After 70 years, Japan is ready to be a military power again

Earlier this month, the Japanese government won parliamentary elections which presage the most revolutionary change in Japan’s place in the world since its defeat in 1945. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the Komeito Party, secured a solid majority of the seats in the Senate (146 of 242). Combined with the two-thirds majority it holds in the lower house, the Shizo Abe government now holds the power to amend the Japanese constitution — and permit Japanese forces to be deployed abroad.

In 1947, the Japanese people adopted a Constitution which trusted in “the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world” to safeguard their “security and existence”. As it now reads, under Article 9 the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes” and they resolve never to maintain “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential”. Over the years, Japan has found ways of circumventing this stricture in order to build up powerful Japanese Self Defence Forces, but Article 9 has continued to constrain their employment overseas in support of allies (such as the United States and South Korea) or in international peacekeeping operations. Abe has long declared his intention to remove this constraint and now has the political means to do so before his current term of office expires in two years.

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