Return of the Warrior


Progressive forces in Japan are working hard against attempts by the right-wing government to remilitarise the country, as this editorial, here introduced by Spectre’s Japanese politics expert John Manning, demonstrates.


In the few days after World War II, when war criminals were being tried and a new era of permanent peace was being celebrated, the U.S. resolved publicly and with much ceremony to end forever the feudal military dictatorship which had ruled Japan and bring peace and democracy to its people.


This so encouraged the Japanese people that they adopted a Constitution which was to be a model for the new postwar world of peace and friendship. In the new Constitution, Japan, which had killed 10 million people of other countries while losing 3 million of its own in its war for supremacy,  forever renounced war as a means of settling problems, voting to have no standing army and a government of peace and democracy in which the people would be sovereign.


However, as U.S. President Truman and Winston Churchill jointly launched the Cold War at Fulton, Missouri, U.S. policy underwent a rapid change. Under U..S. occupation, the war criminal "zaibatsu" - the big monopolies - were returned to power, means were found to rearm Japan under another name, and pressure developed to change the Constitution, particularly to get rid of the "Peace clause”, Article 9. But the Constitution had become so much part of Japan's view of its future that the peace forces have been able to turn back every attack, over the entire forty and more years of right-wing rule and U.S. domination.


This year, 2003, Japan, like the world, is facing a new situation as the U.S. under the Bush administration, has openly moved for world military domination.. The Koizumi government of Japan, which in carrying out every U.S. wish, has forced through one anti-people law after another, must face an election in the coming year in which it could lose its absolute majority and the right to do as it wishes. Koizumi's open attack on the Constitution, as the first time for any Prime Minister, indicates that the peace forces will face a maximum attack on Article 9 in the immediate future, as the war parties seek to take full power before facing the election.


Prime Minister Koizumi's hawkish remarks increase

Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro is more blatant than ever in ignoring constitutional limits. In parliament, he stated, "I would be in favor of revising the Constitution to enable Japan to proudly declare that the Self-Defense Forces are armed forces."

The contingency bills passed through the House of Representatives with help from the opposition Democratic and Liberal parties, give fresh impetus to calls for the Constitution to be revised.

Koizumi referred to constitutional amendments when he was answering Liberal Party representative Tamura Hideaki, an SDF officer-turned lawmaker. Tamura demanded that "top SDF officers be given honor and due respect." Can this be dismissed simply as a slip of the tongue? Absolutely not.

In April 2001, Koizumi became the LDP president and stated at a press conference, "It is unnatural that the SDF are not armed forces." He said, "Japan should have a constitution that won't treat the SDF as unconstitutional."

While repeatedly implying a need for revision of the Constitution, Koizumi as prime minister has made guarded statements on this issue in order to avoid giving the impression that his remarks are directly calling for constitutional amendments.

In the Lower House Plenary Session on May 10, 2001, he stated: "If armed forces are defined as groups that fight against aggression, that would be the definition for the SDF, but in many ways the SDF is not fit for the international definition of armed forces." In an Upper House committee meeting on October 10, he stated "Japan's SDF throughout the world are seen as armed forces."

But he is now straightforward in his statement that the "SDF are armed forces" and that he "would hope that the Constitution be amended." The prime minister has gone farther than in the past on this issue. This is the type of statement that a prime minister, who has the obligation to protect and defend the Constitution, must not make.

Koizumi's statements influence other cabinet members

The prime minister's statements in favor of amending the Constitution have affected other cabinet ministers.

Referring to the right of collective self-defense, which is prohibited by the Constitution even in the government's interpretation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo in the House of Councilors Special Committee on Contingency Legislation meeting on May 22 said, "This issue concerns not only the cabinet but the Japanese people and nation. I wish that at some time in the future a cabinet will make a decision on it."

Fukuda thus expressed strong hope that the time will come when Japan can legally exercise the right of collective self-defense.

This supersedes the prime minister's earlier May 10, 2001 statement, "I hope that exercising the right of collective self-defense will be studied from various aspects."

In a House of Councilors committee meeting on May 23, Fukuda was even more anxious to have the Constitution revised, saying, "I hope that parliament extensively discusses whether the present Constitution is adaptable to the coming era."

DPJ works as a trigger

It's interesting to note that the prime minister and the chief cabinet secretary were induced by opposition party members' questionings to make these statements during the parliamentary discussions on the contingency legislation.

In the Upper House Special Committee on Contingency Legislation meeting on May 22, Maehara Seiji of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the architect of the agreed draft "alterations" in the contingency bills, argued for changing the Constitution. He said, "Foreign countries will not understand the Japanese argument that a bill which does not involve the use of force will not amount to exercising the right of self-defense. Such a strained interpretation will fail sooner or later. It is necessary for the government to provide an interpretation that will be helpful to the people or make such a Constitution."

These arguments in favor of changing the Constitution suggest where the contingency legislation will lead to.

Defense Agency Director General Ishiba Shigeru in the Upper House special committee meeting on May 22 said, "We use a very delicate logical structure like an exquisite glassware, so that the contingency legislation may not be taken as leading to the exercise of the right of collective self-defense." At the same time, he expressed concern that the legislation based on the glassware logic will bar Japan from using even its right of individual self-defense, in that Japan will not be able to use force jointly with U.S. forces if Japan is not under armed attack. He said that in many ways the contingency bills are contrary to the ban on the use of force (Upper House special committee on May 20).

The cabinet ministers' remarks in favor of changing the Constitution are aimed at making Japan exercise the right of collective self-defense without the subterfuge of glassware logic, in addition to making the SDF cooperate in U.S. preemptive wars against countries the United States chooses as enemies, and mobilize the Japanese people into carrying out illegal wars.