Security bills threaten survival of Japan’s pacifist Constitution

by Noritaka Egusa, Editor-in-Chief

Protesters have been surrounding the Diet Building day after day, and their voices have surely reached the ears of lawmakers. But turning a deaf ear to the voices of the majority, to whom Japan’s sovereign power belongs, a special committee of the Upper House went ahead and approved the flaw-riddled security bills. This is an outrageous act that jeopardizes democracy’s very survival.

Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that the bills have not won widespread support from the general public. He was absolutely right, but he added that people will definitely gain a good understanding of the bills once they become law.

I cannot understand his line of reasoning. The general public finds problems in the bills, and opposition to them has intensified by the day. But Mr. Abe and his fellows have repeatedly made provocative remarks like “I am the chief executive” and “Legal stability is not relevant.” The content of the bills is, of course, seen as a problem, but the derisive attitude of these policymakers is one of the major reasons why more and more citizens have joined demonstrations and rallies around the country.

In the first place, if a Cabinet completely changes the interpretation of the Constitution, this is tantamount to disdaining the people and their sovereign power. This is because the public will be denied the right to vote in a national referendum for an amendment to the Constitution.

Why is the government in such a hurry to pass these bills? Is it because Mr. Abe promised the United States that he would produce this result? If so, the situation can be understood, though not condoned. But we cannot understand the argument he has repeatedly made that the bills must be passed because of Japan’s changing security environment.

It is true that chill winds are blowing in East Asia. Of course, we feel concerned when a neighboring country stakes out claims to various parts of land and sea. Nevertheless, passing the bills in haste will escalate tensions in the region. Mr. Abe himself stated that it is of great importance to foster trusting relationships through diplomatic efforts.

Mr. Abe has said that the bills will protect the lives of Japanese citizens. But to those of us who live in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, this remark is not very convincing.

Under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, Japan relies on the United States for protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Once the bills are enacted, they will further strengthen Japan’s alliance with the United States, which means Japan will become more dependent on nuclear deterrence. This goes against the idea of creating a world without nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the lives of forces on both sides will be put at risk, stirring a precarious situation similar to that of the Cold War era. Who would call such conditions “peace”?

Without clarifying who was responsible for the atomic bombings, Japan has maintained diplomatic relations with the victor nation. These relations have certainly served as the driving force in Japan’s economic recovery from the total devastation it suffered 70 years ago. But can we say with pride that Japan has gained political independence? U.S. jet fighters still fly over Okinawa and the mountain range around Hiroshima Prefecture, among other areas. While having done nothing to deal with this situation, the government is seeking to push its bills through the Diet. The bills will emasculate Japan’s pacifist Constitution, and they must not be enacted.

We have come to a crossroads in this nation’s history.

(Originally published on September 18, 2015)