The pacifist Constitution

Print edition : February 01, 2019

INTERESTINGLY, radically overhauling Japan’s pacifist Constitution was a long-cherished dream of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi. He was Prime Minister of Japan in the late 1950s and was an arch conservative. Recently declassified documents reveal that Kishi had set a two-year deadline for the revision of the Constitution when he was Prime Minister. Many Japanese at the time viewed their Constitution as a humiliating document imposed on them by the conquering United States Army at the end of the Second World War. The Constitution has remained unchanged ever since it was adopted in 1947. The U.S. had also refused to cede full sovereignty of the Ogasawara and Okinawa islands to the Japanese at the time.

Kishi, before embarking on a state visit to the U.S. in 1957, conveyed to Washington that bilateral relations were not in “an appropriate state”. He said that the way to rectify the situation was to amend the Constitution. Kishi told the U.S. that he was confident of getting a two-thirds majority in the parliament to change the Constitution. He had also expressed confidence that the Japanese people would overwhelmingly approve a new Constitution once it was subjected to a referendum. The U.S. did not approve of Kishi’s plans to change the Constitution at the time, but it did finally hand over control of the two islands back to Japan. Ogasawara reverted to Japan in 1968 and Okinawa in 1972. And since the rise of China, the U.S. has been actively encouraging Japan to change its Constitution. Abe, unlike his grandfather, has the support of the U.S. However, he still has to carry the Japanese people with him.

 

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