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Article 9: Japanese Nationalism and East Asian Apprehension


After WWII, the Allied powers, learning from the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles, decided
to take a different approach to the resolution of war. Deciding to forgo traditional reparations and
subjugation, there would be efforts put in place to help the nation rebuild, but would also institute
checks to ensure that there would be no possibility of renewed conflict. The primary measure used to
ensure this was to sign into the new Constitution a strict prohibition on forming a military, outlined in
what would come to be Article 9.
The use of military force as a means of settling international disputes is explicitly outlawed by
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, as is the construction of a standing army. Japanese domestic
public opinion on Article 9 is sharply divided, ranging from revision, promoting national armament to
the abolition of the JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces) which are seen as unconstitutional. The current
constitution in Japan was ratified in 1947 and has had no amendment since then. Attempts have been
made to amend Article 9 repeatedly by more nationalistic parties, specifically the Liberal Democratic
Party which is headed by Prime Minister Shinz Abe. (Profile: Shinz Abe) These attempts have
repeatedly met with failure as many other parties oppose the revision of what is held as a key
component of the modern Japanese identity. There have been increasingly unstable relations between
Japan and other states such as the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) as well as the Democratic
Peoples Republic of Korea (ROK). As a result of this, the government had been lenient towards the
interpretation of the constitution by in the interest of national security.
The topic has become a focal point for the Japanese legislature for numerous reasons, but with
the recent executions of journalist Kenji Goto and Japanese national Haruna Yukawa, the topic became
more prevalent in the western public eye. Haruna Yukawa was in Syria in order to train with militants,

which is speculated to be connected to Goto's presence in Syria (Yamaguchi, How the Lives of
Hostages). Being a journalist who covers predominantly war ridden environments, it was no surprise
that he found himself in Islamic State territory.
Reading in the news recently about ISIL executing both Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, I
became concerned about the current state of Japans power to exert political pressure against enemies
of their state. I had previously known of the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Military to the US
Military and how one of the terms of the constitution that was drafted to prevent the Empire of Japan
from succumbing to the rise of rampant militarism again. I began to question the necessity of such an
arrangement, whereupon I came to believe that Japan would be better off without the constraint on
military force. Upon further investigation I found that many in Japan did not feel the same way, in fact
it was quite the opposite. In an effort to learn more about the opinions of one of Americas closest and
most valued allies about the being of their own state, I have decided to pursue this topic further.

Foreign Perspectives

Due to the nature of global politics in the modern world, a very large part of what goes into
making a decision is consideration of how the rest of the global community will react. In this case,
Japan's nearest neighbors: China and Korea. The general attitude among the three east Asian powers is
one of thinly veiled hostility. Japan is usually seen as the crux of the issue due to the behavior and
atrocities committed by the Japanese Occupying forces during World War 2, especially with Prime
Minister Abe's lack of interest in apologizing for events that transpired during the war (Japan Holds
the Key). This, coupled with all three states being powerful economic forces as well as all having
confiscating claims of island throughout the region makes the tenuous relationship between the three
even more strained with the new push for a standing military.
With this in mind, China in particular, as the dominant economy and military power in the

region, is particularly vehement in their opposition to this development. Xinhua News is the official
press agency of the PRC, as such they speak for the government, publishing their official take on all
matters. Knowing that, journalist Liu Tian's scathing remarks towards Prime Minister Abe and his plans
going forward drive home the hostile attitude that the Chinese people and government have towards
Japan. Going so far as to say that damage that Abe is causing could impact the lives of the future
generations here [China] and without actions, they would suffer from the future fallout from his current
errant ways. (Tian, What is Aggression?)
Regarding the hostility between the PRC and Japan, it was interesting to discover that the most
identifiable Japanese person to the people of China was singer Momoe Yamaguchi, while the people of
the ROK overwhelmingly identified It Hirobumi, the first Resident-General of Korea in the late 19th
century, then a Japanese protectorate. (Koreans See Japan More Negatively) The Chinese opposition
to Japan then shows less of a fear of military expansion by not evoking pre-war devastation like the
Koreans have, but gives a much more passive seeming answer. Leading to the assumption that China is
more focused on the modern repercussions of re-militarizing Japan while the Koreans fear a re-armed
Japan might see them bear witness to a repetition of the subjugation at the hands of their former enemy.
It is easy to see then, how Koreans are also apprehensive about the decline of relations between
them and Japan. Also like the PRC, the Republic of Korea blames Shinz Abe's drive towards
militarism for the rift widening between not only the two of them, but recognizes the Chinese unease
towards this new political direction (Japan Holds the Key).
I find it interesting how the public at large has not necessarily forgiven the German people for
the atrocities committed by their government during the second world way, but not those committed by
the Japanese military. Not to say that it's an unwarranted lack of forgiveness, of course. It is entirely
understandable that both the Chinese and Korean people have reservations about a former enemy
combatant becoming more interested in a return to military growth. Even more so when one learns of
how these people feel about the way they were treated and continue to feel this way.

Domestic Opinions

Within Japan itself, the rift between the liberals and the nationalists has only widened as the
recent push for the amendment of the constitution has advanced. The differences in viewpoints are very
conveniently outlined in four groups by wikipedia. The Pacifists who believe in strict interpretation of
Article 9 and dismantling the Japan Self Defense Forces, as well as complete detachment from any and
all war efforts internationally. The Mercantilists, who advocate a revision to the constitution that
outlines the JSDF's role as that of a UN peacekeeping and humanitarian aid group, as well as
minimizing defense spending. The Normalists who would see a military developed for national defense
and international security, and would revise Article 9 to reflect that purpose. Finally, the nationalists
who desire full re-militarization in an effort to regain it's former independence and pride. The two
outlying groups being the pacifists and the nationalists are perhaps the most important to look because
any decision reached would likely be a compromise between these two polar viewpoints.
The pacifists value Article 9 as being a part of their national heritage and culture. This comes as
a result of a war that many Japanese people view as unjust. For example, Yoshihiko Murata, a pacifist
protester sums up an important element of the pacifists beliefs by stating that The current constitution
is the result of the sacrifice of more than three million Japanese and more than 20 million Asian victims
of war We should value it more." (McGurry, Japanese Pacifists).


While many would argue that China is the most powerful country in the region of east asia, I
think it would now be argued that the actions of the island nation of Japan are perhaps the most pivotal
in the region. With such valued and strong opinions as the Chinese apprehension of another prolific

arms race or the historic fear that many Koreans hold from the Japanese occupation, it's easy to see that
millions of people from different countries would be affected on both a macro, government level and
on a personal one, knowing the pain that their ancestors felt. For the Japanese people, re militarizing
could mean an entire different way of life for young men as well as the way that their nation and people
are looked at on a global scale, from a mostly peaceful ally for global security to a possibly more
aggressive peacekeeping power. Coming from a foreign country, and not comepletely understanding
the different cultures, it would be impossible for me to say what would be best for the Japansese people
or the people of the Far East, or even the world. What I can say however, with the political battle
continuing about Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, may very likely shape political relationships the
world over, sooner rather than later.

Works Cited
"Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Apr.
Fackler, Martin. "Prime Minister Abe Appeals to Japanese on Pacifist Constitution."The New
York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Japan Holds the Key to Improving Regional Ties."The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily
News from Korea. Chosun Media, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.
Koreans See Japan More Negatively Than Other Nations."The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition):
Daily News from Korea. Chosun Media, 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015
McGurry, Justin. "Japanese Pacifists Unnerved by Lifting of Ban on Military Intervention." The
Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd., 1 July 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
Mourdoukoutous, Panos. "Did The Abe Government Fuel A Rise In Hostile Attitudes Towards
China And South Korea?" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 21 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Profile: Shinzo Abe."BBC News. BBC, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
Seig, Linda, and Kiyoshi Takenaka. "Japan Ex-PM Says Abe Risks Alienating Neighbors If He
Dilutes Apology." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 10 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Tian, Liu. "Commentary: What Is Aggression? The Question Abe Seems Incapable of
Answering." Xinhua. N.p., 28 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Yamaguchi, Mari. "How the Lives of Hostages Yukawa and Goto Became Intertwined."The
Japan Times. Japan Times Ltd., 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.