Editorial: Peace in the South and East China Seas.
At the end of World War II, following the defeat of Japan by Allied forces led by the United States, a new Postwar Constitution was drawn up in 1947, highlighted by Japan's renunciation of war. Its other distinctive features were the symbolic role of the Emperor and the prominence of guarantees of civil and human rights.
Under Article 9 of the Constitution, the "Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." It further provided that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained."
The new constitution was drawn up under Allied occupation to replace Japan's militaristic system, as a reaction to Japan's invasion of several neighboring countries, including the Philippines, during the Pacific war. After some years, Japan was able to set up Self-Defense Forces in 1954, but as the name implies, these have limited military capabilities.
Over the years, there have been efforts to amend Japan's Constitution so it can have a defense force that is more in keeping with its stature as one of the world's strongest economies. Japan is among the eight most industrialized countries of the world today - the G8 -- the others being the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Various political groups have thus called for abolition of the restrictions in Article 9 of the Constitution to allow Japan to boost its military strength.
Much of the opposition to this has been from the nations which were invaded by Japan in World War II, which fear a resurgent militaristic Japan. Our own President Benigno S. Aquino III, however, came out during his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last Tuesday that he is not alarmed by the planned constitutional change but is, in fact, supportive of it. His stand is no doubt related to China's festering disputes with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea and with Japan in the East China Sea.
The territorial disputes have raised tension in the area but cooler heads are urging everyone concerned to avoid provocations that may worsen the situation. We must hope that this talk of military buildups will go no further than a war of words.