Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, fresh from again drawing the ire of China and South Korea with a surprise year-end visit to the highly controversial Yasukuni shrine, has publicly declared in his New Year message to the Japanese citizenry that he is still resolute in his desire to change the nation’s pacifist constitution which was drafted after Japan’s defeat in Second World War. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbids the use of war to settle international disputes.
“As it has been 68 years since its enactment now, national debate should be further deepened toward a revision of the constitution to grasp the changing times,” Abe wrote in his traditional New Year message that was posted on Wednesday on his website. “Now is the time for Japan to take a big step forward toward a new nation-building effort,” he added. Abe is pushing for what he calls an “active pacifism” on Japan’s security front, where the nation “plays an active role in world peace and stability.” Abe said in his message that he will push for a revision of the Japanese Constitution to be enacted and in force before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics comes around. “By 2020, I think Japan will have completely restored its status and been making great contributions to peace and stability in the region and the world,” he said.
Also in his message, Abe underlined the importance of defending Japanese territory from China’s “growing assertiveness” in the region. Recently, China raised tensions in the area by announcing a unilateral air defense zone that overlapped with territories of Japan and of neighboring countries – specifically including the airspace above uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo but disputed by Beijing.
When Abe took power in December last year, his initial focus was on improving Japan’s economy. Recently though, evidences of his nationalist approach has been showing, passing a state secrecy law which critics say is a threat to democracy in Japan. Abe has long been a proponent of amending a key article in the constitution that limits Japan’s military to self-defense and bans the use of force in settling international disputes. Abe has made it known that he would like to see the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) become a full-fledged military, a plan that raised concerns in Asian countries, most of whom were occupied by Japan during the WWII.
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