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Should Japan amend Article 9 of its constitution?

By Theodore Terpstra
On April 22, 2014

In the aftermath of the World War II, the Allied authorities and Japanese legislators created a new constitution for a post-war Japan. Part of the Constitution was Article 9, a section renouncing Japan's right to wage war and barring Japan from maintaining a military. Regardless, Japan still maintained a self-defense force post-WWII that was, for legal reasons, technically part of the national police. This force was equipped with tanks and warplanes like in any nation's military. Today the Japanese Self Defense Force is trying to modernize in order to face potential threats from nations such as North Korea and China, but Article 9 makes it difficult for the JSDF to create a formidable force. Some Japanese are more receptive to the idea of amending or abolishing Article 9 today than they were in the past. The United States also is more receptive to a change of Article 9, especially as China starts to spend more money on defense than in previous years. The best way to guarantee Japanese national security for the future is to amend Article 9 and allow Japan to expand Self Defense Force's military capabilities.
Yonaguni Island, located near Taiwan, is home to 1,500 Japanese. As of earlier this month, the island is also home to one Japanese radar station, part of a new Japanese defense initiative emphasizing a response to China's military buildup. The purpose of the new radar station is to monitor Chinese ships and aircraft, as this island, like many islands Japan controls, is considered to be vulnerable to Chinese intrusion. Intrusions upon Japanese territory are somewhat frequent; in 2012 Japanese warplanes responded to incursions by Chinese warplanes a total of 415 times. Japanese waters are the hardest to secure. With 18,600 miles of coastline to protect, Japan has begun the process of expanding their navy, already the fourth largest in the world. Instead of aircraft carriers, the Japanese government is forced to commission smaller and less capable helicopter carriers, due to the restrictions of Article 9. Meanwhile China has an operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, with additional aircraft carriers planned. While Japan's helicopter carriers are modern and capable ships, they will be at a disadvantage if pitted against the new Chinese carriers. In order to defend the Japanese islands, Article 9 must be amended to allow for a stronger navy.
The United States has long been an advocate of expanding Japanese military power. In the late 1980s to early 1990s the US encouraged Japan to expand their military force in order to help counter the Soviet Union. Now the US is encourage Japan to expand their military for another reason. While the United States has pledged to come to Japan's aid if the nation is ever attacked, the US does not recognize some of the islands Japan claims as part of its territory. These disputed islands are likely to be flashpoints for any future conflict between Japan and its neighbors. There is a possibility that Japan could then get involved in a small scale conflict and the US would not be required, nor feel especially obligated to get involved. For this reason, Japan must act as if no security agreement exists between the US and Japan. As the US draws down its military force at home and abroad, Japan has no choice but to take on a greater role in the region.
This week President Obama will visit several Asian nations, among them Japan. One of the key issues President Obama and Prime Minister Abe of Japan will most likely talk about would be the issue of Japanese national security. The US has 50,000 troops in Japan and has recently announced plans to send to additional destroyers to assist in the protection of the Japanese mainland from ballistic missile threats. While cooperation between the two countries will always remain strong, there are not guarantees that more pressing issues, such as problems in Afghanistan or Ukraine will distract the US's attention. It is best if Article 9 is repealed so that the Japanese can take on more responsibility for their defense.  

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