Japan’s Abe Set to Change Country’s Pacifist Policy 日本安倍政府将改变和平主义政策

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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.’

Toko Sekiguchi

2014年 07月 01日 07:18

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
安倍内阁计划发布对日本宪法的重新解释。

本首相安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)将对该国持续60年的和平主义政策作出历史性调整,从而实现长期以来的个人目标,但有可能会使选民疏离。

官员们称,鉴于日本安全形势的根本性转变,安倍内阁计划于周二发布对日本宪法的重新解释,将允许该国自卫队帮助受到攻击的盟国。在此之前,日本政府称,美国制定的战后宪法禁止日本使用武力,出于自卫的少数情况除外。

对这一规定的广义解释将允许拥有集体自卫权,可能会加大日本在与美国的同盟中所承担的军事负担。

《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。

声明草案称,进一步改善美日安全部署的效力、强化同盟的威慑力对于避免武装冲突和针对日本的威胁至关重要。

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。

European Pressphoto Agency
周一,东京的一次集会活动中,抗议者手持标语并高喊口号反对安倍政府改变国防政策的计划。

但调查显示,日本民众对这一问题看法不一。日本三大报纸──《日本经济新闻》(Nikkei)、《每日新闻》(Mainichi)和《朝日新闻》(Asahi)在过去一周开展的民调显示,至少一半的受访者对日本行使集体自卫权的想法持反对态度,持支持态度的受访者不超过三分之一。《每日新闻》的调查显示,71%的受访者表示担心这样做可能使日本卷入其他国家的战争中。

调查还显示,民众对安倍利用行政命令来修宪的做法也感到不满,安倍这样做等同于在不修改文件实际措辞的前提下进行重大修宪。超过一半的受访者表示,这种政策调整不应该单凭一个内阁决定就生效,只有不到30%的受访者表示,这是一种可接受的最后手段。

在2006-2007年首次担任日本首相期间,安倍曾试图扩大日本的军事影响力。当时,他推动修宪的努力遭到了自由派的强烈反对,并引发民众的不信任,安倍在执政一年后下台。在2012年12月份重新上台时,安倍提议为修宪创造更便利的条件,但这一提议未能聚集动力。

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。

自民党官员说,集体自卫权名义下的实际军事调动仍需要议会通过新的立法。由于执政联盟在日本议会两院都占据多数席位,且日本要到2016年才会举行全国大选,因此执政联盟事实上几乎不受约束。

过去几周安倍晋三支持率略有下滑,不过相比他的几位前任,40%-50%的支持率仍然相对较高。

然而批评人士说,公众的失望情绪仍在发酵。周日,一名抗议者试图在东京一个繁忙的火车站自焚。据当地媒体和推特上的目击者描述,这名身份不明的男子通过扬声器谴责日本政府争取集体自卫权的行动,随后将汽油浇在自己身上并点火。

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。

Toko Sekiguchi

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