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Japan public split on idea to cite military in constitution

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-05-2017 AP

Tokyo: Poll results released Monday show that about half of Japan’s population supports a constitutional revision that would clarify the legality of the country’s military, a new approach Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is proposing as his party struggles to gain public support for a change.

Abe proposed recently that Japan in some way indicate the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, which is not spelled out in Article 9 of the constitution. The article renounces war and the use of force to settle international disputes.

He made the proposal this month in what was seen as a compromise, but opponents see it as a step to justify expanding Japan’s military capabilities, which currently have to be kept to a minimum.

In the Nikkei newspaper poll, 51% of 1,595 respondents supported including a reference to the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9, while 36% were opposed.

Recent polls by other major media outlets have also showed mixed results.

Japan decided it had the right under the 1947 constitution to have a military for self-defence, but some legal experts have questioned that, though fewer people do so now.

Abe and his party have maintained the constitutionality of the Self-Defense Forces, saying every nation has the right of self-defence as allowed under the United Nations charter. Citing his party’s position, opponents have grown skeptical over Abe’s latest proposal and intention of bringing up the Self-Defense Force legality issue.

Japan’s ruling party has long advocated a more drastic revision, but the public generally supports the war-renouncing article. The party and its nationalistic supporters view the country’s post-war constitution as the legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values weighing too much on individuals’ rights.

The party-proposed revisions to the constitution released in 2012 called for upgrading the Self-Defense Forces to a full armed forces and establishing a military court.

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