Revision of the 1947 U.S.-drafted Japanese constitution was one of the founding principles of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). However, strong public opposition to any change has constrained LDP leaders for the last 50 years – until now. A recent poll suggested that 58% of Japanese people support certain non-controversial changes such as improving the Japanese language (it was translated directly from English) but 62% still oppose amendment of Article 9 (the pacifist clause).
Last Friday, Koizumi’s LDP put forward a final draft of a new proposed constitution. According to LDP spokesmen, the draft is meant to give Japan’s military a firm legal basis and better reflect the new realities of the modern world. It also states that Japan can have a military both to defend itself and to play a greater role in global security, although overseas deployments would be limited to international cooperation.
With regard to Article 9, the draft kept intact the paragraph which says “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”. But it cut out the paragraph which states “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained”.
Instead, the new draft says: “In order to secure peace and the independence of our country as well as the security of the state and the people, military forces for self-defence shall be maintained with the prime minister of the cabinet as the supreme commander and may engage in activities conducted in international cooperation to secure peace and security of the international community.”
However, in order to get the new constitution approved, the draft needs to be approved by two-thirds of the lawmakers in both houses of parliament, and then by a simple majority of voters in a national referendum.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.