With a view to the political stability of Afghanistan and Iraq,
Japan's stance on its international contribution is being widely
debated. The Japanese government wants to ensure that the Maritime
Self-Defense Force is able to continue supplying fuel and water to U.S.
and British naval vessels in the Indian Ocean, but the nation's
opposition parties insist that only activities that come under a UN
mandate are permissible if members of the Self-Defense Forces are to be
sent abroad, arguing that their recent mission has been
What forms the basis of their opposition is a difference in
interpretation of Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, which begins:
"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and
order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of
the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling
Through the constraints imposed by the wording of this article,
Japan has never been involved in a war in the six decades since World
War II, has never sent her troops abroad as fighting forces, and has
maintained a continuing state of peace.
In 2001, however, the Japanese government submitted the
Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Bill to the National Diet, and after it
was passed, under the terms of the new law, Japan began supplying fuel
and water to war vessels of the United States, Britain, and other
countries that had been dispatched to find and destroy enclaves of
Al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups. The subject of the
current debate is whether sending Self-Defense members abroad to
continue the refueling mission falls within the purview of the
Constitution as a legitimate type of international contribution, or
whether it goes counter to Article 9.
For this reason, within the government and the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party, a movement to ease the making of military
contributions by revising Article 9 has gained strength during the past
few years. The National Referendum Law, which is a procedural law
necessary for revising the Constitution, was enacted by the Diet in May
When we observe the brutality of the random acts of terrorist
violence as well as the political turbulence not only in Afghanistan
and Iraq, but also in neighboring countries, surely there is no one who
does not wish for peace to come as swiftly as possible. In that regard,
it is only natural for the international community to expect a
meaningful contribution from Japan commensurate with its position as
one of the world's leading economic powers.
But is it only through military force, one needs to ask, that peace
can be brought about? In a world undergoing ever increasing
globalization and the deepening of relationships of interdependence,
the idea that peace can only be achieved through military means may be
a concept left over from an earlier time.
What is needed today is for us all to turn our eyes to such problems
as the poverty, discrimination, and oppression that often become the
causes of war, and to seek to ensure peace by maintaining a
comprehensive viewpoint that encompasses such basic issues as economic
and energy requirements, and protection of human rights and the
Here, I am reminded of the preamble to the Japanese Constitution:
"We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are
deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and
we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in
the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We
desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving
for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and
slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We
recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in
peace, free from fear and want."
What this means is that there is a strong national determination to
attain world harmony and to maintain peace without reliance on military
means. If we can put into practice the spirit of the preamble, perhaps
we could say that the actions currently being undertaken by the
government are too heavily weighted toward military force. Rather than
impetuously rushing to revise the Constitution, is it not the mission
and duty of Japan, which established a Peace Constitution after World
War II, to use its power to help rebuild the infrastructure and restore
the people's livelihood in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq?
Speaking as a Buddhist, I believe that the greatest contribution
that Japan could make to the world today is to widely spread the spirit
of Article 9 around the globe.
Takeshi Kawabata is director of the External Affairs Department of Rissho Kosei-kai.
This article was originally published in the January-March 2008 issue of Dharma World.