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Interview with former defense minister on Abe’s proposal for revising Article 9

By Kiyota Higa


Q: Why did Prime Minister Abe present his constitutional revision proposals at this time?


Former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto: It is reckoned that progress in the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, the Northern Territories issue, and constitutional revision will be the Prime Minister’s political legacy. However, the territorial and abduction issues depend very much on the other parties. I think he wants to achieve constitutional revision, a goal that eluded past prime ministers, under the current situation where forces in favor of constitutional amendment control a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet, which is necessary for submitting motions for revision.


The Democratic Party, the leading opposition party, is advocating resistance to constitutional revision under the Abe administration without coming up with its own proposals. No progress can be made if it simply opposes all proposals from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), instead of studying their merits and demerits. The Prime Minister has created a stir with his proposal under this situation. I think raising the issue is a good thing.


Q: The LDP has begun to move toward compiling constitutional revision proposals by the end of this year.


Morimoto: The Prime Minister proposes to retain Paragraph 1 of Article 9 on the renunciation of war and Paragraph 2 stipulating that Japan will never maintain any war potential, but add a provision to serve as the legal basis for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). The draft proposals presented by the LDP in 2012 advocated amending Paragraph 2 and introducing a provision on maintaining a “national defense army.”


The Prime Minister’s proposal is indeed different from the LDP’s proposal in 2012, and there are dissenting views in the party. However, I think the people would find the name “national defense army” objectionable. There are bound to be changes in the environment and political culture after five years, but feasible proposals need to be formulated in realpolitik. The LDP should establish a method for realizing the Prime Minister’s proposal and build a consensus through its internal procedures.


Q: Do you think an explicit constitutional provision on the SDF is necessary?


Morimoto: The SDF engages in operations for the people’s safety and for disaster relief. It is highly regarded in the international community. SDF members strongly feel that they want to perform their duties with the people’s mandate. Amid the increasingly harsh security environment, I think it is the government’s duty to stipulate the SDF’s significance clearly in the Constitution.


It is fine to keep Paragraph 1 of Article 9, but retaining Paragraph 2 on not maintaining any war potential might be illogical. The SDF is a military under international law and is regarded as such by other countries. It should be an organization sanctioned by the Constitution no matter what it is called.


I propose that Paragraph 2 be deleted and replaced by the following passage: “Japan shall maintain the SDF to safeguard its independence and protect the peace and security of the country and its people. The prime minister shall be the supreme commander of the SDF and the law shall define the mission, role, organization, and powers of the SDF. The SDF may engage in international cooperation activities to safeguard international peace and security when requested.”


Before talking about Article 9, the Preface also needs to be amended. It currently states, “(We, the Japanese people,) have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.” This is idealism dating back 70 years ago, which overlooks the reality of the international community at present. It is not possible to take the risk of trusting the neighboring countries amid the security threat posed by the development of nuclear arms and missiles.


Q: Komeito stands for “adding” constitutional provisions.


Morimoto: It is true that constitutional revision will not be possible without the consent of Komeito and others. The Prime Minister’s proposal on Article 9 is close to Komeito’s thinking. I commend his effort to achieve what is feasible. If the LDP adopts the Prime Minister’s proposal and Komeito also approves, I have no objection. It is desirable to start revising the constitution from what is feasible.

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