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Editorial: Passage of “unconstitutional” bills must not be allowed

  • 2015-07-16 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: July 16, 2015 – p. 5)


 Questions regarding the “unconstitutionality” of the security bills that were just passed by the House of Representatives special committee have not been cleared. We must not tolerate this outrageous act of undermining the strictly defensive-oriented policy under Article 9 of the Constitution.


 Did the Abe cabinet, the Liberal Democratic Party, and Komeito have no qualms? The security bills submitted by the government were passed by a majority vote of the ruling parties alone at the Lower House special committee. They were passed forcibly amid angry cries of protest from the opposition parties.


 The ruling parties plan to pass the bills at the Lower House plenary session today and send them to the House of Councillors subsequently. The venue of the debate will be moved to the Upper House, aiming at the enactment of the bills before the current Diet session adjourns on Sept. 27.


 The main issue with the bills is questions about their constitutionality.


 While the government has persisted in claiming they are constitutional, many constitution scholars and experts in broad-ranging fields have determined that they are not. Public opinion polls by media outlets have also shown a majority of the people are of the same opinion.


 Why is the government not taking this criticism seriously and why is it rushing the bills?


 If something judged to be unconstitutional by the government itself over the years can be changed by the decision of one single cabinet, the Constitution’s function of restraining power will be shaken fundamentally. Its legal stability and normative power as the supreme law will be undermined.


 In the first place, why must the exercise of the right to collective self-defense be authorized now? We have not had a convincing explanation from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


 The Prime Minister cited changes in the international balance of power after the collapse of the Cold War structure as his reason for submitting the bills.


 His thinking is probably that Japan should supplement the relatively declining U.S. power with the Self-Defense Forces’ (SDF) support in order to maintain military balance with the rising China.


 Even if there is a need to enhance the credibility of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which has become an international public property, there has been no clear explanation as to why this has to be through the exercise of the collective defense right.


 What is needed now in dealing with China, which is stepping up its maritime advances in the East and South China Sea, is patient persuasion to urge it to behave in accordance with international law and to make diplomatic efforts through cooperation with the international community. We call for greater efforts to step up the creation of an environment conducive to the building of mutual trust through candid exchange of views between the leaders of both countries.


 The Prime Minister cited minesweeping in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East as an example of overseas deployment of the SDF. However, Iran, the country likely to lay mines to blockade the strait, has reached a final nuclear agreement with Europe and the U.S. How realistic or urgent could such a mission be?


 Security policy for safeguarding the people’s life and livelihood will not be tenable without the people’s understanding. The fact that the people’s understanding has not deepened, as the Prime Minister himself has admitted, even after over 100 hours of deliberations should be taken seriously.


 Doubts about constitutionality have not been cleared; the bills lack urgency; and the fact that 10 bills were dumped into one single bill for blanket deliberation – strong reaction to the fact that soon after the Lower House election, which the Prime Minister had said was about Abenomics, the security bills were being passed forcibly on the ground that the government had won a mandate is probably also one reason why understanding has not deepened.


 It is probably the wisdom of our forefathers that Japan has entrusted the “offensive” aspect of its defense to the U.S. forces in exchange for providing military bases under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and that the strictly defensive-oriented policy prohibiting the SDF’s use of force prevents embroilment in the U.S.’s unjustified wars.


 Japan’s history as a peaceful country in the 70 years after World War II must not be ended.


 Although the security bills are scheduled to pass the Lower House today, it is still not too late. We ask the government to make the political decision and the Diet to show its sound judgment as the highest organ of state power by scrapping the bills. (Slightly abridged)

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