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A Move Toward War?
New security bills in Japan spark protest from many
By Bai Shi | NO. 31 JULY 30, 2015

 
South Korean protesters stage a rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul on July 16 to protest against controversial security legislation being passed by the lower house of parliament in Japan (IC)

Editor's note: Media outlets in China, Japan and other countries have slammed the controversial security bills recently passed in Japan's lower house. A commentary by Xinhua News Agency is here translated and republished by Beijing Review  to help readers better understand the Chinese perspective on the bills:

Regardless of opposition both at home and abroad, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition approved security bills in the lower house of parliament on July 16, in what was to be a step to enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense.

Opposition parties in Japan dubbed the security bills "war legislation," saying the move ignores tragic lessons from history, that it is in flagrant violation of the spirit of the Japanese Constitution and that it will undermine public commitment to pacifism. What's more, it will almost certainly bring instability to the Asia-Pacific region.

The security bills include a new bill and 10 amendments. The new bill on "military aid for international peace" permits the Japanese Government to send troops and arms overseas unencumbered by regional restrictions.

The bills will allow Japan to participate in conflicts occurring anywhere and anytime in the world. This indicates that Japan has abandoned its previous exclusively defense-oriented policy to which the country has adhered since the end of World War II (WWII).

The Constitution of Japan, enacted in 1947, is also known as the Postwar Constitution or the Peace Constitution, as Article 9 of the document stipulates "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes."

Since taking office again in December 2012, the Abe administration has pursued the modification of Article 9. But negotiating the purposefully complicated lawmaking procedures involved in revising the country's constitution in addition to strong public opposition has proved difficult. The Abe administration has hence turned to the shortcut of reinterpreting the constitution--sometimes drastically--at whim through amendments.

Last July, the Japanese cabinet lifted the ban on the right to collective self-defense by the surreptitious means of modifying definitions of terms contained within the Constitution. The administration has by and large shied away from the strict procedural process required to overtly amend the Constitution and Article 9.

This time around, prior to the ruling coalition passing the security bills, lawmakers from opposition parties left the chamber in protest before the vote took place. The move reveals that the Abe administration intends to furnish Japan with the capabilities necessary to participate in war. Every country that was invaded and attacked by Imperial Japan during WWII should remain alert as regards the country's current legislative activity.

The Abe administration has repeatedly denied the aggression and war atrocities perpetrated by WWII-era Japanese forces. The history revisionism that pervades the remarks uttered and actions undertaken by Abe have aroused deep concern among and strong opposition from neighboring countries that have suffered under the yoke of Japanese hegemony. There is no doubt that the approval of the bills in the lower house will further provoke neighboring countries and heighten tensions, thus affecting regional security.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of both the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and WWII. The approval of the security bills is arguably paving the way for the Abe administration to return Japan to its former path of military expansion. The administration has obviously yet to learn from history.

In Japan, the legislation has proved overwhelmingly unpopular among media outlets and the public. The public fears not only will the security bills be impotent in safeguarding Japanese national security, but also may outright endanger it.

A poll released on July 14 by Asahi Shimbun , a major media outlet in Japan, showed that 56 percent of respondents oppose the security bills, while only 26 percent support it. Around 80 percent admitted not fully comprehending the security-related legislation and deemed that there was no need to rashly vote on the bills in the current session of parliament.

Mainstream opinion in Japan holds that national security can be safeguarded only by adhering to an exclusively defense-oriented policy. If the legislation allows Japan to employ military force worldwide, it may lead the country to ill-advisedly indulge in past tendencies.

Since the end of WWII, Japan has been recognized far and wide as a "peaceful country." The passing of the security bills has the potential to besmirch the country's pacifist reputation that it has gone to pains to foster and maintain over the last 70 years.

No matter what excuses the Abe administration may use to defend its proposed legislation, Japan is losing the trust of the international community. The administration's latest move is a dangerous one to say the least, placing national security and the safety of the Japanese people in a precarious position. These so-called security bills will do anything but safeguard Japan's security. Instead, they have the potential to lead the country once again down the path of war. n

Media Commentary on Abe's New Security Bills

- "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's support rate fell nearly 10 points to 37.7 percent in a poll released on Saturday [July 18], the first since his ruling bloc pushed forward legislation marking a dramatic shift in the nation's post-war defense policy.

"The fall in support was within the range analysts had predicted, but it was the first time Abe's disapproval rating had topped 50 percent since he took office in December 2012 and promised to bolster Japan's defenses and reboot the stale economy.

"Nearly three quarters of voters were critical of the way the bills were approved."

Japan Today , Abe's Support Rate Plummets After Defense Bills Pass Lower House, July 19

- "Katsuya Okada, head of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, accused the governing bloc of ramming through changes opposed by the public.

"These bills, which are strongly suspected of being unconstitutional and will majorly change security policies, were forcibly passed. I strongly protest against what happened,' he told reporters after the vote."

The Washington Post , Protests Erupt in Japan as Committee in Parliament Approves Security Bills, July 15

- "This capability, once achieved, will provide a 'hedge' against an American down-grading, if not outright abrogation, of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense alliance, while also providing Japan flexibility to pursue genuine (non-nuclear) 'armed neutrality' or a co-equal power position in a regional security framework, including China.

"The U.S.-Japan alliance remains sacrosanct in most political discussion in Japan (and of course in the United States). But by framing his security agenda as elemental to the alliance Abe has turned a glaring and highly contentious light on it.

"Paradoxically, Abe's security legislation-ostensibly passed to support the U.S.-Japan alliance-could be the beginning of its undoing."

Forbes , Abe's Security Law Putsch: The Undoing of the U.S.-Japan Alliance?, July 20

- "While the LDP and its allies have long been pushing for [the] normalization of Japan, there is a very real question of just how normal the population of Japan actually wants the country to be. The unusual qualities of Article 9 are seen by many as something distinctive in Japanese culture and society that sets Japan apart from countries like the United States, Russia and China that appear to accept war as a normal part of international relations. And that difference is a source of pride for many in Japan."

The Diplomat , Demonstrating for Peace in Japan, July 21

- "As Craig Martin has explained in the pages of The Japan Times, the great danger of these attempts to reinterpret the constitution is that it is a very slippery slope: 'To permit such a reinterpretation of Article 9 would throw into question the integrity and meaning of all other provisions of the Constitution, and thus undermine the normative power of the entire Constitution.' Constitutions provide the basic framework for the rule of law; they are supposed to be difficult to change. While Abe argues that he is pursuing these policy changes to protect Japan, by attacking the legal foundations of this country's democracy, he is doing just the opposite."

The Japan Times , The Tragedy of Shinzo Abe, July 20

Copyedited by Eric Daly

Comments to liuyunyun@bjreview.com

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