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Japan Should Continue with Its Pacifist Policy

Japan is entertaining the idea of playing a greater role in global affairs.

The country's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) passed the draft of a new constitution at the convention marking the 50th anniversary of its foundation on Tuesday.

The LDP has long claimed that the present pacifist constitution was imposed on the Japanese people by the Occupation Forces in 1946. Formally updating its philosophy and platform for the first time since 1995, the LDP proposes changing the constitution's Chapter 2, entitled "Renunciation of War," to focus on national security.

New clauses have been designed to clear the way for Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defence, or the coming to the military aid of an ally.

Article 9 of Japan's post-war Constitution explicitly renounces Japan's right to wage war or maintain military forces.

The draft guts the pacifist principle by scrapping the crucial part of Article 9 that stipulates Japan will never maintain land, sea or air forces and renounces the right of belligerency of the state.

The constitution amendment makes clear what ideals and goals Japan strives to achieve - to create a full-fledged military force to match its economic clout in the international community.

While exhibiting the island country's ambition to grab an international position, the draft buries lessons Japan should learn from its aggression of Asian countries six decades ago.

Those in favour of constitution amendments claimed that the "war-renouncing" provision is out of touch with the transformed international situation as well as the realities of Japanese society.

With nationalism rising in Japan, the world's second-largest economy, it is not surprising that some Japanese have called for their armed forces to play a more active role in its foreign policy.

Japan has a right to play a peaceful military role as well as a large political role in the world, but this should be subject to constitutional and international legal constraints.

It is the country that brought about catastrophic sufferings to its Asian neighbours by launching an aggressive war during World War II, and it has not yet undergone careful self-retrospection of its wartime aggression. A string of harsh sounds and irresponsible acts by some senior officials in the country today are enough to make its Asian neighbours deeply concerned over the country's constitution revision and any military initiative.

Japan's eagerness to break away from the restraints of its post-war pacifist constitution is a key step to realize its long pent-up military power status.

To assume a higher international profile, Japan has been expanding its military role overseas since the end of the Cold War, in particular under the banner of fighting terrorism since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Despite strong voter opposition, Japan dispatched its ground Self Defence Force personnel to Iraq, marking the nation's biggest overseas military mission since World War II.

The LDP's determination to revise its constitution reflects a shift of its strategic mentality from defensive to offensive, which undermines the nation's constitutional cornerstone and drastically changes the description of the nation's basic character.

There has been more than 50 years of peace since World War II, which has helped Japan become an economic power.

As a responsible member in East Asia, it is in its own interests, as well as the region's interests, that Japan continues with its pacifist policy.

(China Daily November 23, 2005)

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