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Editorial: LDP debate on Article 9 ignores priorities for nation’s politics

  • March 23, 2018
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 2:15 p.m.
  • English Press

The sloppy manner in which the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is discussing proposals to amend Article 9 of the Constitution, the core of Japan’s postwar pacifist policy, is appalling.

The LDP’s Constitutional Reform Promotion Headquarters has decided to adopt a draft amendment to add a provision to the article to establish the constitutional status of the Self-Defense Forces, while keeping the current second paragraph, which bans Japan from maintaining armed forces and denies the nation the right of belligerency.

The draft will be in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, chairman of the LDP task force, who has been entrusted with deciding on the its proposal, has expressed his intention not to adopt the phrase of “a minimum necessary armed organization,” which was seen as the favored choice for the SDF’s definition.

Instead, he suggested that he will add a stipulation to the following effect. Paragraph 2 shall not preclude Japan from taking necessary self-defense measures and Japan shall maintain, as provided by law, the SDF as the armed organization to accomplish this aim.

There are many fundamental questions concerning the LDP’s attempt to amend Article 9.

First of all, why is it necessary to amend the Constitution for the purpose of stipulating the status of the SDF, which has been officially recognized as constitutional by the successive Cabinets?

Abe has claimed that stipulating the SDF’s status in the Constitution would “change nothing.” But there is no good reason to believe him.

The Abe administration has made it possible through a simple decision of his Cabinet for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, reversing the well-established government view that the Constitution forbids the act.

The proposed change would give the SDF a solid place in the Constitution along with such organizations as both chambers of the Diet and the courts.

That would mean placing the SDF above the Defense Ministry in terms of constitutional status. How can we say that this will not lead to expansion of the scope of the SDF’s missions and authority and an increase in Japan’s defense spending?

There are no signs that the LDP has carefully considered these issues.

The decision to delete the phrase “a minimum necessary armed organization” from the draft is nothing but a ploy to silence opposition within the party by the March 25 party convention.

With or without this phrase, the draft amendment would leave room for different interpretations concerning what is minimum necessary. In other words, the change would increase the risk of allowing the government the discretion to expand the scope of the SDF’s missions and authority through related legislation.

One issue is demanding to be handled with the highest political priority, before any constitutional amendment is considered.

The Finance Ministry’s altering of official documents concerning a dubious sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen has violated the constitutional principle of checks and balances based on mutual monitoring and checking by the three branches of the government and thereby destroyed the foundation of democracy.

Tackling this ongoing crisis of the Constitution is the burning challenge for the entire legislature that goes beyond the partisan divide.

Amending the Constitution requires meticulous and exhaustive debate involving most political parties as well as solid public support.

But many parties, including Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, remain skeptical about rushing to rewrite the Constitution.

Will the LDP disregard the situation and forge ahead with Abe’s proposal to put the amendment into effect in 2020?

Before considering such half-baked, ill-conceived proposals to rewrite the Constitution, LDP lawmakers should fulfill their primary responsibility as members of the legislature.

–The Asahi Shimbun, March 23

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