July 2, 2014 by Water Wisdom
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to make a historic shift in the country’s six-decade-old pacifist policy, achieving a long-standing personal aim but potentially alienating voters.
Citing ‘fundamental changes’ in Japan’s security situation, Mr. Abe’s cabinet was planning to issue on Tuesday a reinterpretation of Japan’s constitution allowing the nation’s Self-Defense Forces to aid allies under attack, officials said. Until now, Japanese governments have said the U.S.-written postwar constitution forbade the nation from using military force except in narrow cases of self-defense.
The broader interpretation, permitting what is known as collective self-defense, could commit Japan to shouldering a heavier military burden in its alliance with the U.S.
A draft of the cabinet statement, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, says the new interpretation allows the SDF to exercise military power when ‘another country closely connected’ to Japan is attacked. Mr. Abe and his aides have said this would pave the way for Japan to shoot down ballistic missiles that were fired from, say, North Korea at U.S. military bases in Guam, even if Japan itself weren’t directly targeted.
‘It is essential to prevent armed conflict and threats to our country by further improving the effectiveness of Japan-U.S. security arrangements and enhancing our alliance’s power of deterrence,’ the draft statement says.
U.S. officials including President Barack Obama have endorsed the change. ‘Washington reckons it’s about time,’ says Grant Newsham, defense researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies. ‘A more assertive Japan is a force multiplier–at a time when U.S. defense budgets are shrinking and the (U.S. military is) hard-pressed to maintain an adequate presence in the region.’
But surveys show a Japanese public split on the issue. Polls taken by three national dailies in the past week–the Nikkei, Mainichi and Asahi–showed that at least half of respondents opposed the idea of Japan exercising its right to collective self-defense, with a third or fewer in favor. In the Mainichi poll, 71% said they feared that the change might entangle Japan in other countries’ wars.
The same polls portrayed a public uncomfortable with Mr. Abe’s method of decreeing what amounts to a constitutional sea change without amending the document’s actual language. More than half of respondents said the policy shift shouldn’t happen solely through a cabinet decision, while fewer than 30% said that was an acceptable means to an end.
Mr. Abe tried to expand the military’s role in his first stint as prime minister in 2006-07. His push to amend the constitution met with strong opposition from liberals and distrust from the public, and he was forced to step down after a year. When he returned to power in December 2012, Mr. Abe proposed making it easier to change the constitution, but the initiative never gathered momentum.
Instead of taking on the nearly impossible task of altering a document that has remained untouched since it went into effect in 1947, Mr. Abe changed course and declared that collective self-defense could be allowed through a constitutional reinterpretation. That prompted a backlash from his coalition partner, the New Komeito party, which called the reinterpretation premature and unnecessary. But in recent days Komeito leaders have retreated and suggested they were ready to go along with Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in endorsing the plan.
LDP officials say that actual military mobilization under the collective self-defense banner would still require parliament to approve new legislation. With majorities in both chambers and no national election until 2016, the governing coalition has a virtual free hand.
Mr. Abe’s approval rating has dropped slightly in the past few weeks, although at around 40%-50% it is still relatively high compared with his predecessors.
However, critics say public frustration is bubbling just below the surface. On Sunday, a protester attempted suicide by setting himself on fire at a busy Tokyo train station. According to local media and Twitter witness accounts, the unidentified man was denouncing the government’s push for collective self-defense through a loudspeaker before dousing himself in what appeared to be gasoline and setting himself ablaze.
‘In bypassing the public in making such a major change, Abe is making a mockery of Japan’s constitution and democracy,’ said Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo. ‘Voters didn’t elect him on his ideological agenda, but his promise of economic recovery. When the economy loses steam, that’s when the people’s patience may run out.’
《华尔街日报》(The Wall Street Journal)见到的内阁声明草案称，根据新的解释，当与日本密切相关国家受到攻击时，日本自卫队有权动用军事力量。安倍晋三和他的助手称，这将为日本击落并非直接针对日本本国的弹道导弹铺平道路，例如，朝鲜向关岛的美国军事基地发射的导弹。
包括美国总统奥巴马(Barack Obama)在内的美国官员认可了日本的政策调整。Japan Forum for Strategic Studies的国防研究员格朗·纽什(Grant Newsham)说，华盛顿认为这只是时间问题，在美国国防预算收缩、美国军方艰难地在亚太地区维持适当影响力之际，日本的姿态日趋强硬，军事力量成倍地增长。
日本的和平宪法自1947年生效以来就从未改动过，要改变它几乎是不可能的任务。安倍晋三改变了策略，宣称如果对宪法进行重新解释就可以解禁集体自卫权。这招致了其执政伙伴公明党(New Komeito)的抨击，后者说重新解释宪法时机不成熟，也没有必要。但近日公明党领袖放弃了原先的立场，表示他们愿意与安倍晋三所在的自民党(Liberal Democratic Party)一起支持该计划。
天普大学(Temple University)东京分校的亚洲研究负责人金斯顿(Jeff Kingston)说，安倍晋三在进行如此重大的改革时绕开了公众，从而嘲弄了日本的宪法和民主制度；选民选他上台的原因并不是他的意识形态议程，而是他对经济复苏的承诺；一旦日本经济冷却下来，民众的耐心可能就会耗尽。