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Peace or Amendment of the Constitution of Japan?

The Constitution of Japan, successor to the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (the Meiji Constitution) became effective on May 3, 1947.  Consisting of 11 chapters with a total of 103 articles, it is notable for its declaration that sovereignty resides with the people, its assertion of fundamental human rights, and its renunciation of war and arms.

Article 9 is the most controversial article of the Constitution of Japan.  Since the day of the enforcement, Japan has enjoyed over 60 years with no war.  Based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951, the Diet passed a law creating the Self Defense Forces (SDF) in 1954.  The constitutionality of the SDF is also highly controversial.

The 46th general election for members of the House of Representatives was held on December 16, 2012.  The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leaped from 118 seats to 294 seats.  They returned to government again.  In the election of both houses Shinzo Abe, president of the LDP (age 58), was elected 96th prime minister.

Among the winners of the election, 89% support amending the Constitution (must amend: 68%; if anything amend: 21%; oppose: 4%, if anything oppose: 2%).  Also, 79 % approve of the right of collective self-defense.

The issue of Article 9 of the Constitution is not just a domestic issue, but rather international.  Article 9 is, as it were, an apology of the state for the aggression that Japan carried out on neighboring countries in the past.  Therefore, for Japan to amend Article 9 would mean cancelling the apology.

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 a means of settling international disputes.

In order 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.

The current administration undoubtedly aims to amend Article 9 of the Constitution and the exercise of the right of collective self-defense.  However, amending the Constitution requires the support of two-thirds of the members of the Diet.  For this purpose the present administration wants to amend Article 96 of the Constitution first to lower the hurdle for the amendment of Article 9.

Article 96:

Amendments to this Constitution shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such election as the Diet shall specify.

Peace is not achieved automatically without effort.  Rather, we have to continue to build it constantly.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Mt 5:9).