Japan’s Prime Minister Suggests Changes to Japanese Constiution

Japan’s Prime Minister Suggests Changes to Japanese Constiution

In a ceremony marking the seventieth anniversary of the Japanese constitution, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested that the pacifist elements it contains need to be changed.
Japan’s current constitution was passed after the country’s defeat in World War II to the United States and Soviet Union. Article IX of the constitution forbids Japan from maintaining air, land, or sea forces and required the country to renounce war. Despite the clause, there are nearly 230,000 active soldiers in the Japanese military, which came about due to flexible interpretations of the Article. Soon after the end of the War, Chinese Communists gained the upper hand and formed a government, leaving the United States without an Asian bulwark to Communism. Soon after that, North Korea invaded South Korea and the United States responded by sending forces into Korea that were in Japan. To defend against possible attacks, Japan was all but forced to reintroduce some form of a military.
Despite the existence of a military, Abe is seeking greater flexibility in how it can be used. Since the Prime Minister has a super majority of the Japanese legislature, it is likely his proposed reforms will pass, but it is uncertain whether they would sustain a popular referendum. Many in Japan are proud that their modern history is officially pacifist.
Japan’s allies may well welcome a more aggressive Japanese military as a means to maintain the balance of power in Asia, even as China’s wealth and capability continue to grow. Japan currently spends only about 1% of GDP on defense compared to about 4% in the United States.

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