March 30, 2017

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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.

 

Why Does the Prime Minister Want Japan to be able to Exercise the Right to Collective Self Defense?

 

There are a number of factors, but one of the central reasons is to fulfill an aspiration held by his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. During Kishi’s administration, Japan signed a mutual defense treaty with the US which allowed the US to station military bases in Japan. But Kishi believed that Japan needed to maintain military independence. This aim was not fulfilled by Kishi and was subsequently passed down to his son, Shintaro Abe, who was a former Foreign Minister, and then to Prime Minister Abe.

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