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Japan ending pacifist interpretation of its Constitution
Japan ended its 69 years of pacifist Constitution, which earlier disallowed Japanese armed forces to take part in any military action except when required in self-defense. It also barred Japanese military to participate in collective self-defense missions with its allies and friends.

The Constitution was then drafted by the Pentagon after the defeat of Japan in the Second World War and containment of monarchy there. But the Americans will cherish this change as it helps them getting a very efficient and able strategic partner in the North Asia and around the Asia-Pacific region. As expected China and the South Korea have expressed grave concerns over the future role of Japan in the region.

As per the New York Times (NYT) the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution says that the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. Any change in the Constitution should have required a constitutional amendment, which would mean winning two-thirds approval in both houses of Japanese Parliament; Diet, followed by a referendum. Instead, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, circumvented that process by having his government reinterpret the Constitution.

This is not for the first time Japanese leaders have gone this route. Past governments in Japan have reinterpreted the Constitution to allow the existence of a standing military and permit non-combat missions abroad. There should be a general consensus in Diet and therefore, the referendum will not be called in. 

But if somehow referendum is called in, the Japanese people are more likely to approve it but with a very thin majority. As such, many Japanese are worried about Japanese military’s aggressiveness and that it may join issue with Americans, which may not be, legally and technically speaking, Japan’s concerns at all. In all likelihood, Japan military shall not venture beyond Asia.    

Writing editorial in the NYT, the newspaper editorial board says, ‘Mr. Abe has disturbed many in Japan and increased anxiety in Asia by reinterpretation his country’s pacifist postwar Constitution so that the military can play a more assertive role than it has since Second World War. While a shift in Japan’s military role was never going to be readily accepted by many, Mr. Abe’s nationalist politics makes this change even harder to swallow in a region that needs to reduce tension.’

The fact is that most of the fears and anxieties are unfounded as Japan is an equal member of the West and it cannot go jingoistic beyond a point, no matter how revisionist some of its policies may appear to its opponents, particularly to China and the South Korea. 

The Chinese government may be wary because the US has got an active partner in the North and East Asia to contain Chinese hegemony in the region. Japan has resources, technology and world class manpower to support its defense programs and ambitions. But at the same time nobody should forget that Japan and China have good economic ties from Asian standards in recent times.

Now South Korea has chronic and still lingering issue with Japan, which refuses to offer apology for comfort girls it enslaved from China and the South Korea during the Second World War. Both the affected nations want an apology and respectable compensations to the families of those who were abused by Japanese soldiers during wartimes. But the real argument is economic.

The fact is that despite of being a member of extended West, Japan and South Korea have been unable to evolve a relationship of the kind existent in Europe. But at the same time both nations are resounding democracy and viable Western economies with high standards of living.

Till South-East Asia things will go against China and the US may be able to take a more decisive stand against China over Taiwan. The situation in Hong Kong is also very fluid from Chinese perspective, though the CIA may not have very clear hand in supporting and fueling dissent in the special administered territory (SAT) under Chinese sovereignty. The fact is that as a consequence of Japanese government’s decision, militarism will increase in the South China and East Asia Seas.

But the rise of Japan as an active military power may reduce India’s strategic importance and its role in containing the rise of Chinese hegemony. The fact is that Indian political leadership all across the spectrum may not at all be interested in containing China beyond the measure that is required in its self-interests. 

It may see the attempts by the US as a plot to divide the two Asian giants for its gains and may not borrow American arguments. The fact is that US has indeed vested interests in cajoling and convincing India to tackle the rise of dragon and therefore, it has blatant selfishness in that but India does not get much concession from China either after choosing not to compete with it. Also, it should be realistic that it cannot expect favors and preferences of an ally from the US without it being one.

I think that Indian leadership should decide as soon as possible to have clear opinion on the matter. If it believes in the US-Japan-India alliance then that is not going to materialize any time soon. 

India sees Japan as a more conciliatory force and lesser assertive player as compared to the US. It may also see Japanese capital lesser obtrusive. But that is not how the international relations are conducted: irreducible matter more and histories cannot be annulled. The fact is that India and Japan are too far away geographically and India has no military presence in the North Asia.

But still India can seek simultaneous cooperation with the US and Japan taking South Korea and Singapore along. But militarily, it will be considered naivety, if not outright foolishness, to seek wartime military ties with Japan. If it wants to achieve anything like that in real time then it shall have to become a US ally in the South Asia first. 

The fact is that parallelism to that extent is not allowed: neither from the Japanese side nor from American side. It will be absurdity for India to think that it can contain China by reaching into North Asia through Sea of Japan after allying with Japan. 

Overall, the move by Mr. Abe should be welcomed by those who may want a more balanced region. The fact is that such a move by Japan will not affect China militarily, though it can save many nations of the region from Chinese bullying and pressure tactics. 

The North Korea will indeed be disappointed one though there does remain a glimpse of hope for the improvements in relation between the two Koreas. 

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has asserted during his just-concluded visit to the South Korea that his country wants peace and symbiosis in the region. He has also denounced North Korea’s nuclear weapon program though the fact remains the China is North Korea’s biggest supporter. 

If Chinese Presidency sticks to its words then I think the region can expect long spell of stability and prosperity. Japan also needs to cooperate for that.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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