Japan ends 60 years of pacifism: Shinzo Abe ends post-war ban on fighting abroad

 

Tokyo

Japan took a historic step away from its post-war pacifism on Tuesday by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since 1945, a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe but a move that has riled China and worries many Japanese voters.

The change, the most dramatic shift in policy since Japan set up its post-war armed forces 60 years ago, will widen Japan's military options by ending the ban on exercising “collective self-defence”, or aiding a friendly country under attack.

Abe's cabinet adopted a resolution outlining the shift, which also relaxes limits on activities in U.N.-led peace-keeping operations and “grey zone” incidents short of full-scale war, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters.

Long constrained by the post-war constitution, Japan's armed forces will become more aligned with the militaries of other advanced nations , in terms of its options, but the government will be wary of putting boots on the ground in multilateral operations such as the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Abe repeated that stance on Tuesday, while stressing Japan had to respond to an increasingly tough security environment.

“There is no change in the general principle that we cannot send troops overseas,” Abe told a televised news conference, flanked by a poster showing Japanese mothers and infants fleeing a theoretical combat zone on a U.S. vessel under attack.

The new policy has angered an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have frayed due to a maritime row, mistrust and the legacy of Japan's past military aggression.

“China opposes the Japanese fabricating the China threat to promote its domestic political agenda,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference in Beijing.

“We demand that Japan respect the reasonable security concerns of its Asian neighbors and prudently handle the relevant matter.”

South Korea, like Japan allied with the United States, but still aggrieved about Tokyo's 20th century colonisation of the Korean peninsula, said it would not accept any change in policy affecting its security unless it gave its agreement.

Abe's advisers have said Tokyo should take no action involving a friendly country without that country's consent.

The shift, however, will be welcomed by Washington, which has long urged Tokyo to become a more equal alliance partner, and by Southeast Asia nations that also have rows with China

Conservatives say the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 has limited Japan's ability to defend itself and that a changing regional power balance, including a rising China, means policies must be more flexible.

“Conservative governments have pushed the envelope hard and often to get the public to agree to a more elastic interpretation of article 9. Abe is taking a bigger leap and getting away with it, thanks to the Chinese,” said Columbia University political sience professor Gerry Curtis.

Abe, who took office in 2012 promising to revive Japan's economy and bolster its security posture, has pushed for the change - which revises a longstanding government interpretation of the charter - despite wariness among ordinary Japanese.

Some voters worry about entanglement in foreign wars and others are angry at what they see as a gutting of Article 9 by ignoring formal amendment procedures. The charter has never been revised since it was adopted after Japan's 1945 defeat.

On Sunday, a man set himself on fire near a busy Tokyo intersection - a rare form of protest in Japan - after speaking out against Abe's re-interpretation of Article 9.

While Abe spoke, thousands of protesters, including pensioners, housewives and employees just leaving work, gathered near the premier's office carrying banners and shouting, “Don't destroy Article 9”, “We're against war” and “No more Abe”.

“After this bill is enacted, Japanese soldiers could be sent abroad to fight foreign wars - we don't want that,” said Yoshiharu Uchinuma, 62, an artist and farmer, wearing a helmet saying “9 No War”.

“Even if Japan doesn't go to war abroad anytime soon, I don't want my children to go war even in 10 or 20 years,” said teacher Aska Miyanaga, 37, standing with her son and daughter.

Legal revisions to implement the change must be approved by parliament and restrictions could be imposed in the process.

Since its 1945 defeat, Japan's military has not engaged in combat. Past governments have stretched the constitution's limits to develop a military now on par with that of France and to permit non-combat missions abroad, but its armed forces remain far more constrained legally than those of other nations.

China has already argued that Japan is raising regional tensions and seeks to back its case by pointing to Abe's efforts to cast Tokyo's wartime past with a less apologetic tone.

“It makes it easier for competitors to paint Japan as a wolf in sheep's clothing,” said Richard Samuels, director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But he added: “Just because Japan is strong does not mean that it will be aggressive.”

According to the cabinet resolution, Japan could exercise force to the minimum degree necessary in cases where a country with which it has close ties is attacked and the following conditions are met: there is a threat to the existence of the Japanese state, there is a clear danger that the people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be subverted, and there is no appropriate alternative.

Precisely how the change might work in practice remains unclear, although it is likely to ease the path to joint military exercises with countries other than the United States. New Komeito, the junior partner in Abe's governing coalition, says the scope of revision is limited.

Reuters

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

IT Specialist for a one month cover role

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IC...

History Teacher

£7200 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education is...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits