TOKYO (AP) — Japan marked the 67th anniversary of its postwar constitution Saturday with growing debate over whether to revise the war-renouncing charter in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for an expanded role for the military.
The ruling conservative party has long advocated revision but been unable to sway public opinion. Now Abe is proposing that the government reinterpret the constitution to give the military more prominence without having to win public approval for the revisions.
His push, backed by the U.S. which wants Japan to bear a greater burden of its own defense, has upset the liberals who see it as undermining the constitution and democratic processes.
Hundreds of people gathered at a Tokyo rally commemorating Constitution Day, a national holiday.
Japan’s pacifist charter is at stake, organizer Ken Takada said: “We citizens must stand up, take action and raise our voice to stop Abe, or this country could return to a Japan that wages war with Asia as it has done before.”
Written under U.S. direction after World War II, the 1947 constitution says the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation” and that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
That ban has been relaxed over the years, with U.S. encouragement as the Cold War unfolded and America sought allies in Asia, allowing Japan to have a military to defend itself, dubbed a Self-Defense Force. Read the rest of this entry »
TOKYO — Jonathan Soble writes: For years, the sole armed force protecting Japan’s westernmost inhabited territory – the sleepy island of Yonaguni, population 1,500 – has been two police officers.
That will soon change: a new military radar base is to be completed on the island in two years’ time, guarded by 100 members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, a development that has divided islanders while underscoring Tokyo’s increasingly tough-minded security policy.
On Saturday, Itsuki Onodera, defence minister, will travel to the island, which lies 2,000 miles southwest of Tokyo and a stone’s throw from Taiwan, to break ground on the base. When it is completed in 2016, its radar will give Japan a clearer view of Chinese ship and aircraft movements in the South China Sea, including around islands whose ownership is disputed by Tokyo and Beijing.
“We are determined to protect Yonaguni, which is part of the precious territory of Japan,” Mr Onodera told reporters this week, saying the SDF deployment belonged to a broader effort to “strengthen surveillance of the southwestern region”.
That effort has been under way for several years, as Japanese military planners shift their focus away from their cold war adversary Russia – just off Japan’s far north – to China, which has been rapidly modernising its military and challenging Japanese control of the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Daioyu in China.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be keen to tout Japan’s untapped labor force, but will he go beyond the rhetoric?
Heenali Patel writes: “I used to be a helicopter pilot, I loved it. But since having a child I quit. I don’t think I will work again for a long time.”
I am at a local center, where residents may to socialize and host events. A group of women sits before me. We have been discussing their interests and aspirations for an hour. I look around at them, and see engaging and sociable individuals. They all share two things in common: each went to university and each quit their jobs after having a child. Although it is all well and good to choose family over career, the predictability of the career paths of these women is unsettling. Here, they treat it as part of a standard expectation. A working lifestyle in Japan is not compatible with motherhood, or so these women have been led to believe.