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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Should Japan's constitution change?
The Japanese Government wants to help the US in its military campaign against terrorism but to do so it needs to make changes to laws which limit the role of its forces to the narrowest definition of self defence.

Opinion polls in Japan suggest 90% support for helping the US as pledged by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on his recent visit to Washington.

But less than 10% of Japanese support actually sending troops into battle. And neighbouring countries have not forgotten their suffering at the hands of Japanese military aggression in the past.

Should Japan change its pacifist constitution to allow it to play a fuller role in world events?

Or would changes be a terrible mistake, threatening the peaceful existence the country has enjoyed for more than 50 years?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Oh yes. Why not. And why not all countries all over the world do the same thing so that the US will - in the future - have a free hand to bombard any country, any time and for whatever reason they think. Mr. Japanese prime minister ... what were you thinking.
Ayesha, Egypt

This is another consequense of Bush's 'if you're not with us, you're against us' line. Watch and worry folks, 'cause the defense industry in the States backed Bush to the hilt and this is beyond their wildest dreams.
Bern, UK

Reply to Mr Gotti: If the past is the most reliable guide to the future, then your President is about to bomb the hell out of starving Afghans to satisfy his own domestic bloodlusts....and to date, I am happy to report that he is behaving with more statesmanship than I gave him credit for upon his election.... I suggest you remember that your nation destroyed two Japanese cities with atomic bombs, that you wiped out the indigenous Native American population and that you mutilated half a million defenceless Iraqis in the 1990s.
Rhys Jaggar, England

When Gen MacArthur wrote Japan's post-war constitution he stipulated that they would be permanently neutral. Unfortunately I wish he had write new one for us with the same provisions which would have given us the advantage of not now having all these unneeded enemies world-wide. But maybe there are many now who wish they could once hear the stirring "Banzai" cheer if Japan does once again join the warriors of the world.
Stephen B, USA

Popular support does not necessarily mean it should be done and certainly does not mean it is always right. Don¿t forget the past Japanese aggression had popular support of its people too!
Rick Young, Alabama, USA

Japan is in a no-win situation here. If they do nothing, they will be accused of isolationalism and failure to join the global "war" on terrorism". If they change their constitution and rearm they will reawaken old animosities in East Asia and beyond.
John, UK

Absolutely not. What can be changed by military force? In the recent attack, the strongest army in the world was the target so the Japanese military can't change anything. We'd be better off using the money to help the victims of these attacks like tourism, airlines and other industries.
Yuzo Ojima, Japan

Hell no!

James Chou, United States
Japan's intention to implement laws that would allow it to become involved indirectly with international military conflict is really a guise for re-assuming its pre-World War II agressive militaristic identity. The vast majority of its Asian neighbours still view Japan with great distrust and suspicion and rightfully so. The Japanese are not to be trusted. The past is always the most accurate yardstick for predicting the future.
Don Gotti, US

"NO" unless the ordinary Japanese were taught of their past war artrocities. Sincerly apologise and compensate to the war victims rather than hiding behind the so-called American sponsored treaty not to pay war damages.
Guo SK, Malaysia

The Japanese have apologized for Pearl Harbor but it is clear that they have not fully accepted their past crimes in WW2. If the Japanese wish to change their constitution and go to war, they will certainly need to convince their neighbors of their motives and national repentance of past aggression. Otherwise, it will do little good to have them join an international war effort.
Dean, USA

Half a century's passed since the end of the war, it's time for Japan to move on and have a proper military of its own

Ben Anderson, Japan
Japan is a unique culture. They have also shown the world that they belong among the "big boys" in the global economy. The Japanese constitution was conceived from an external power, but is in itself an honourable document. As the world shifts it's focus into this region (21st Century belongs to China?), Japan needs to step up again to give balance in the region. The USA cannot be the only military presence in the area.Unless one accepts the idea that Americans are the choosen global police force. It is thus in the best interest of Japan to change the constitution now rather than later.
Burns J.S.M., Canada

Half a century's passed since the end of the war, so I think it's time for Japan to move on and have a proper military of its own, as befits a nation of its stature. However, this is a country where nationalism and xenophobia are still rife so, whilst the importance of international trade and the global economy will ensure that Japan doesn't step out of line, it'll take a huge social upheaval in Japan to convince the rest of the world (especially East Asia) that it is no longer a potential military threat.
Ben Anderson, Japan

It goes without saying that Japan should update its obsolete constitution. A proposal that has overwhelming popular support within a democratic nation is a wholly domestic affair. The rest of the world should be encouraging such a move, as it would be an expression of democracy and of an internationally maturing Japan.
Tony Pascuzzo, Canadian in Japan

Hell no.
James Chou, United States

Of course not! They have to be strong now and resist all pressures! Another century of peaceful Japan and even its Asian victims can forget and forgive past atrocities.
Andrey, Russia

It is far too soon to allow Nippon a free or supporting military role in the world. Too many people, especially the Chinese, have yet to forgive the atrocities of the last war and Nippon has yet to show any real admission of its inhuman treatment of its fellow man.
Brian Morrell, UK

Japan has the right to do whatever it wants

Roger Falcon, UK
Japan has the right to do whatever it wants. Why are people concerned over its past when other countries have dropped nuclear bombs on it for crying out loud. Why must countries like Germany and Japan still be "regarded" for the actions of some of their past leaders, when countries all over the world have committed atrocities in wartime or otherwise? Grow up people!
Roger Falcon, UK

Japan as a nation has not repented its past atrocities against its neighbours and the United States. In fact, the government and the people as a whole have been trying their best to distort history to shirk their responsibilities. A nation that cannot face its history in honesty should be kept in check militarily. It is striking how differently the Germans and the Japanese have treated and viewed their actions in World War II. The Germans are helping the US and the world to rid the threat of terrorism, but do we hear any noise from Germany about changing their constitution? Alarming indeed.
Rick Young, USA

Japan is definitely NOT an Islamic country and has consumer values very similar to the USA. Hence, it is quite likely to be attacked by Moslem fundamentalists at some time in the future. As a powerful economic country as well as having huge military potential it is essential that Japan should join any military alliance against terrorism. What happened over half a century ago is irrelevant against the potential disaster the world faces.
Angus Murray, UK

I think the Japanese people have proved to the world that they are peaceful and if they wish to build up their military, it should be at their own discretion. I believe that all nations have this right unless they impose a present world threat to security, not a past one.
Kim, USA

We cannot wallow in the actions of past Japanese administrations

Shaun, Teignmouth, UK
Of course the Japanese should be allowed to change their constitution, particularly when it has the backing of 90 per cent of its people. We cannot wallow in the actions of past Japanese administrations. We all had blood on our hands at the end of WW II and with this gesture the Japanese people would be endeavouring to build bridges with the rest of the civilised world. I would applaud them if they did make such a show of solidarity.
Shaun, Teignmouth, UK

Although Japan has apologised several times for its wartime atrocities, there were never significant actions that could represent the government's sincere regret. Several examples support this, such as its prime minister visiting the war shrine or approval of distorted history books. Under such circumstances, it would be impossible for its neighbours to trust Japan. Hence Japan must not change its constitution until it can give assurances to countries like South Korea and China. Many Asians still feel unsure about Japanese militarism, and still have bitter feelings towards Japan. The Japanese government must consider this because they could end up isolating their country from the rest of Asia.
Kim ES, Frankfurt, Germany

The Japanese public's trepidation about sending troops to fight is not necessarily connected to their pacifist constitution. Only a few countries have actually committed men to the coalition operation, although many have explicitly backed the campaign. The Japanese are beginning to realise that article nine is an anachronism, and to leave it unchanged risks diplomatic isolation, as happened after the Gulf War. To change the constitution wouldn't necessarily mean Japan would have to send troops to help its allies - it would just have the option to do so. Moreover, Japan's budget expenditure on defence is among the highest in terms of proportion of GDP in any developed nation already, so none of its neighbours can doubt that it already has the capacity to wage aggressive war. The difference is the political and societal impetus for military aggression, which thanks to certain factors including the constitution is wholly absent. So article nine can be said to have served its purpose. But does anyone believe a revision of this clause will reinstate the kind of militaristic aggression prevalent in Japan in the 1930s?
Dave Line, UK

Japan already has a powerful arsenal and a high level of military spending, although it may only be in place for purposes of self-defence. Since Japan is less internationalised, it has little ability to play a role in the global intelligence field. As long as Japan is not internationalised and has very few interests other than narrow-minded thinking with Japan-centric policies it can make few contributions to the outside world. The constitution is just an excuse. It has to start to begin to contribute internationally.
Matthew Torqasiew, Japan

See also:

27 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi sets pace on military debate
25 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi pledges Japanese support
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