By Darren Smith, weekend contributor
Japanese voters are split over changing the country’s pacifist constitution, in order to allow Japan to ease limits on the military, according to a recent poll. About 50 percent of voters want Japan to be able to exercise its right to self-defense in case of an international conflict, while almost 90 percent of lower house lawmakers back the change.
The survey was made by the Asahi newspaper and a University of Tokyo research team. It showed that half of the voters want the revising of the constitution, up from 41 percent in 2009.
Japan’s prime-minister Shinzo Abe made clear he wants to change the constitution in order to give more power to the military. The constitution has never been changed since it was drafted by the United States Occupation forces in 1947, after the World War Two.
Abe spoke of the importance of defending Japanese territory from the growing assertiveness of the Chinese in the region. China raised tensions in the area in November when it created an air defense zone that encroached on the territories of neighboring countries.
Japanese lawmakers reacted angrily and accused the Chinese government of being “reckless and risky” and attempting to alter the “status quo” in the region. China, for its part, has called on Japan to desist from provocative actions and repair diplomatic ties between the Asian nations.
The two countries have been trading diplomatic blows over the last year over a group of islets in the East China Sea. Although Japan administers the Senkaku Islands, China maintains it has a historic claim on what it calls the Diaoyu Islands.
Article Nine of the constitution states:
“Renounciation of War. Aspiring sincerely to an 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 a means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
The Japanese conservative daily Sankei Shimbun on Wednesday, and said the constitution will have been revised after Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in 2020. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbids the use of war to settle international disputes and calls for peace to be found using justice and order. The article was added to the Japanese constitution following WWII
China is not the only nation having strife with Japan. South Korea also has long entrenched animosity toward Japan especially after the brutal occupation by Japanese forces during the Second World War. North Korea further heightens tension with Japan with missile tests including an incident where a medium range missile was fired by North Korea over Japan.
Given Japan’s history during the 20th century should Japan alter its constitution given the threats its government perceives today?
By Darren Smith
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