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Land of the Rising Gun
Abe Has 2020 Vision on Changing Constitution

Shinzo Abe has set a 2020 deadline for his legacy goal of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution, according to the Financial Times:

“I want to make 2020 the year that a new constitution comes into effect,” Mr Abe told a private symposium in a video message whose contents were reported by Japanese media. “We have reached a point where we have to start discussions in more concrete terms in order to present the public with a proposal for revision to the constitution.”

Earlier in the week, when he pointed to the gravity of escalating tensions over North Korea, Mr Abe told a cross-party group of parliamentarians that only a small minority of the Japanese public “think of the constitution as an immortal tome”. […]

The amendment, which would mark the first change to Japan’s constitution in 70 years, will focus on Article 9, the so-called peace clause in which Japan renounces the threat or use of force in settling international disputes and vows that land, sea and air forces “will never be maintained”.

Abe has been doing interpretive gymnastics on Japan’s post-war constitution for years now, twisting its limits to allow Japan to provide “collective self-defense” to allies. But he has long hoped to throw off Japan’s pacifist shackles more definitively, and he has lately been using the North Korea crisis to drum up support for a more militant posture, including a first-strike capability.

Even in Japan’s changing threat environment, though, scrapping the peace clause remains a divisive prospect. According to the latest poll, 46% of Japanese want to keep the constitution the way it is, while 45% favor a change. Those numbers are trending the right way for Abe—the past year has seen a five percent increase in favor of amendment—but he will still face an uphill battle in overcoming opposition from the pacifists.

This is likely to be a long and bruising debate: any constitutional revision requires majority support in a referendum and a two-thirds majority in both Japanese houses of parliament. And investors are concerned that Abe’s controversial drive to change the constitution could suck the energy out of other priorities, especially his stalled Abenomics reforms.

Evidently, though, Abe feels confident enough in his position to re-focus his energies on the constitutional issue. With three years to convince the public, Abe has good reason to believe he can bend the debate his way—or that China’s expansionism and North Korea’s saber rattling will make the case for him.

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  • KremlinKryptonite

    This is another item that falls under the “unintended consequences” list of General Secretary Xi’s foreign policy blunders. And it’s less divisive than you might think. Similarly, there is renewed interest here in South Korea about the potential of going nuclear. Indeed, more than half of the population is either strongly in favor of or somewhat interested in such a notion.

    • Observe&Report

      I seriously hope they don’t. The last thing the Asia Pacific needs is more nukes.

      • KremlinKryptonite

        Still, I find the arguments in favor rather difficult to rebut. Most westerners don’t know, but South Korea was seriously considering a nuclear program 40 years ago. The US put enormous pressure on them to kill the program, and they did….The Chinese Communist Party did no such thing to stop their ally from going nuclear much more recently. Rather the opposite.

        South Koreans look at their neighborhood and see nuclear Russia, nuclear China, and nuclear Chinese ally, North Korea. Meanwhile, they see themselves non-nuclear, Japan non-nuclear, and the closest US nukes somewhere deep beneath the waves with only 30,000 American soldiers on the peninsula.

        • ——————————

          But those US nukes can fly fast, far, and in high volume…and I don’t know that any amount of soldiers would matter much if things get nuclear, anyway.

          Hopefully SK will be patient and sit tight until the NK threat is neutralized….

          • KremlinKryptonite

            The Koreans [correctly] see the American soldiers here as sacrificial lambs…more of a statement than a force. “You’d better not attack South Korea because you’ll kill thousands of American soldiers, and then we will have to pummel you.”
            Thus far, all attempts to get the Chinese Communist Party to use the leverage that it has over the Kim regime have failed – badly. So, it is not illogical to say that the prospect of a nuclear Japan and/or South Korea might be the one thing – so disagreeable to the CCP – that will finally force them to use their leverage in a real, meaningful, and effective way.

          • f1b0nacc1

            At the turn of the 20th century, the British and the French were quietly discussing mutual defense arrangements. The British, trying to get a take on what sort of numbers the French were thinking about in terms of troop commitments, asked the French how many British troops would have to be deployed in France to guarantee its defense. The French replied “only one, we will make sure he is killed”

            I believe that the same calculation takes place in South Korea (and several other American allies) now.

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Haha indeed. I assume you’ve read The Guns of August? It wasn’t bad intelligence on weapons and manpower. It wasn’t that anyone really questioned the alliances. It was the level of utterly unwarranted certainty about the disposition of one’s enemy. Most of the lessons learned from 1870 were no longer valid, yet the orders went out, and that was that.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Absolutely agreed. The biggest problem was that while everyone was sure about THEIR alliances, they assumed that the other guy’s allies wouldn’t be reliable. I suspect that everyone is about to make that mistake again….

            Regarding the lessons of 1870 vs WWI, one of the things that I loved pointing out to my students (back when I had them!) was that the most successful Allied generals from WWI tended to be students of the American Civil War

          • D4x

            Instead of the Army, the USA should deploy climate change activists to South Korea, to stop all that coal mining in North Korea.

            As for Japan? Hard to shake two thoughts: Manga and anime; and the lack of interest in sex. Don’t know how Abe gets those voters.

          • ——————————

            Perhaps the world should deploy all the climate change activists to NK…and we will all see how sympathetic Kim Jong Un wouldl be to their protesting in his streets.

            BTW, I think the Japs get their sex through Anime…..

      • India and Pakistan both obtained nuclear weapons, and despite their serious political and religious tensions, never actually went to open war with one another (nor have they used their weapons on any third power).

  • tellourstory

    It really is amazing how quickly the attitude towards pacifism in Japan has changed in recent years. When I first started living in Japan many years ago, pacifism was almost unquestionable and practically considered gospel by some. Most of the Japanese I spoke to wouldn’t even entertain the idea of having an army or sending their sons to fight. It was unthinkable to them.

    I, for one, am glad to see that the reality of their situation is finally beginning to hit them. They’re surrounded by a nuclear Russia, with whom they have a long-standing territorial dispute and that’s just one threat. There’s also nuclear China, who holds a serious grudge against them after WWII, and a nuclear North Korea, who has kidnapped their citizens before and threatens them as a US ally. With such neighbors as these, Japan should have started on the path towards rearmament years, or perhaps even a decade, ago.

  • Some people have suggested that the Japanese should obtain nuclear weapons to counterbalance China and North Korea:
    http://www.nationalinterest.org/feature/china’s-ultimate-nightmare-japan-armed-nuclear-weapons-14214

    Personally, I am not too sure, but to be honest, India and Pakistan have never gone to nuclear war as of yet, they contain each other’s influence in South Asia. Perhaps the same could apply to China and Japan if they were on a more equal footing.

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