Editorial: As Japan Celebrates Constitution Day, Let’s Deepen the Debate on Pacifism







Japan marked the 75th anniversary of its Constitution coming into force after World War II on May 3, celebrated annually as the Constitution Day, while Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

The ongoing war of aggression that tramples the sovereignty and territory of an independent nation is an attack on pacifism, a cause upheld by the Japanese Constitution.

Neither Western countries nor the United Nations were able to stop Russia’s act of brutality, ending the post-Cold War era based on international cooperation.

The security environment in Europe has changed dramatically. Finland and Sweden, both of which have long maintained a policy of military neutrality, are considering joining NATO, while Germany has made a policy shift to supply military tanks to Ukraine.

The international community has every right to step up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is threatening to use nuclear weapons, and to help Ukrainians who continue to resist the Russian invasion.

We must not allow the emergence of the law of the jungle, where one great power takes over another country through military might.

The Constitution of Japan was drafted on the basis of the desire never to repeat the calamities of war. It shares common principles with the Charter of the United Nations with regard to the search for international peace and the prohibition of the use of force.

What is worrying are the attempts to link Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the revision of the Japanese Constitution. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed, “Now is the time to discuss Article 9,” referring to the Supreme Law’s waiver of war clause. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is seeking to introduce an “emergency clause” which would lead to restrictions on people’s rights.

The climate of the talks as if Japan should begin its armament despite the absence of a national debate is also worrying. The LDP has proposed that Japan possess “counterattack capabilities”, but this move raises questions about consistency with Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy.

Certainly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left the world facing the risk of one nation “changing the status quo by force.” In light of China’s maritime aggression and other circumstances in East Asia, it may be necessary for Japan to review its defense capabilities within constitutional limits.

That said, if Japan is to counter the military expansion of an authoritarian state with an accumulation of armaments, it can only be drawn into the logic of force. As the aftermath of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, military power alone cannot solve a problem.

International political scientist Edward Hallet Carr, known for his book “The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations”, has analyzed the 20 years between the wars after the First World War, when the utopian League of Nations became dysfunctional and failed to avert World War II. Carr pointed out that the period was characterized by a utopia that paid little attention to the steep fall from reality to a reality that rigidly excluded any element of utopia.

Japan must engage in unremitting efforts to bring the reality of the ideal of international peace even a little closer, while facing the reality that has been brought to light by the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.

Above all, it is essential to strengthen the overall security force. In Ukraine, international aid and the ability of the country’s leader to convey his messages to the world community affect the aspect of the war. It is imperative to strengthen not only defense capabilities but also soft powers such as diplomacy, economy, culture and personal exchanges.

Next, it is important to set about creating a framework for dialogue on security in Asia. Establishing communication forums between the United States, China, India, South Korea and ASEAN member states can contribute to regional stability. Japan must be able to play a leading role in such programs.

It is also necessary to make efforts to nurture an international opinion that gives weight to peace and rules. Citizens of countries around the world, including Russia, are raising their voices against the war in Ukraine. It is high time to reaffirm “the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world”, as the Japanese Constitution states in its preamble.

Hiroshi Nakanishi, an international political scientist and professor at Kyoto University, takes notes on how Japan is accepting evacuees from Ukraine.

“Until now, Japan has tended to think it’s good if Japan alone enjoys peace. The country must maintain a pacifism that also fulfills a moral obligation to help people in distress in other countries. “, pointed out Nakanishi.

As the Japanese government opened its doors to evacuees in an unprecedented way, more than 800 people arrived in Japan from war-torn Ukraine. In an opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun and others, 69% of respondents said Japan should accept more evacuees from Ukraine.

It is a humanitarian responsibility to extend assistance to people who have fled war. Japan should actively accept evacuees not only from Ukraine, but regardless of nationality.

The preamble to the Japanese Constitution states: “We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want. It was Japan’s House of Representatives legislator Yoshio Suzuki who, during the post-war constitution-making process, called for adding the word “peace” to Article 9 and incorporate the right to life under Article 25, and these provisions were in no way “imposed” on Japan by the United States.

These clauses represent common principles of “human security”. Shoichi Koseki, a professor emeritus at Dokkyo University who specializes in the history of constitutional politics, said, “Peace is not just about the absence of war, but about the ability to live as a human being.

The question boils down to how Japan will practice the pacifism stipulated in its Constitution and deliver its messages to the world on the cause. Let us take this 75th year after the application of the supreme law as an opportunity to deepen the discussions by returning to the initial point of the pursuit of ideals.

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