Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe handpicked a panel to look into the re-interpretation of Japan’s post-war pacifist Constitution, calling it the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security. This panel has now submitted its report and recommendations, with its interpretation that Japan can and should exercise the right to collective self-defense because it falls under the minimum level of defense already allowed by Article 9 of the same constitution. This has caused uproar from scholars, saying that the panel sounded as if it wanted to “destroy” the ideals in the Constitution that has kept Japan in peace for so long.
The report now will serve as the foundation of the Abe administration’s efforts to reinterpret the Constitution, finally allowing Japan to exercise of the right to collective self-defense based on the security and defense issues in the region. Abe’s argument points to nuclear-capable North Korea and China’s increased aggressiveness as the main issues that require Japan reassess how to best respond to these threats. “If, despite the changes in the security environment, national security policy should remain inflexible due to a (particular) view of the Constitution, that could lead to a violation of the security of the people because of that constitutional view,” the report states. The report also criticizes most of the postwar administrations for remaining within the pacifist interpretation of Article 9. “There has never been any demonstration of whether the survival of the people could be protected and the existence of the nation could be ensured within the limits of a minimum required level of defense,” the report goes on to say. Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to hold a news conference to reveal how the government will now proceed given the panel’s recommendations.
Such statements in the report has caused an outrage from Japanese constitutional law scholars, some even claiming that not only does the report plan to reinterpret the Constitution, but that it actually seeks to destroy all that it stands for. Yasuo Hasebe, professor of constitutional law at Tokyo’s Waseda University, said, “In today’s Japan, the only way to protect the nation is by conducting politics under the principle of constitutionalism.” Setsu Kobayashi, another respected professor of constitutional law at Keio University, said, “It is true that international circumstances have changed. But if that is used to call for a change to allow for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, the government should seek a constitutional amendment.”