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A fight for peace: Japan’s new security reform bill undermines its pacifism


Sunday 09 August 2015 18:42 BST

For many years, Japanese nationalists have been trying to revise the country’s pacifist constitution, which limits its “Self-Defence Forces” to their eponymous function. They have made little progress.

As eccentric as that document may seem to the rest of the bellicose world, renouncing war has become the Japanese way. It enabled the country to prosper without diverting its energies into armaments; it allowed polite intercourse to resume with the countries, especially China, over which imperial troops had rampaged in the 1930s and 1940s; it harked back to the golden age in the pre-modern Edo period when Japan renounced firearms; and it gave the nation unique credit in the international effort to abolish nuclear weapons.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put that priceless legacy at risk by his determination – at any political cost – to ram through parliament a security reform bill that, by allowing Japanese troops to fight alongside allies such as the US, would significantly weaken that pacifist commitment. Mr Abe would have preferred, like other right-wingers before him, to scrap that clause altogether, but political hostility was too strong to permit it. Even the less radical reform he proposes is turning into the fight of his career.

So it was remarkable that he had the temerity to show up in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki last week to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities. It is revulsion at militarism that lies behind Japanese loathing of the revisionist urge, and there are no more terrible symbols of militarism’s dangers than the two cities vaporised by the new weapons.

One Nagasaki survivor, Sumiteru Taniguchi, told Mr Abe the security bills would “jeopardise” Japan’s anti-nuclear commitment. The Mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, warned Mr Abe that “this pledge made 70 years ago may now be undermined”. Mr Abe should heed these voices and change course.

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