By Alyssa Futa
Shinzō Abe’s sixth year as Prime Minister of Japan has come to a surprising turn as he avoids creating a timeline for his plan to amend the Japanese Constitution.
Abe has, for many years, voiced his strong opinion on amending the Japanese Constitution, specifically Article 9, as detailed by US News. This article, established after World War II and the defeat of Japan in the Pacific, stated that the country could have a military that was solely for self-defense. However, Abe has frequently called on the Japanese public and government to change this article and add constitutional armed forces to the current military.
On January 22, 2018, Abe addressed the Japanese Parliament. Reuters reports:
“‘I hope each party will submit concrete proposals to parliament … deepen debate and move forward,’ Abe said in his speech to parliament. ‘For the sake of our grandchildren, isn’t now the time to make progress toward building a new country?’”
Abe hopes that his “new country” will include a revised military, but his recent address of the constitution failed to include a timeline for this revision process, leaving many to wonder what will happen next. Previously, many believed the plan was to have the constitution changed prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Currently though, Abe has stated that there is no “fixed timeline,” according to Bloomberg.
This announcement comes at a time where Japan’s military capabilities are going through major changes. The Japanese government’s announcement that they will be looking into buying long-range missiles in order to defend themselves against North Korea has been a point of controversy among many world powers. Those who oppose this potential idea state that this is a clear violation of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, while others see the logistics behind this decision given the situation with North Korea, reports Reuters.
It appears Abe’s unwillingness or inability to reveal a timeline is likely reflective of the delicate situation that comes with the amendment. Though Japan has complied with the demands made after WWII, the revisal of Article 9 will likely not come without debate amongst world leaders. The uncertain climate within East Asia will likely be a major contributor to the discussion that surrounds this potential revision, states US News.
Many have criticized Abe for his decision to revise the constitution, claiming that this is a selfish way for him to leave a political legacy. However, others defend the Prime Minster, claiming that the current climate in East Asia is reason enough for him to take more direct action.
Abe’s speech gives rise to many questions, including why he is not taking advantage of the two-thirds majority his party currently holds in both houses of parliament, reports US News. Only a two-thirds majority and a majority of voters in a referendum is required to make amendments to the constitution.
Prime Minister Abe’s plan is likely to continue moving forward. However, as people continue to watch Japan’s actions leading up to the 2020 Olympics, one can only wonder about the details.