9条と自衛隊 憲法改正へ論議の活性化を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 11, 2012)
Promote active discussions on revising Constitution
9条と自衛隊 憲法改正へ論議の活性化を(2月10日付・読売社説)

It is necessary to advance discussions on revising the Constitution to bring it in line with reality, based on the historical background of discussions over the Self-Defense Forces.

At the House of Representatives Budget Committee, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba of the Liberal Democratic Party recently asked Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka why the SDF is constitutional.

Ishiba suggested that the so-called Ashida revision provides legal justification for the SDF.

Tanaka was hard-pressed for an answer and only said: "I don't understand that point. I'd like to understand it by respectfully listening to your knowledge."

The Ashida revision is named after Hitoshi Ashida, who in 1946 advocated a revision to the section concerning renunciation of war at a subcommittee of the House of Representatives committee that discussed a bill to revise the then existing Constitution of the Empire of Japan. Ashida was chairman of the committee.

The draft revision bill said in Paragraph 1 of Article 9 that Japan renounces wars of aggression, and in Paragraph 2 it stipulated war potential will never be maintained.

Under the Ashida revision, the words "In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph" were inserted in the beginning of Paragraph 2.

Because of this revision, there arose in later years an interpretation of the Constitution that holds Japan can possess war potential such as land, sea and air forces for self-defense.


'Minimum' overemphasized

However, successive governments' interpretation of the Constitution has not used the Ashida revision as a legal basis for viewing the SDF as constitutional.

The government has been consistent in its view that maintaining the SDF does not violate the Constitution as long as it is "an armed organization kept to the minimum necessary" for self-defense.

In other words, the government's interpretation is that the SDF is not the war potential that is banned under the Constitution.

Tanaka is under fire for lacking basic knowledge concerning defense issues. As the defense minister, he should have been able to explain the historical background.

However, the government should not cling to its conventional approach of trying to make its position sound plausible.


Times have changed

The security environment around Japan has significantly changed from the time when the Constitution was established.

The conventional interpretation of the Constitution regarding the SDF now hurts national interests.

A typical example is the government's interpretation of the nation's right to collective self-defense.

It states that Japan has such a right but cannot exercise it because doing so exceeds the scope of the "minimum necessary."

This interpretation constrains the SDF's cooperative activities with U.S. forces and other countries' militaries, and hampers deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The government's view, which developed in the Cabinet Legislation Bureau after World War II, should immediately be reviewed at the initiative of elected officials.

There is a great discrepancy between Article 9 and reality.

All in all, it is right and proper to squarely work on a constitutional revision to give the SDF a clear status.

In its proposal to revise the Constitution in 2004, The Yomiuri Shimbun said that the Constitution should stipulate Japan may possess armed forces for self-defense even while preserving the pacifism aspect of Article 9.

Based on the government's interpretation of Article 9 and criticism against it, we hope each political party will deepen discussions of what Article 9 should be at the Deliberative Council on the Constitution of each chamber of the Diet.

Article 9 is not the only issue on which revision to the Constitution is called for.

Although there is a gap between political parties' views of the Constitution, discussions on the top law, which is the foundation of the nation, must not stagnate.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 10, 2012)
(2012年2月10日01時16分 読売新聞)

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