As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, there are growing concerns Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe is steering the nation away from the peaceful constitution it forged in 1945.
A bill passed in May, and likely to become law, will allow Japanese troops to fight outside of Japan for the first time since the end of the war.
Mr Abe insists this is a “reinterpretation” of Article Nine in the pacifist constitution, under which Japan basically pledges not to use war as a method of solving international disputes.
However, a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing has voiced the concerns of many hibakusha (atom-bomb survivors) that the bill pushes Japan back towards its warring past.
At a ceremony to mark the bomb’s 70th anniversary on August 9, 86-year-old Sumiteru Taniguchi said, “We cannot accept this. The security bills that the government is trying to push through would jeopardise our long-time movement for nuclear abolition and hopes of the hibakusha (atom-bomb survivors).
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“After the war, the constitution was enacted in which Japan promised to the world that it would never wage war or take up weapons again. However, the government is about to bring Japan back to the wartime period,” said Mr Taniguchi.
The prime minster was earlier criticised for failing to mention Japan’s three long-held non-nuclear principles: not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory, during a ceremony in Hiroshima.
The New York Times says Mr Abe remains “Stubbornly true to his long-held ambition to reshape Japan’s national identity, stripping it of what he sees as a self-destructive pacifism while establishing some independence in military matters from the US, the wartime enemy that became the country’s postwar ally and protector.”
For years Japan, has been seen as the stable nation in the region, however, with China growing its army, economy and influence, Japan is less willing to be a pseudo-military base for America.
Mr Abe’s grandfather, whom he worshipped, was an influential postwar premier who on one hand resented the US and the pacifist constitution it imposed on Japan, but on the other recognised the protection America provided from the Soviet Union. It’s believed the prime minister shares these views, only today the protection provides a buffer from tensions with China.
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The bill that was passed is the outcome of a widely contested interpretation of the constitution, which previous governments had seen as forbidding all but the most strictly defensive use of force. The bills would permit Japanese forces to fight only in defence of allies, which could, for example, mean Japanese forces fighting in the Middle East.
Mr Abe’s activities have unsettled Japan’s neighbours including China, which bore the brunt of Japanese military aggression in the Second World War, and those on the Korean peninsula. An 80-year-old protestor there set himself on fire this week during a protest calling for Japan to apologise for forcing Korean girls and women to work in military brothels during World War Two.
At home, Japanese people are nervous about the direction the prime minister is taking, and his popularity is at an all time low.
Tomihisa Taue, Nagasaki’s mayor, said,”There is a burgeoning anxiety and concern that the oath etched upon our hearts 70 years ago, the peaceful ideal of the Japanese constitution, might be undermined.”
Do you think Japan should be allowed to increase its military activities now that 70 years have passed since the end of the war, or is the prime minister taking the nation into a dangerous place?