Ja­pan’s se­cu­rity bills threaten con­sti­tu­tion: ex­perts

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

Leg­is­la­tion that would al­low Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary to fight in de­fense of al­lies is un­con­sti­tu­tional, legal ex­perts said Mon­day, as op­po­si­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s pet project grows.

Two of Ja­pan’s fore­most con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts told jour­nal­ists that the bills, which are cur­rently be­ing de­bated in par­lia­ment, must be with­drawn be­cause they risked un­der­min­ing the coun­try’s avowed paci­fism.

“The gov­ern­ment should re­tract the bills, be­cause the core el­e­ment of the bills — al­low­ing the use of col­lec­tive self-de­fense — is man­i­festly un­con­sti­tu­tional,” Ya­suo Hasebe, pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tional law at Waseda Uni­ver­sity, told re­porters.

“It is quite likely that the bills could bring about the en­tan­gle­ment of (Ja­pan’s armed forces) in un­con­sti­tu­tional for­eign mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Abe, a ro­bust na­tion­al­ist, has pushed for what he calls a nor­mal­iza­tion of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary pos­ture. He has sought to loosen re­stric­tions that have bound the so-called Self-De­fense Forces to a nar­rowly de­fen­sive role for decades.

But un­able to muster the public sup­port to amend the con­sti­tu­tion im­posed by the United States af­ter World War II, Abe opted in­stead to re-in­ter­pret it, and pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that al­lows the mil­i­tary greater scope to act.

Chief amongst the changes is the op­tion for it to go into battle even if there is no di­rect threat to Ja­pan or its peo­ple, some­thing suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have ruled out.

Wash­ing­ton, which for 70 years has been the guar­an­tor of Ja­pan’s se­cu­rity, has wel­comed the move, which to many for­eign eyes seems rel­a­tively un­con­tro­ver­sial.

How­ever, it has proved deeply un­pop­u­lar among aca­demics and Ja­pan’s public, who are deeply wed­ded to the com­mit­ment to paci­fism.

Setsu Kobayashi, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Keio Uni­ver­sity, said pass­ing laws that vi­o­lated the let­ter of the con­sti­tu­tion was a slip­pery slope.

“What’s scary is that should the po­lit­i­cal prac­tice of vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tion go un­chal­lenged, this coun­try could be­come some­thing sim­i­lar to North Korea,” he said.

“If we fol­low Mr. Abe’s in­struc­tions, Ja­pan’s Self-De­fense Forces would be­come sec­ond-class U.S. troops and as a re­sult Ja­pan would get hurt,” he said.

Hasebe and Kobayashi tes­ti­fied to par­lia­ment this month that the bills are un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The Mon­day com­ments came a day af­ter thou­sands of Ja­panese ral­lied in protest against the plans, ac­cus­ing Abe of try­ing to move the coun­try away from paci­fism.

The leg­is­la­tion, which would over­haul 10 se­cu­rity-re­lated laws and cre­ate a new one, in­cludes re­mov­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal con­straints on lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port for friendly forces in “sit­u­a­tions that would sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect Ja­pan’s se­cu­rity.”

It also says Ja­pan can de­fend al­lies “in sit­u­a­tions where there is a clear risk that Ja­pan’s ex­is­tence is threat­ened and its peo­ple’s rights ... are com­pro­mised through an attack on a coun­try which has a close re­la­tion­ship with Ja­pan.”

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