TOKYO – Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party marked its 50th anniversary today by unveiling a proposed revision to the country’s pacifist constitution that would end the ban on having a military and give the armed forces a more assertive international role.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, addressing party loyalists assembled at a Tokyo hotel, credited the LDP with guiding Japan through a half-century of peace and prosperity. The LDP has ruled Japan almost continuously since its founding in November 1955.
But Koizumi urged Japan to match its weight as the world’s second biggest economy by cooperating more with the international community, a reference to the LDP’s planned overhaul of the constitution. “We need to take up the challenges of strife and conflict that may face international society over the next 50 years,” Koizumi said.
Japan’s constitution – drafted by U.S. occupation forces after World War II and unchanged since 1947 – bars the country from employing military force in international disputes and prohibits it from having a military for warfare.
But Japan has interpreted the constitution to mean it can maintain a 240,000-strong Self-Defense Force to protect itself. In 1992, the government presented a further interpretation that enabled the dispatch of troops to participate in international peacekeeping operations in noncombat roles. About 500 noncombat troops are helping with reconstruction in Iraq, and a contingent of ships is giving logistical support to anti-terror operations in Afghanistan.
The proposed LDP revision keeps the clause renouncing war, but removes the need for such interpretations by clearly stipulating in the constitution itself that Japan may keep a military force for self-defense and for participating in international peacekeeping efforts.
“In addition to activities needed for self defense … the defense forces can take part in efforts to maintain international peace and security under international cooperation, as well as to keep fundamental public order in our country,” the draft says.
The change is part of a general push by Koizumi’s government to give Japan a larger military and diplomatic profile in the world. The LDP has long campaigned to replace the U.S.-drafted constitution with Japan’s own and made establishing a new one the first item in its new platform, also unveiled Tuesday.