The Japanese Communist Party will keep the defense of Japan’s “peace constitution” one of its central tasks as it gears up for April’s elections to the Diet, the nation’s parliament.

Currently, the constitution states, in Article 9, that “aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war.” It says that in order to accomplish this aim, “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

The current Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi, both of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), have been pushing to revise the constitution in order to make Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) into an army with offensive capabilities.

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP), along with Japan’s peace movement and neighboring states, says that Article 9 must be maintained.

“Although the Japanese military was established in violation of the constitution,” JCP Chair Shii Kazuo said in a Jan. 16 television interview, “the Japanese military has killed no foreigners since the end of the war, and none in the military has been killed in wars.”

Shii continued, “This is unique among countries participating in the G8 Summit. This is not because the Liberal Democratic Party is peaceful, but because Article 9 has displayed its value in protecting the peace.”

The prime minister has been pressing for a bill authorizing a national referendum that would make it easier to amend the constitution.

“It is important to thoroughly reveal in discussions that the enactment of this bill is inseparable from the revision of Article 9,” Shii said. His remarks came in a Jan. 25 meeting of JCP Diet members.

Already, the ruling right-wing LDP has been pushing the boundaries of Article 9, most recently when Koizumi sent 5,500 military personnel to aid the U.S. occupation and invasion of Iraq. While the troops purportedly did not engage in military combat, the JCP, the Article 9 Defense Association, the peace movement and others have condemned this move.

The Japanese peace forces argue that the U.S. is pushing the LDP government to move towards turning Japan into a “normal country,” that is, a nation with war-making capabilities, in order to serve as an outpost for U.S. policy in a region that is growing increasingly unfriendly towards U.S. imperialism.

Akahata, the JCP’s newspaper, said, “The Bush administration is dispatching another 20,000 troops to Iraq. U.S. forces’ inhumane and indiscriminate attacks will inevitably intensify. … Japan must end the dispatch of SDF to Iraq in subordination to the U.S., and immediately pull them out of the country.”

A Jan. 14 Akahata editorial said a proposal to put the SDF in closer cooperation with NATO “will only help strengthen the global strategy of the Bush administration, which is increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.”

In the Jan. 18 interview, Shii, echoing the U.S. peace movement’s call for “books not bombs,” said, “Although Japan’s military budget is large in absolute terms, it has been relatively small in comparison with the [GDP] due to Article 9. This has prompted the government to use funds for economic development.”

“As a matter of fact,” he continued, “Article 9 has sustained postwar Japan.”

The Akahata editorial called for Japan to work within the United Nations Charter, saying, that “trying to strengthen military alliances that require a hypothetical enemy will hamper the effort to achieve a world without war. The world current is drastically moving away from military alliances into an era of communities of nations for peace.”

In the April elections, the JCP would like to top its highest-yet vote, just under 9 million in 1998.

dmargolis @
Japan Press Service contributed to this article.