It took a war of attrition for Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, to win agreement to end a long-standing ban on Japanese troops coming to the aid of allies. But in the end, after months of wrangling, he managed to win the consent of his coalition partner, New Komeito, which had strongly opposed the change. On July 1st the cabinet approved a reinterpretation of the constitution, marking a milestone in Japan's post-war security policy. Article Nine of the 67-year-old document stipulates that Japan forever renounces war as a sovereign right. But Mr Abe's change means that Japan's Self-Defence Forces (SDF) will for the first time be permitted to participate in "collective self-defence"--if certain conditions are met. Once the necessary legislative amendments are passed, Japan will be able to come to the aid of an ally, such as America or Australia--but only if Japan itself is under threat. This week Mr Abe promised that American-led combat missions in far-flung places remained off-limits. Mr Abe had wished to rewrite Article Nine altogether, but that was quickly ruled out.
Imagine that China decided to land soldiers on the disputed islands that it calls the Diaoyus. Japan, which administers the uninhabited rocks and knows them as the Senkakus, might, under its own laws, be unable to meet the incursion with force. The coastguard may repel private vessels, but not troops arriving from the air or from a submarine. It is not clear whether Japan's pacifist constitution prevents its Self-Defence Forces from striking back until its own citizens are injured. Nor is it obvious that its main ally, America, would go to war to rid the Senkakus of the platoon of Chinese troops. This uncertainty is dangerous. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, should be trying to allay fears. He has chosen instead to visit a shrine commemorating high-ranking war criminals.
ON July 1, 2o14, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe＇s l administration adopted a cabinet resolution to ＂reinterpret＂ the constitution and so al- low the country to exercise collective self-defense. Since Abe took office in December 2012, his administration has consistently sought to break with the restrictions of Article 9 of Japan＇s pacifist constitution, which renounces＂the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.＂ The resolution in effect reflects Abe＇s ultimate aim. Although the Abe administration has issued specific restrictions on the right to collective self-defense, and there are constraints on Japan＇s use of military force, this reinterpretation nonetheless marks a turning point in Japan＇s historical course since WWII. The removal of the ban on the right of collective self-defense implies abandonment of Japan＇s anti-war defense system and therefore reclamation of its right to use military force, not only domestically but also internationally. Marine territorial disputes, historical issues, notably that of the socalled comfort women in Japan-occupied Asian countries forced to work in military brothels, and not least Japan＇s rampant political right deviation, have created serious tensions between Japan and its Asian neighbors. The removal of the ban on the right of collective self-defense is a political shot in the arm for the Abe administration, and endorses enhancement of Japan＇s military function within the Japan-U.S. alliance. But as regards peace and stability in Asia, it confirms Japan＇s propensity to be a trouble maker in the region.