Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#914】Chance Has Come for Japan to Amend Constitution

Tadae Takubo / 2022.05.02 (Mon)

May 2, 2022

Changes in the international situation are prompting the need for Japan to amend the constitution. The Ukraine war has led North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries to enhance defense capabilities. In particular, Germany that had tended to avoid military contribution has decided to raise defense spending sharply from 1.5% of gross domestic product to more than 2%. American liberals who have been sensitive to moves in Japan to enhance defense efforts are quiet for the moment. The third chance has come for Japan to amend the constitution.

Two previous missed opportunities

The first chance came as the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Then U.S. President Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union address in January 1980 vowed to take all necessary measures including military means to ward off any attempt by foreign powers to control the Persian Gulf, noting that such an attempt “would be considered [as] an attack on vital American interests.” U.S. Defense Secretary Harold Brown visited Japan and urged Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, Foreign Minister Saburo Okita and Defense Agency Director-General Enji Kubota to make “steady and significant” defense efforts.

In three months, House of Representative lawmaker Yasuhiro Nakasone (who later became Japan’s prime minister) visited China and held a meeting with Wu Xiuquan, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army. Wu proposed that Japan raise defense spending from only less than 1% of gross national product to 2%. Though describing the proposal as a personal one, Wu undoubtedly disclosed China’s real feelings when it was deepening confrontation with the Soviet Union.

Both the United States and China urged Japan to boost defense spending. It may have been an unrepeatable chance for Japan to amend the constitution.

The second chance came with the 1991 Persian Gulf War in which U.S.-led multinational forces warded off Iraqi forces invading Kuwait. Japan contributed $13 billion to the Desert Storm operation conducted by 30 countries, without any intention to shed blood or sweat. Japan, which then depended on the Gulf region for more than 70% of its oil imports, came under international fire for leaving other countries to ensure its security and ending up by paying money. This may have been a chance for Japan to amend the constitution and embark on international contributions.

Japan should follow German turnaround

The Ukraine war provides a great opportunity for Japan to correct defects regarding national defense and transform into a normal country on the pattern of Germany. American liberals who have tended to be nervous about Japan’s moves to amend the constitution remain quiet. Now may not be the time for American liberals to toy with a narrow-sighted argument that Japan is reviving militarism as a huge hegemonic power is about to be born on the Eurasian continent with Russia suffering from strategic damage due to the Ukraine war and becoming economically dependent on China.

Germany, the same defeated country as Japan of World War II that had avoided things military while being plagued by the nightmares of Adolf Hitler, has achieved the reunification of the country and its transformation into a normal country that balances military with economy. Japanese politicians should learn from Germany that did not miss its chance.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University.