Tens of thousands of protesters poured out onto the streets of Japan to protect their pacifist constitution.


As a reaction to Japan’s approval of a legislation that allows sending troops to fight abroad for the first time since WWII, thousands of protesters have been demonstrating overnight in Japan over the last few weeks. Japanese, who are usually known to be consensual, have been chanting and holding up placards reading “No War, No Killing”.


The legislation was pushed through by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who always had high hopes that one day he would put an end to the long-lasting punishments that the winning countries of WWII have been imposing on Japan for its war atrocities. For Abe, Japan should regain its military ability and be able to interact in global affairs. Moreover, the renewed tensions with its neighbour, the military giant China, and the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January provide even more reasons to start releasing military actions. Nonetheless, this decision is supported by the USA, who sees in the renewal of Japanese military forces a good counterweight to its neighbour, the frightening China. This legislation would also provide the US with logistical support and armed backup in international conflicts.


However, this legislation would only extend the former constitution from self-defense to mobilization overseas under two circumstances: the government can resort to a military attack only if Japan or a close ally is attacked and the consequences endanger the survival of Japan or its inhabitants, or if there is no other way but to resort to a military attack to protect Japan or its inhabitants. In both scenarios, military actions should be restricted to their minimum.


This legislation, approved by the lower house of parliament, still needs to be approved by the upper chamber and meanwhile faces a number of protests.  Fifty years ago, in August 1945, following the Japanese military attack of Pearl Harbor, the USA had dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki killing 70,000 people. The Japanese are uneager to cooperate with the US army also because its politics in Iraq brought much discontentment. Moreover, the legislation in question would violate a significant chapter of the constitution that says “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” Changing that chapter would require a national referendum that Abe would probably lose.


Even if the new legislation has already been approved by the House of Representatives, Abe still needs to have the upper chamber agree and might also have to face an unexpected re-assessment of the Japanese constitution.


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