PRIME Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan won a sweeping victory in the elections last Sunday. His Liberal Democratic Party and its allies won 77 out of 78 seats needed for a two-thirds majority in the upper house. With four independents who support revision of the Constitution, Prime Minister Abe is in position to push for constitutional change and put it to a referendum.
The Philippines and other nations in the region, as well as the United States, are closely following developments in Japan, for they could affect the shaky balance of military power in Asia. Abe has long sought revision of the American-written Consitution, imposed Constitution, imposed on Japan in 1947 after its defeat in World War II in 1945. Article 9 of this Constitution renounces war and forbids Japan to threaten or to use force as a means of settling international disputes. Japan has had Self-Defense Forces since 1954, but they may not participate in any regional operation even if it is in Japan’s national interest.
Recently, Prime Minister Abe secured legislation allowing Japan to join collective self-defense action in case an attack on an ally threatens Japan’s own survival. But that opening is severely limited because of Section 9 of the Constitution. It cannot, for example, join the US and other nations in asserting their right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
In the years after the end of World War II, the Philippines had reason to fear a revival of Japanese military strength, as we suffered less than three years of Japanese occupation. But times have since changed considerably.
Today we feel threatened from another direction and we see Japan, along with the US, as an ally with similar problems and concerns in our part of the world. Japan too has maritime disputes with China in the East China Sea.
Prime Minister Abe has won a big election victory and he is concentrating on accelerating economic development under what has come to known as “Abenomics.” But his ultimate goal is to amend Japan’s Constitution to remove the American-imposed restrictions on Japan’s independent use of its armed forces.
We are closely following developments in Japan, principally because of our ongoing concern with peace and our own maritime interests in our region. We trust that the ongoing transition in Japan will be of help to us and to the other nations in Southeast Asia and the world.