Sunday, June 29, 2014

JAPAN PM Abe’s defense policy initiative represents gross constitutional shenanigans

In a nutshell, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security policy initiative for collective self-defense means allowing Japan to do something that successive governments have said the nation is banned by the Constitution from doing.

This is the essence of the policy change the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, are currently discussing in their talks over Japan’s involvement in collective self-defense.

An initiative to amend the related constitutional provision to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense would be a straightforward move anybody could understand. But the Abe administration is not taking that aboveboard approach.

Instead, it is seeking to change the government’s interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the related provision to make it possible for Japan to engage in the right to collective self-defense.

Even though the government’s position on the issue will be changed to the exact opposite of the longstanding interpretation, the LDP and New Komeito, during their talks June 27, took the trouble of affirming that this is a “formal modification” that won’t change any of the norms set by the Constitution.

This incomprehensible claim can only be described as a self-serving attempt to justify the highly questionable policy initiative.

Are all the lawmakers in the ruling camp willing to agree to this argument and support the proposed Cabinet approval of the change in the interpretation? There is still time left for them to rethink their stances.

The revised draft of the Cabinet endorsement the government presented to the ruling parties June 27 is supposed to be based on the government’s official position on the issue announced in 1972.

In short, the 1972 government view states that given the basic principles stipulated in the preamble to the Constitution and Article 13, which demands respect of people’s “right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” it can be said that Article 9 doesn’t prohibit the nation from taking “necessary measures for self-defense.”

But the 1972 statement also says that Japan is allowed to use armed force only to fight “urgent and unjust” armed aggression and concludes that the nation is “not permitted” to resort to the right to collective self-defense to resist armed attacks against other countries.

The Abe administration is trying to rewrite only the conclusion while maintaining the logical framework of the argument. Such an opportunistic attempt to change the government’s official position on this important constitutional issue is simply unacceptable.

Another key element of the proposed policy change that should not be overlooked concerns the issue of collective security based on United Nations resolutions.

Abe initially ruled out the possibility of Japan’s use of armed force under the framework of collective security.

Concerned that this position would make it impossible for the Self-Defense Forces to engage in minesweeping operations in areas like the Persian Gulf, the LDP proposed to give the green light to such SDF operations under the framework of U.N.-sanctioned collective security. But the issue was shelved after New Komeito expressed strong opposition to the LDP’s proposal.

That’s why the draft Cabinet endorsement doesn’t include any clear reference to this issue. But the set of possible questions and answers related to the policy shift that has been prepared by the government and revealed June 27 says minesweeping operations are permitted by the Constitution. This is a cheap trick to end-run this weighty issue.

The Abe administration is making a headlong rush into a Cabinet approval of the controversial policy shift by using totally unreasonable arguments and leaving many Japanese clueless as to what is really going on. The government claims Japan can actually engage in collective security operations even if the proposed Cabinet endorsement doesn’t say so.

There has been no honest, reality-based debate on what should be done to protect Japan’s national security.

This policy initiative, if it is pushed through, will leave the pacifist principles of the Constitution totally eviscerated and the nation’s public opinion bitter divided. It will also leave the Japanese voting public even more distrustful of politicians.--The Asahi Shimbun


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