Monday March 5, 2001
Democracy in Japan
Focusing on the Discussion on the Japanese Constitution
I sincerely welcome the participants from Socialist International
to this symposium and am so glad to be given the opportunity to report
to this session.
A theme I would like to take up regarding "enhancing common actions
in support of democracy", is the current situation surrounding the
Constitution in Japan. The Research Commission on the Constitution
was set up with the revision of the Diet Law in July 1999, both in
the House of Representatives and in the House of Councilors. This
Commission has been in session since January 2000, where discussion
has been conducted on various issues with regard to the existing Japanese
Constitution. However, we are at a critical juncture since the contents
and directions of the discussion have clearly indicated a situation
which could distort the democracy of Japan guaranteed by the Constitution.
I would like to address the process of the enactment of the Japanese
Constitution, the status of the Research Commission on the Constitution
and the future agenda below.
1. The Enactment of the Japanese Constitution and Thereafter
The 20th century, named "the century of war" witnessed two world wars.
International wars trampled upon the lives and human rights of many
people thus destroying their lives.
Preamble of the Japanese Constitution declares loud and clear the
building of a peaceful nation based on popular sovereignty, reflecting
deeply over the horrors of war. "We, the Japanese people, desire peace
for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling
human relationships, and we have determined to preserve our security
and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving
people of the world." This statement ensures that "We recognize that
all people of the world have the right to live in peace, free from
fear and want."
Article 9 of the Chapter II. "Renunciation of War" denies clearly
the use of force and the right of belligerency of the state by stating
that "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right
of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling
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." Over these 50 years since its enactment, Article 9 has
nurtured a culture which does not give priority to the military. As
a result, Japan which is a victim of the atomic-bomb during the war
has supported as its national policy "Three Non-Nuclear Principles"
-not possessing, not manufacturing and not allowing the introduction
of nuclear weapons into Japan, and the export prohibition of weapons.
Article 9 has played an active role in post-war rehabilitation and
economic development in Japan. It is obvious that the growth in military
expenditure will hamper economic development. Meanwhile, using its
own interpretation that Japan is allowed to maintain a minimum level
of force for self-defense, the Japanese government has expanded its
Self-Defense Force with the second largest budget in the world. However,
since the enactment of the Japanese Constitution, never has Japan
waged war as a sovereign right of the nation, nor has Self-Defense
Forces killed even a single citizen abroad. I think this is not only
because Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has effectively imposed
a normative constraint but also because "pro-constitutionalists" have
supported Article 9 in their desire to preserve the Peace Constitution.
2. Discussion at Research Commission on the Constitution
Lately in Japan, opinion has been more strongly voiced for amending
Article 9 for reasons such as a change in international politics.
Amendments to the Constitution calls for a concurring vote of two-thirds
or more of all the members of each House and they are to be submitted
to the people for ratification. This requires the support of the majority.
Discussion points which have been taken up so far in the Research
Commission on the Constitution includes how Japan should be, in other
words "stance of Japan". Hearings were held from expert witnesses
and free discussion was conducted among members. Moreover, as part
of an observation tour abroad, members of House of the Representatives
went to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and Finland, and members
of the House of Councilors went to the United States.
What is most notable about the discussion is that the Commission has
been run as if to "amend" the existing Constitution in spite of its
specified purpose of "broad and comprehensive research". Their aim
is an extension of "national campaign" conducted by those who advocate
amendment to the Constitution. As part of their "national campaign"
they have compiled history textbooks for junior high schools to instill
in the young generation a historical view in which they have projected
the existing Constitution as imposed by the General Headquarters of
the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers after World War Two. They
have unduly played up the tradition and culture of the Japanese people
and have glorified the warfare of Japan. The people who have played
central roles in compiling these textbooks attended as expert witnesses
showing their strong repulsion against ideas of feminism and human
rights. This speaks volumes about the direction and contents of amendment
to the Constitution.
These developments reminded me that neighboring countries in Europe
and Socialist International expressed their strong criticism when
in Austria Mr. Haider who leads the right-extremist party which encourages
exclusionism, participated in the coalition government.
3. Our challenges
In order to hand over the 21st century to the younger generation as
"a century of peace" we believe that we should reconfirm the pioneering
role of the Japanese Constitution and its significance. I think it
is very meaningful that Japan has maintained peace while conducting
international cooperation under our Peace Constitution over these
past 50 years.
In discussing democracy, I believe that the right to live in peace
upheld by the Japanese Constitution should be conveyed as a universal
right in 21st the century. In May, 1999, the citizen's agenda for
the Hague Appeal for Peace demanded ten fundamental principles for
a just world order. The first of which states that "Every parliament
should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government from going
to war, like the Japanese Article Number 9." Those who advocate amendment
to the Constitution have emphasized a contribution to the international
community in blood and sweat. However, I am strongly opposed to "blood".
A non-military contribution or "sweat", diplomacy based on dialogue
and confidence building should be established. I am sure that the
farsighted concept that the Japanese Constitution upholds as an ideal
should be handed down to the 21st century.
Through a creative policy for peace, promotion of world disarmament
and the abolition of nuclear weapons should be addressed especially
in Asia as an important agenda. I believe in "the Northeast Asia Nuclear-free
Zone" set forth by the Social Democratic Party Leader Takako Doi.
By spreading this concept, I think "human security" can be realized
in the world.
The Social Democratic Party has been consistent in upholding ideas
of "putting the Constitution into practice in our daily lives" and
"making the Constitution part of our daily lives in an active manner"
in order to appeal to the people the significance of the Peace Constitution.
Since the Constitution is now in danger, we should fulfill our role
demanded by the Constitution which have been based upon well-thought
out ideas. Thank you very much for your kind attention.