Election victory threatens Japanese pacifism

Duty calls: Despite the constitutional ban on military, Japan has over 225,000 troops. © Getty

Should Japan finally have an official army? Prime Minister Abe is on track to win another “supermajority”. Now he plans to change his country’s constitution, which banned the military in 1947.

Voters battled through a powerful storm yesterday to grant a huge mandate to Japan’s ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will continue to dominate Japan’s House of Representatives. He has won two-thirds of the seats there, solidifying a “supermajority” that allows him to try to change the constitution. He hopes to use this power to turn Japan’s self-defence force into a fully-fledged military.

Abe said he needed a new mandate to tackle the “national crises” facing Japan. Just ten days before he called the election, North Korea fired its second ballistic missile across Japan.

The Japanese constitution, written by US army officers and enacted in 1947, prevents the country from having a military.

However, under pressure from the US government to stop the spread of communism in Asia, Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) were introduced in 1954.

But the troops are hampered by one crucial element: their operations are limited by the Japanese constitution, which does not recognise them as a legitimate army.

For Japanese people living in the shadow of North Korea and an increasingly powerful China, self-defence is now high on the agenda.

As Abe’s supermajority storms to power once again, should Japan leave pacifism behind and build an army?

Pax Japonica?

“Japanese ‘pacifism’ is in for an update,” argues journalist Pallavi Aiyar. We simply cannot expect Japan to follow the rules of this outdated document when its very existence is under threat from its unpredictable neighbours.

But Miyuki Nakayama, student leader of the group Public for the Future says that people are forgetting the war’s lessons. Who knows how Japan’s neighbours will react to it building an army? The decision may well make tensions in the region worse. More countries should be pacifist instead.

You Decide

  1. Should Japan get a proper military?

Activities

  1. Design a campaign poster either for or against the introduction of a Japanese army.

Some People Say...

“Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist.”

George Orwell, writing about the fight against Nazi Germany

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It was important for Abe to secure a renewed supermajority, of over two thirds of the seats. Only a government this large can make changes to the constitution.
What do we not know?
How a change in policy to allow an army will affect the relationships between different countries in the region. Abe's victory could result in a growing friendship between Japan and the USA.

Word Watch

Storm
Japan was hit by Typhoon Lam yesterday.
House of Representatives
The Japanese parliament consists of two houses, Representatives and Councillors.
US
Japan was under American occupation for six years after the second world war.
Communism in Asia
The USA feared the spread of communism in Asia in the 1950s.
Operations
Japan’s SDF has a non-fighting role, providing relief in the wake of disasters.
North Korea
A CNN survey showed that 61% of Japanese people want to see increased economic sanctions against North Korea.

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