(Originally published by the Japan Forum on International Relations)

By Masako Kuranishi

Currently, Diet voting on the Security Bills (proposed) in June 2015, that has drawn nationwide attention, was postponed. This postponement seems (caused by the opinions) of three scholars, who were invited to the Diet testimony and stated that the bill is unconstitutional judging from their interpretation and understanding (of) Article 9 (See (i)) of the Constitution of Japan.

In Japan, those who understand Article 9 narrowly, (the) so-called ‘supporters of Article 9,’ are expressing such anxieties as these new security bills would extend the sphere of overseas activity and deployment of the Japanese Self Defense Forces. In my opinion, however, their interpretation and understanding on Article 9 is full of inconsistencies.

Japanese soldiers listen to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a military review
Japanese soldiers listen to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a military review

In the first place, they have hardly approved the Japanese right of self-defense affirmed in the Charter of the U.N., “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense (See (ii)),” while they, ignoring the reality, have believed in the function of the collective security system of the U.N. since 1946.

In 1946 when the current constitution was enacted, there remained idealistic expectations that the collective security system of the United Nations would have kept the world peace and that neighboring countries around Japan must have been “peace-loving peoples (See (iii))” as expressed in the preamble of the constitution.

Not a small part of Japanese people had placed firm confidence in this U.N.’s world peace plan. In other words, it was optimistically supposed that the international and global community would have guaranteed Japanese security entirely.

Soon after that, however, it came to be clear that these expectations were (an) illusion or unrealistic. So, early in the 1950s, Japan, facing with the threat of the Communist bloc, concluded a bilateral security treaty with the U.S.

Since then, the government of Japan has maintained officially an interpretation of Article 9 to confirm the Japanese right of self-defense for conforming (to) reality and has explained to the people that the Charter of the U.N. affirms every country in the world the right of defense and that this is an axiom of natural law.

In 1981, however, the Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau made a controversial explanation in the Diet that Article 9 allows the government to have the right of collective self-defense but (does) not allows it to exercise this right. As a matter of course, within the government and among the Japanese people, the 1981 interpretation has brought serious confusion and argument about the security alliance between Japan and the U.S.

Accordingly, on 1st July, 2014, the present Cabinet dared to alter the 1981 interpretation to keep step with the drastic change of the international situation, and decided (a) new one to remove the ban on (exercising) the right of collective self-defense. The new security bills are the outcome of this alteration.

Anyway, although the right of self-defense, whether collective or not, is regarded to be the second safety measures preparing for risks of the dysfunction of the collective security system of the U.N., ‘the supporters of Article 9,’ who blame 2015’s new security bills for being unconstitutional, have demanded (a return) to the 1981 interpretation persistently until now, notwithstanding the (fact that the) reality (of Japan’s defense posture) is (going from) bad to worse.

Their attitude seems to be inconsistent and to be irresponsible to the Japanese people.

In the second place, ‘the supporters of Article 9’ have denounced any participation of Japan in U.N’s activities including peacekeeping operations as ‘dreadful war which is to be renounced by Article 9,’ while they have ever thought that Japan should leave the national security to the collective security system of the United Nations and the global community as mentioned above.

In other words, they have recommended (that) the Japanese Government be a bystander (in cases where another) other foreign country is violated illegally, but on the other hand, they (are looking forward) to the helping hands of the U.N. and foreign countries (if) Japan (is) attacked by foreign armed forces. This selfish and unilateral security policy will dishonorably make Japan a free rider in the international and global community.

Viewed in this light, it seems (a) logical conclusion that (the) reinforcement of national security should be (accompanied by) overseas deployment of the Self Defense Forces (with) cooperation with foreign armies or organizations and that Japan should (assume its) due responsibilities to maintain the peace and moral order of the international and global community as one of its members.

The 2015 new bills will not only strengthen Japan’s security, (they will also) provide a crucial deterrent to other countries within the framework of international principles, laws and systems. Why are they opposing (these) new security bills?  Their logic is critically fraught with contradictions within itself.


(i) The Constitution of Japan, Article 9. “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized”.

(ii) The Charter of the United Nations, Article 51.

(iii) The Constitution of Japan, the preamble.

Masako Kuranishi is a political scientist

(This is the English version of an article written by Kuranishi, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Seiho” of JFIR on July 1, 2015, and was posted on “JFIR Commentary” on July 29, 2015.)

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