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Abe's amendments should raise alarm

By Cai Hong | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-20 07:17

It's alarming that revision of Japan's Constitution is back on the agenda for the Abe administration.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared during a Japanese TV program on March 9, that the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution should be revised so that Japan can participate in collective military action authorized by the United Nations Charter.

Abe also reaffirmed his intention to prioritize a revision of Article 96 to ease the current requirements for enacting constitutional amendments. This article stipulates that revisions of the constitution must be initiated by at least a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Diet, Japan's bicameral legislature.

During his first stint in office from September 2006 to September 2007, Abe passed the National Referendum Law. This set in place an essential stepping-stone for eventual revision of the constitution. Under Article 96, revision can only take place after a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the Diet followed by a national referendum to endorse the change. The constitution leaves it up to the Diet to determine the referendum requirements, and Abe's National Referendum Law ensures that only a bare majority is required at the referendum stage.

Abe is now proposing to revise Article 96 and lower the bar to constitutional change once more. He wants to enable a bare majority to suffice in constitutional revision votes taken in both houses of the Diet. This would make the constitution considerably easier to revise.

The Liberal Democratic Party, Japan Restoration Party and Your Party all called for revision of the constitution in their campaign platforms for the House of Representatives election in December, and together have acquired more than two-thirds of the chamber's 480 seats.

So depending on the outcome of Japan's House of Councillors election in July, the country's legislative arrangements for revising the constitution could soon get under way.

While revision of Japan's constitution is being prepared, Abe's government has also announced it will permit the export of parts for F-35 fighters as an exception to the Three Principles on Arms Exports.

The decision, announced in a statement issued in the name of Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on March 1, is another move to water down Japan's self-imposed ban on weapons exports. In 2004 Japan opened the way for exceptions to the Three Principles when it participated in the joint development of the missile defense system with the United States.

There have been concerns that sales of F-35 jets with Japan-made components to countries such as Israel could infringe the country's ban on weapons exports since one of the key pillars of the ban is not to export weapons to countries that are involved in international conflicts.

The statement emphasizes that Japan's participation in the joint production of F-35s will contribute to the development, maintenance and advancement of the infrastructure for defense equipment production and technology. It also says Japan's participation will help facilitate the effective operation of the Japan-US security arrangement.

The Abe administration's latest moves to revise Japan's Constitution and relax the ban on exports of weapons should raise concern both in Japan and its neighbors.

Abe is determined to revise the constitution. He rails at the fact that the current constitution is the product of a foreign hand and crafted under enemy occupation.

Supporting Abe's intention to revise Japan's constitution, the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun cited other countries that have made amendments to their constitutions in recent times: Switzerland, has amended its constitution 23 times in the last 13 years, Germany 11 times and France 10.

But by seeking to amend Japan's Constitution the Abe government is abandoning Japan's commitment to world peace.

Given the Japanese government's refusal to apologize for Japan's aggression during World War II, the revision of Japan's constitution and easing of Japan's weapons exports is cause for concern for the rest of the world.

The author is chief of China Daily's Tokyo Bureau. E-mail:

(China Daily 03/20/2013 page8)

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