More than six decades after its adoption, the Japanese
Constitution is in danger of abandoning its pacifist principles.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to introduce substantive amendments
with the ultimate aim of changing its war-renouncing clause, a
long-established provision considered pivotal to Japan's prosperity
and regional peace.
When the Constitution was formulated during the Allied
occupation following World War II, Japan agreed to relinquish the
right to wage wars in order to reassure neighboring countries that
suffered from the aggression of Japanese militarists. In addition,
it believed that by giving up the need to maintain formal military
forces, the war-torn country would be able to focus on economic
The Constitution, which has remained unchanged since entering
into force in 1947, laid the groundwork for Japan's postwar efforts
to reinvigorate its economy and reshape its international image.
The country has since risen from the ruins of war to become a
leading economy and a major player in the global arena. Recent
protests staged by Japanese people against constitutional revisions
are evidence of the validity and popularity of the peaceful
Abe's attempt has not only met with opposition at home, but also
been denounced worldwide. Countries that fought against Japanese
militarism, including China, have all voiced concerns. In their
view, the ongoing campaign to change the pacifist nature of the
Constitution signals the rise of right-wing political forces and a
possible return to militarism in Japan, a trend that may eventually
destabilize the region.
In recent weeks, the Japanese prime minister has caused alarm by
taking a series of controversial moves. He donated to the Yasukuni
Shrine, where war criminals are honored along with Japanese war
dead. He also cast doubt on the term "aggression" in an apparent
bid to whitewash Japan's wartime history. Moreover, he asserted
there is no need to explain to neighboring countries his motivation
in rewriting the Japanese Constitution.
Enough is enough. Abe's eagerness to elevate Japan's
international status may be understandable, but he has no excuse to
disrespect history in an appeal to right-wing sentiments at home.
This approach is bound to backfire and disrupt his rational
pursuits. Only by doing justice to history and learning its
lessons, as Germany has done, can Japan gain the trust of its
neighbors and the international community.