Over the years, as Japan boomed economically, men like former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi have tried to boost Tokyo's military without violating the constitution. [...]in 1960--in the face of bitter opposition from the Japanese left (then a much more potent force politically than it is today)--Kishi struck the U.S. Japan Security Treaty with Washington, binding Tokyo to an active role in self-defense during the Cold War.
Ever since its founding in 1955, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has wanted to write a constitution to replace the ultraliberal one which America drafted for the devastated country in a matter of days in 1946. Throwing off the framework imposed by the former occupiers is the life's work of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister. Along with a hoped-for rebound in the economy, rewriting the constitution lies at the heart of his notions for a revived Japan. Other parties will in any case contest the LDP draft. Their agendas for amendment are so various as to ensure years of debate. New Komeito, for instance, wants to increase the power of the lower house of the Diet relative to the upper house. The JRP wants decentralisation of government. Meanwhile, the public might well balk at approving a new article 96. The real risk is that, even if constitutional revision gets nowhere in the end, it will in the meantime distract attention from the vital task of reviving Japan's economy.
We have restored the bonds of friendship and the trust between Japan and the United States that had been markedly damaged over the past three years. So Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, congratulated himself after his first meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, on February 22nd. Back in Japan, politicians and the media lent their uncritical echoes to Mr Abe. They were delighted with his bold assertion that, in terms of its economic and diplomatic clout, Japan is back. Yet in the United States the judgment was rather different.