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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Article 9 第九条

The Japan Times today has an article on a former colleague of mine, Charles Ward, who has been cycling around Japan in an attempt to persuade people of the importance of retaining Article 9, the famous "war-renouncing clause", in the Japanese constitution http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070505f3.html.

Charlie is a great guy, and it's fantastic that he's been doing this. More power to him. However, I have to admit that I find the journey a little on the quixotic side. The interpretation of Article 9 has been stretched to the point that it is almost meaningless now. "...land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained"? 陸海空軍その他の戦力は、これを保持しない The Self-Defense Forces 自衛隊 have been around since 1954, technically as an extension of the national police force, but a military in reality. Japan has participated in several UN peacekeeping operations since the early 1990's, and the deployment of SDF forces to Iraq from 2004 to 2006 has further pushed the envelope.

The main reason Japan has stayed a peaceful country since 1945 has not been Article 9, but the Japan-US Mutual Security Treaty 日本国とアメリカ合衆国との間の相互協力及び安全保障条約. Being under the nuclear umbrella of the United States has allowed Japan to focus its energies in areas other than national security. Those times, however, are changing. North-East Asia is a dangerous place, and the constitution might need to be amended to reflect the changing realities of the new era.

Which would be better for Japan, and by extension the rest of the world: a Japan still living under the inconsistencies of a constitutional article that was imposed on the country by American occupation forces, or a new clause that would, say, recognize the reality that is the Self-Defense Forces but at the same time limit Japan to participating in collective self-defense actions authorized by the UN Security Council?

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