January 21, 2018

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What is Article 9?

After the end of WWII, Japan adopted a new constitution. The first paragraph of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution codified pacifism as a national policy.  The second paragraph of Article 9 stated that Japan waived the right to wage war. The previous imperial constitution did not have these provisions and many people viewed this difference as a primary factor in Japanese aggression during WWII.

Traditionally, the Japanese government has interpreted Article 9 as stating that the country did not have the right to exercise collective self-defense. However, in July 2014 Prime Minister Abe and his cabinet passed a resolution calling for a change the interpretation of Article 9 to allow the country to conduct defensive military operations. But in order for this new interpretation to be enacted the Parliament must pass a law confirming the view of the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

The reason why Prime Minister Abe decided to change the interpretation of the Article 9 rather than seek a change in the text of Article 9 is that the requirement for changing an article of the Japanese constitution is quite onerous. It requires a ⅔ vote of both houses and then the change must be approved by a majority of the public in a referendum. This procedure is quite difficult, and there are even scholars who say that changing Japanese constitution is virtually impossible in practice.


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