Call for Japan to exercise collective self-defense gains strong support

December 18, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

An overwhelming majority of new and re-elected Lower House lawmakers are rallying around calls by Shinzo Abe, the next prime minister, to amend the Constitution and also allow Japan to engage in collective self-defense, according to a joint survey by The Asahi Shimbun and the University of Tokyo.

The survey found that 79 percent of those lawmakers are in favor of Japan’s exercising the right to collective self-defense, and 89 percent support amending the Constitution.

The figures represent a jump of 46 percentage points and 30 percentage points, respectively, from the previous survey in 2009 and reflect the conservative Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide victory coupled with the rise of the Japan Restoration Party in the Lower House election held Dec. 16.

The LDP’s strength expanded from 118 to 294 of the 480-seat Lower House. The Japan Restoration Party, also with many conservative members, added 43 seats to its pre-election strength of 11.

The survey found that 68 percent of the lawmakers support the opinion that the Constitution should be amended. Twenty-one percent were inclined to agree.

Four percent were opposed and 2 percent were inclined to disagree.

The survey was based on questionnaires sent to candidates in the Lower House race after the chamber was dissolved on Nov. 16.

Replies were received from 454, or 95 percent, of the new and re-elected members of the Lower House.

A team at the University of Tokyo led by Masaki Taniguchi, a professor of Japanese politics, worked with The Asahi Shimbun to collate the results.

After the 2005 Lower House election that the LDP won by a landslide, 87 percent of members in the chamber said they would endorse constitutional revision.

The figure plunged to 59 percent after the Democratic Party of Japan made a clean sweep in the 2009 Lower House election.

In the Upper House, 57 percent were in favor of constitutional revision after the 2007 Upper House election. The number rose to 61 percent after the 2010 Upper House vote.

As for Japan exercising the right to collective self-defense, the survey showed 56 percent of new and re-elected Lower House members were in favor. Twenty-three percent said they were inclined to show support for it.

The combined figure represents a significant leap from the comparable number in the 2005 poll.

In the 2005 survey, nearly 90 percent supported constitutional revision, but only 35 percent endorsed the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.

In the 2009 survey, the figure was 33 percent.

In the view of successive administrations, Japan under international law has the right to collective self-defense but exercising it would violate the Constitution.

The Article 9 of the Constitution renounces the use of armed force to settle international disputes.

Calls for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense center on a scenario in which Japanese forces would be able to rush to the aid of a U.S. warship if it was fired on in waters around the Senkaku Islands, which Japan claims as part of its territory, an issue that is hotly disputed by China.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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The Diet building in Tokyo's Nagatacho district (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Diet building in Tokyo's Nagatacho district (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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