legally suspect, or at least politically distasteful, and support for a constitutional amendment evaporated. Now, Abe wants to merely reinterpret the constitution so that he can still get what he wants.
Here is a rough translation of some of the flier’s contents.
Headline: The right of collective self-defense
Until now, the Japanese government has always said that it cannot join in an attack if the American army goes on the offensive, but now, they want to change the interpretation of the constitution to allow this, and so it follows that there will be a tax increase and a draft.
President Obama does not want to get involved in Japanese-Korean-Chinese conflicts.
Obama: “The Japanese-American military alliance is important, but in regards to Japanese-US relations, it is more important to focus on the economy.” (Said during Abe’s February 2013 visit to the White House.)
Soldiers: “In war, the dead march out and recruitment decreases. Will there be a draft …?”
Weeping mothers: “We did not feed you for this!”
Prime Minister Abe: “Since the front door (a constitutional amendment) is difficult, let’s become a nation that goes to war at America’s side via a back door (a reinterpretation of the constitution).”
Ichiro Komatsu (Director General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau): “I am not your guard dog!”
The Cabinet Legislation Bureau is in charge of interpreting the law and constitution for the government. Under normal circumstances, it chooses its Director General from its own ranks. However, Ichiro Komatsu was handpicked by Prime Minister Abe to head the agency, breaking with precedent, presumably because he shares Abe’s views on reinterpreting the constitution to allow Japan to go to war, whereas the other members of the Bureau do not. Whatever the case, Komatsu resigned in the middle of May, ostensibly because he has cancer. This is seen by many as a blow to Abe’s efforts to have the Japanese Constitution reinterpreted.
To be honest, Abe’s plans to change or reinterpret the constitution appear to have very little support within Japan. Having said that, he himself is quite popular. And, while both the socialists and the communists are trying to make hay on the situation, they appear to be gaining little support with the public. This of course may change if Abe succeeds in his plans, despite the overwhelming opposition he now faces.