Japan’s Peace Constitution, Article 9, And Why Abe Wants To Dismantle It: A short primer

Here is a one minute piece about how Japan became a pacifist nation, its constitution, and Article 9 in that document that has kept it a long-time peaceful nation. Take a minute and learn a lot about Japan. Japan’S Pacifist Constitution Explained. (originally published May 3rd 2015)

It was produced by AJ+,  Al Jazeera’s new digital channel, geared towards millennials.

Japan’s Peace Constitution was a great achievement in its time. However, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushing for constitutional reform, a reinterpretation of Article 9 under the broad idea of collective self-defense, and seemingly gung ho to drag Japan into war so it flex its military might —that pacifist era and constitution may disappear. Even Japan’s beloved pacifist pear fairy mascot, Funassyi seems concerned about the direction the nation is heading.

"Funassyi-chan, How do you feel about getting rid of Japan's peace constitution? Funassyi: "That's a really difficult question and I don't want to answer...but in all things I desire peace." Later appears to flash the peace sign. Hard to tell because pear fairies don't have fingers.
“Funassyi-chan, How do you feel about getting rid of Japan’s peace constitution?
Funassyi: “That’s a really difficult question and I don’t want to answer…but in all things I desire peace.”
Later appears to flash the peace sign. Hard to tell because pear fairies don’t have fingers.

Prime Minister Abe has made the remilitarisation of Japan and the scrapping of Article 9 and “America’s imposed democratic constitution” a part of his political agenda for a long. While it’s clear that GHQ had a heavy hand in drafting Japan’s constitution, it was not done without the aid and input of the Japanese people and the Japanese government. The creation of Japan’s modern constitution was more of a collaborative effort than was believed. 

Judging from Shinzo Abe’s writings and hand-selected ministers, he feels that Japan lost a just war, and can only regain its dignity by throwing off all the progress made since the post-war days and returning to an Imperial Constitution. Abe wants a return to a time when the chosen elite, like himself and his friends, run the country with no dissent and the racial and  cultural  superiority of the Japanese people is loudly proclaimed. 

His grandfather, whom Abe greatly admires, the yakuza linked and ‘incredibly corrupt’ former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, was arrested as a war criminal after the war, but never put on trial. Kishi  was Japan’s Minister of Munitions during the Second World War. Abe has allowed Japan to make and export arms again under his regime as well.

Japan's Peace Constitution Explained
Japan’s Peace Constitution Explained

 

For reference here is the English text of Article 9:

RENUNCIATION OF WAR

Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

 

 

Former Prime Minister Murayama Tells Japan’s Leader Abe, “Study Up or Shut Up!”

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to make a statement today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. He said he will uphold the statements made previously on the subject, but people are concerned that he will downplay Japan’s previous apologies.

Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who made the 50th anniversary statement on the war, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan recently, expressing his concerns with Abe’s statement. There is worry that Abe may downplay the Murayama Statement, which apologizes to Korea and China for crimes committed in WWII. Abe has been making comments in attempts to downplay the Murayama Statement, as a result, more and more young people are paying attention to the statement and asking questions about it. Many of these young people have been born after the war, and it’s prompted them to start learning about Japan’s war history on their own.

Due to the fact that Abe is trying to go on the offensive and bulk up Japan’s military, Murayama thinks that there is great danger in the fact that Abe cannot acknowledge that crimes committed during the war were a mistake. Now with the upcoming 70th anniversary of the war, Murayama feels that it is a milestone year that Japan needs to acknowledge.

The Potsdam Declaration was a statement issued in 1945 that called for Japan’s surrender during World War II. It was essentially an ultimatum given to Japan by the U.S., U.K. and China stating that Japan must surrender or face consequences. When asked about the Potsdam Declaration, Abe said that he has “not read the Potsdam Declaration in detail” and he doesn’t believe that the war was a mistake.

Abe’s crusade to nullify or even destroy Japan’s post-pacifist constitution, which also gave the Japanese citizen “basic human rights”, is not given him any popularity points within the country as well as Japan’s neighboring countries. He is intent on destroying Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Article 9 is a clause in the constitution outlawing Japan from using war as a means to settle disputes.

Japan has experienced peace for 70 years, which is an extraordinary thing. Japanese people are worried that the tensions with other countries will escalate if Abe continues to along this path.

Murayama noted, “We’re approaching 70th anniversary of the war, and Abe wants to issue his own statement on the war, and many people wonder how it will differ and what Abe wants to say. When I spoke, it was the 50th anniversary of the war, a very important milestone. It was a time when Japan was realizing it was a member of the Asian community. It was thought we should put an end to this lingering history. We should apologize for the errors we made, and vow never to repeat them.”

Murayama also noted that the security legislation Abe and the LDP is pushing through the Diet is considered unconstitutional by an overwhelming majority of scholars.

“If it is the decision of the cabinet to change the constitution (at will), this kind of action cannot be permitted. If you want to reinterpret the constitution, you must actually revise it, something people say is near-impossible.”

Referencing the growing protests to the security legislation, Murayama added, “It’s only natural Japanese have become angry. I’ve repeated how Japan has experienced peace for so many years. We need to study history.”

In that statement that we need to study history and his pointing out that Abe had not read or understood the Potsdam Declaration, Murayama seemed to be saying to his successor, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. And if you knew your history, you’d make a proper apology. Get smart or shut up.” In many ways, the press conference was like a wise, cranky old teacher scolding a lazy student. However, will the lazy student listen?

 

 

 

 

 

NHK apologizes for asking tough questions

fridayscandal

The cabinet office lodged a complaint with NHK over tough questions asked during a television interview with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, according to weekly magazine Friday.

The article, released this week, claims that Abe’s office forced NHK to “prostrate itself (土下座)” after Suga appeared on a television program called “Close up Gendai” that was aired on July 3rd to talk about Japan-North Korea talks and collective self-defence, a topic that has sparked protests in recent months.

When the topic changed to collective self-defense, female newscaster, Hiroko Kuniya (57) asked, “Wouldn’t Japan become involved in other countries’ wars?” and “It is O.K. to change the reinterpretation of the constitution so easily?”

After the television show, a secretary waiting on the set complained about the content of the program, according to an anonymous NHK employee interviewed by Friday. The secretary complained that some of the questions Kuniya asked had not been among the ones submitted beforehand.

NHK President Katsuo Momii allegedly apologized to Suga, and the upper management of NHK launched an investigation to discover the person responsible for slipping in the pointed questions, according to Friday.

“That’s completely different from the truth. It’s an awful article,” Suga said at a daily press conference on Friday.

Despite Suga’s denial of the contents of the Friday article, NHK’s Board of Governors contains members close to the Abe administration. Three of the five members who were handpicked by Abe last November include close supporters of Abe such as Naoki Hyakuta, conservative philosopher Michiko Hasegawa, and Katsuhiko Honda, who used to tutor Abe in his elementary school days.

The NHK Board of Governors has the power to choose the president of the broadcaster. Their choice was Katsuo Momii, a close friend of Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, who shares Abe’s revisionist views.

Japan: Even The Secrecy Bill Briefing Is Secret; Abe-gumi Pushes Ominous Secrecy Bill Towards Law

December 5th, Tokyo

We’re late, We’re late for a very important date

We have no time for reasoned debate

We’re late, We’re late…

 

The Japanese government came very close to passing the ominous new Designated Secrets Bill today, when the Upper House Committee cut off debate around 4pm and forced a vote. The law punishes journalists and whistleblowers who divulge government secrets with up to ten years in prison, and up to five years for those who “instigate leaks.”

The tally yesterday came amongst cries of “This government has no conscience”, “Don’t make fools of the Japanese people” in a shouting match that was very close to a brawl. Meanwhile outside the Diet building over 1,000 protestors chanted opposition. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Liberal Democrat Party) is pushing the bill forward, despite a sudden dip in his support rates to below 50%. Earlier this week, the LDP Secretary General, Shigeru Ishiba, labeled the growing protests “tantamount to terrorism” which prompted more public outcry.

Thousands of Japanese citizens have been protesting the Secrecy Bill since last week. The response of the ruling party's Shigeru Ishiba was to label them as "terrorists."  (photo by Alissa Toyosaki)
Thousands of Japanese citizens have been protesting the Secrecy Bill since last week. The response of the ruling party’s Shigeru Ishiba was to label them”terrorists.” (photo by Alissa Toyosaki)

The ruling parties had planned to hold an emergency vote on the bill in the middle of the night the same day, and make it law. They were forced to back down for another day by time stalling motions from the opposing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

If as part of their information gathering, a reporter or individual asks the wrong question about a designated secret to a public official, the police could call them in for voluntary questioning, and seize their laptop or smart phone. If they arrested him or her, the suspect could be held in detention for more than twenty days. It wouldn’t matter whether the individual knew they were asking about a secret or not.

 Kiss, Kiss, Hush-Hush, Abe Tries Damage Control With The Foreign Media

As the bill meets increasing opposition at home and abroad, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition government moved earlier this week to do damage control with the foreign media, by holding a “secret” meeting on the Secrecy Bill. JSRC and the FCCJ (Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan) were not formally notified of the briefing, which was sent out to select members of the press by the Prime Minister’s Office of Global Communications.*

Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office held the “background briefing on Special Intelligence Protection Bill” at 3pm Wednesday at the Central Government Offices in Tokyo.

The press who were invited and attended were told in advance: “Ground rules: Comments from the briefing can be attributed to a Japanese Government Official. The briefing will in principle be in English. The briefing is for pen reporters only (no still or movie cameras allowed). Journalists are required to observe relevant rules, ethics and standards of propriety.”

It is slightly unusual for the Abe administration to pay much attention to the views of the foreign press, yet the hard-hitting criticism of the foreign media has become hard for them to ignore. However, like Ishiba’s comments equating protestors with terrorists, the slightly menacing tone of the briefing announcement echoes the problems with the bill.

Ironically, according to Japanese legal experts, under the current draft of the legislation, “impropriety” in newsgathering techniques involving state secrets can result in jail time. In theory, under the secrecy law, if the briefing had been declared a state secret, any unauthorized journalist writing about it could be found guilty of violations and sentenced up to ten years in prison. Any journalist who asked pointed and repeated questions about such a secret briefing, could also be arrested and tried for “instigating leaks” and sentenced up to five years in prison.

Tsutomu Shimizu, a criminal defense lawyer and representative of the Japan Federation of Bar Association, explains the problems with the bill as follows. “If as part of their information gathering, a reporter or individual asks the wrong question about a designated secret to a public official, the police could call them in for voluntary questioning, and seize their laptop or smart phone. If they arrested him or her, the suspect could be held in detention for more than twenty days. It wouldn’t matter whether the individual knew they were asking about a secret or not. Eventually, a judge would decided whether the information gathering was ‘grossly inappropriate’…The judge would not have the right to know what ‘secret’ was leaked and the same might also be true for the defendant. This would make a legal defense difficult.”

Shimizu noticed that simply having their laptop seized or being called in for voluntary questioning would greatly intimidate most journalists. Cabinet officials have also stated that police raids on media outlets suspected to be involved in the leaking of secrets would be possible.

It is not hard to see why the Abe cabinet is rushing to get the bill into law, even under the cover of night. The opposition continues to grow within Japan and overseas. Even the director of classics like Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki—the Walt Disney of Japan—came forward to express his concerns. The list of organizations and individuals expressing concern over the bill is far-reaching. They include Gakusha-no-kai, which is led by Nobel Prize laureate Hideki Shirakawa and Toshihide Masukawa plus 2000 scholars. There are also Japan’s: Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, Commercial Broadcasters Association, Magazine Publishers Association, Book Publishers Association, Federation of Bar Associations. Even Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed her fears.

Abe when questioned about Ms. Pillay’s concerns retorted, “The law says we have to give sufficient consideration to freedom of the press. There is nothing to worry about.” It was very similar to a statement he made concerning the state of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, in which he famously declared that everything was “completely under control.”

The bill is expected to be voted into law as early as tomorrow (December 6th). Over 50% of the Japanese population opposes the legislation and only 25% support it, according to the latest opinion polls.

 

Designed by Kafka, Inspired by Hitler?

  Kafka would seem the most likely inspiration for this perplexing legislation but ruling coalition members acknowledge that another famous white man from the past may have provided the real inspiration for the bill and its implementation.

An Upper House member of the Diet said on background to JSRC, “Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro sort of telegraphed the punches of the administration by expressing his admiration for how the Nazi Party forcefully changed the German constitution this summer. Obviously, we’re not Nazis in Japan–because we hardly have any Jews, but we are like the defeated post World War I Germany in that we do not have the right to wage war to defend ourselves from our enemies. Just as Germany needed a strong man like Hitler to revive defeated Germany, Japan needs people like Abe to dynamically induce change.”

The hawkish Prime Minister Abe has publicly stated his ambition to revise Japan’s constitution to rid it of Article 9, which forbids Japan from waging war. Upper house Diet member, Taro Yamamoto and others have publicly stated they believe the current bill is a stepping-stone to recreate a fascist Japan, as it existed prior to the Second World War.

It might all seems like a bad joke, except for the Orwellian nature of the bill being proposed and a key Cabinet member expressing his admiration for the Nazis.

*This reporter did not attend the background briefing, which would have been an agreement to abide by its terms and credit the party line as “from a government official.”