This is an interesting and historical time to be in Japan.
For those that don't know about Japanese constitution and article 9, here is a summary:
After World War II, the United States wrote a new Consitution for Japan, which included Article 9. Here is the literal English interpretation of the text:
"ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."
Keyphrase: WILL NEVER BE MAINTAINED.
For 70 years, following World War II, Japan remained a pacifist state in terms of international relations.
Article 9 in their constitution prevented them from being involved in any foreign disputes.
One could argue, that this is one of the main reasons for Japan's enormous economic success and rise. Japan virtually became the number 1 superpower globally, in the late 80s and early 90s.
Many people don't understand that during World War 2, Tokyo was destroyed
Tokyo went from this:
In roughly 30 years.
Not only was the country destroyed, and rebuilt at a miraculous rate, but they actually nearly became the world's number 1 superpower in a matter of 30 years, as well.
Back to Article 9:
Here is what has been going on recently in Japan's legal system:
"Seven decades after its surrender ended World War II, Japan took its most significant step away from the pacifist foreign policy that shaped 70 years of its post-war history.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent considerable effort to push a bill reinterpreting Article 9 of the country’s constitution through the Diet, Japan’s legislature. On Thursday, legislators brawled when opposition politicians tried to physically block a vote on the legislation. It passed Friday after three days of raucous debate in the House of Councillors, the upper house of the Japanese parliament, marking a historic shift in the nation’s approach to international affairs.
Pacifism formed the nucleus of Japan’s foreign policy in the post-war era. The policy is rooted in the horrors of the Pacific War and Japan’s wartime trauma, including the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Article 9 of the post-war constitution, drafted under U.S. occupation in 1947, declares that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.”
This constitutional language is common among the former Axis powers. Article 11 of the Italian Constitution declares that Italy “rejects war as an instrument of aggression.” Article 26 of Germany’s Basic Law forbids “activities tending and undertaken with the intent to disturb peaceful relations between nations, especially to prepare for aggressive war.”
But Article 9 goes even further. The second clause pledges that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” by Japan, and that “the right of belligerency will not be recognized.” As the name of Japan’s military suggests, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces exist only to protect the Japanese homeland. JSDF forces participate in UN peacekeeping operations and humanitarian missions, but avoided UN-authorized combat missions in Korea or during the Gulf War. (A noncombat unit took part in the U.S. occupation of Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s fall, to considerable controversy.)
The bill passed on Friday does not change Article 9’s language. That would require a constitutional amendment and two-thirds support in both houses of the Diet, which Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lack. Instead, it reinterprets it to allow for “collective self-defense.”
Japanese forces will now be able to assist the U.S. and other allies if those allies were attacked, although there would still be limits on the scope and scale of Japanese assistance. The BBC notes, for example, that Japan could now shoot down a North Korean missile fired at the U.S. and provide logistical support to South Korea if Pyongyang invaded, but could not deploy Japanese troops to Korea.
The reorientation of Japanese foreign policy is a major triumph for Abe, a conservative nationalist who has long sought a more assertive posture on the international stage. But his long awaited shift did not come without criticism. Tens of thousands of students protested the bill in Tokyo, and opposition leader Tatsuya Okada warned that the bill and other security-related measures would “leave a big scar on Japanese democratic politics.”
As my colleague David Graham noted when Abe visited the United States in April, U.S. resistance to reinterpreting Article 9 has faded as World War II recedes into history. But in China, a major regional rival of Japan where memories of World War II-era war crimes still loom large in the popular imagination, the response to Abe’s victory was much less enthusiastic.
“We demand that Japan genuinely listen to just appeals from both at home and abroad, learning from historical lessons and adhering to the path of peaceful development,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday, according to The Washington Post."
For the first time in 70 years, Japan's peaceful aspects of their constitution has been changed.
Not so surprising, this is also an interesting time to be enrolled in a class called "Japan's Peace Building and Economics."
For our first assignment I was supposed to read chapter 1 of this book:
That's right, this book:
The chapter is called " The Significance of Japan’s International Relations".
Here is my response paper:
What I found most interesting about this chapter was how it showed that Japan really is unique, compared to other major industrialized super-power countries. It was interesting to see how the author interpreted how little Japan has been involved in international conflicts compared to other major super-powers, but I think that it was mainly because of Japan’s constitution and, specifically Article 9. It’s interesting because now all of that has the potential to change. It is really an interesting time to be in Japan, to witness this transition.
Japan is unique from many perspectives. For one, ever since the end of the Second World War, Japan has been somewhat miraculous in its economic success and growth, rising to be the within the top 2 economies of the world in less than 50 years. By 1979, it was predicted that Japan would overtake the United States as the number 1 economy in the world. By the time the 1980s came around Japan and it’s economic rise was declared “miraculous.” But there was also a somewhat negative view as to why Japan was allowed to be so successful economically.
For one, because of Japan’s peaceful constitution, they were not allowed to be so involved with conflict compared to how other major economic superpowers in the world have, for example the United States. Also, there was a negative view of Japan’s success, from the viewpoint that they climbed to “prominence on the backs of the other major industrialized superpowers.” This viewpoint, in a sense, is expressed somewhat in the sense that Japan did not conform or play by the same rules as the other major industrialized countries, in this viewpoint with their international relations, specifically trade.
These negative viewpoints seem to be painted with a tinge of jealousy from other the viewpoint of the other major industrialized countries. It’s true that Japan was not involved in any international war or dispute in any aggressive factor, but that is something, because of their constitution at the time, did not allow them to. In this case, it was a not a choice they could make. However, as the chapter talks about their “lack of reciprocity in trade and refusal to accept international responsibilities,” as if they are not choices another superpower could also make. One could argue that because Japan has made in its trade agreements, importing and exporting, and the choices it has made for its international relations, have allowed them to be successful the way they are. I think all of these things, plus the period of peace where they were not allowed to be involved in any conflict in any aggressive capacity, allowed them to be successful in a way that other superpower countries were not. I agree with the author, in that their situation was unique.
Because Japan’s situation is unique, there is the tendency to take an either extremely positive or extremely negative view of their success. I think the two extreme viewpoints are summarized as either an “economic superpower,” or on the other hand “an international weakling,” as the chapter states. One thing is for certain, though, regardless of the reasons: Japan’s quick economic recovery and success is commendable on a global level. In the period following the end of the Second World War, the “Japanese people took immense pride in their ability to rebuild the national economy.” Because of the previously mentioned reasons, and because of policies, like the income-doubling policies that have been chosen by the Japanese government, they became so wildly successful. However, for all of their immense success based on the choices they made, eventually there was a collapse, in the form of the collapse of the Bubble economy in the 1990s. Since that time, Japan’s national debt has reached epic proportions. By the end of 2010, it was recorded that the size of the national debt amounted to “200 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.” Still, Japan remains the number 3 economy in the world, behind China.
The argument that Japan has not done enough in international relations was argued strongly against by the fact that in the period between 1991 and 2000, Japan was the largest single donor of Official Development Assistance. The highest ODA assistance was recorded in 1995, with an amount of $14.5 Billion U.S. Dollars. Since 2001, however they have fallen back to number 5 in the world, behind U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K.
It’s obvious that the one thing Japan has been struggling with, is to be compared as a major player in international security. It seems that because of the prohibitions placed on Japan, because of their constitution, their concept of security is very different than the majority of other industrialized superpowers. However, since the 1950s, Japan has actively been pursuing a “push for UN-centered diplomacy.” The United Nations Development Programme in 1993, wrote “The concept of security must change- from an exclusive stress on national security to a much greater stress on people’s security, from security through armaments to security through human development, from territorial security to food, employment, and environmental security.” It is my interpretation that what they were meaning here is because of the sanctions placed on Japan, they must reinterpret what security means, for the better of the people. In this sense, I think they viewed the sanctions placed on Japan as a good thing, ultimately. However, because of Japan’s recent change to the constitution, I do not think that the lawmakers responsible for this change, agreed with that sentiment. I disagree with this change, and I think that the lawmakers undermined the importance of the peace in the history of Japan’s economic success. The author states that it afforded “the Japanese state and its people the opportunity to shape the policies of institutions, which are set to play a more prominent role in the management of global human, security, and economic issues in the twenty- first century.” However, because of the change of focus, I think that will all change.
One of the things I think this chapter tried to do was to, as the author states, “Challenge the notion of Japan as primarily an economic power.” Although I think it’s great to acknowledge the enormous economic successes of this country, they certainly aren’t the only aspect worth analyzing in terms of international relations. I think overall, the point of the chapter was to convey how Japan goes against the stereotypes of major industrialized countries’ behaviors. Japan has achieved superpower on an economic level, but not matched in political or security roles globally. I think one of the most interesting differences from other major industrialized superpowers, was that prior to the constitutional changes, “Japan hardly seems interested in policing the world, let alone its own region.” I do think that their recent change in constitutional legislation is for the worse, and we can only assume what the effects of it will be, both domestically and internationally.