Promote specific discussions on Article 9 to galvanize public opinion

The Yomiuri ShimbunHow should the Constitution be revised? It is hoped that efforts will be made to continue constructive and careful discussions based on the text of specific draft provisions, thereby enhancing the momentum for constitutional amendment.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution has categorized more than 120 proposals advanced by LDP Diet members regarding revisions to Article 9, and is promoting deliberations on the matter. The party’s initiative in this respect is praiseworthy.

As Japan’s security environment has deteriorated, the role of the Self-Defense Forces has become even more important. In an effort to defend people’s peaceful lives, it is highly important to disregard the argument that says the SDF is unconstitutional and accord the SDF legitimacy.

It is important to convey the meaning and purpose of each draft provision in plain words and clarify the process of pertinent discussions. Such efforts will deepen people’s interest in constitutional debate, which can often fall into abstract arguments.

The LDP’s proposed amendments to Article 9 can be broadly divided into two kinds — those calling for retaining the second paragraph in the article, which states war potential will never be maintained, and those proposing deletion of the paragraph.

The retention idea has been advanced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and it appears to be easier to gain a consensus from Komeito and others regarding this suggestion.

The proposals include making changes while retaining the second paragraph. One calls for the SDF to be written into the Constitution, and another clearly states that “an organization with the minimum necessary level of power for self-defense” will be possessed. Both can be described as stipulations clearly stating our nation’s “self-defense capability.” Clear explanations should be offered regarding how that capability differs from “war potential,” which is banned by the second paragraph.

The proposals also include one using different words to describe the same idea, proposing that our nation’s “exercise of the right of self-defense not be prevented.” It is necessary to debate whether this idea would affect the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, which Japan possesses as a nation.

Clarify Abe’s command

If the second paragraph is deleted and the SDF’s purposes and roles are clearly stated, that proposal will be easier to understand, as no questions will arise regarding its compatibility with “war potential.” Another advantage of the proposal is that the idea will be easily accepted by LDP supporters, because it is similar to the party’s past draft for constitutional revision.

On the other hand, there is the issue that it will not be easy to gain public understanding of the proposal, because that idea will greatly change the direction of constitutional debate up to this point.

It is important to form a conclusion that will be acceptable to more and more Diet members.

If the SDF are written into the Constitution, it will be necessary to clearly state that the right of command over the SDF rests with the prime minister. Doing so will clarify civilian control, which secures political precedence over military affairs.

It is also worth considering stipulating in the Constitution that Diet approval must be obtained in the event that the SDF are mobilized.

The LDP leadership hopes to display the direction of constitutional amendment at a party convention on March 25, combined with such proposals as creating a clause regarding a state of emergency.

There is a high hurdle to constitutional revision: Amendments must be supported by a majority of people in a national referendum even after they are initiated through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.

The LDP needs to calmly judge the timing for proposing constitutional revision, by making coordination with other parties and closely watching the trends in public opinion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 5, 2018)Speech


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