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Monday, Feb. 7, 2005
Amendment must be made easier to ensure prosperity for Japan
On Jan. 18, Keidanren released a report on basic national issues including constitutional revision and diplomatic and national security policies. It was the first time this business lobby had put together a set of proposals on these matters.
The nation finds itself confronted with a host of problems that are raising uncertainties about the very foundations of our future, such as the rapid aging of the population, the government's fiscal health, and the lack of natural resources and energy supplies. At the same time, the country is being exposed to additional risks by new threats, such as terrorism, deteriorating public safety and natural disasters. Keidanren began discussing these issues out of concern that the mere extension of old and established policies won't be enough to maintain Japan's development.
In the report, we stressed the importance of the government taking greater initiative to promulgate the basic principles that have supported our postwar prosperity -- democracy, freedom and peace.
To build a nation based on these basic principles and ideals, it is imperative the government establish a solid national security policy, reinforce its diplomatic functions and amend the Constitution, Keidanren said in the report.
Due to constraints over the activities of the Self-Defense Forces, and Japan's dependence on its security alliance with the United States, Japan's contribution to international security has so far been insufficient.
Of course, this enabled Japan to concentrate its resources on economic prosperity during its postwar reconstruction and the period of rapid growth that followed.
However, Japan, as a country lacking in natural resources and heavily reliant on external trade, needs to ensure international peace and stability and maintain harmony with the rest of the world. To pursue further development of the country, we must become more actively involved in the process of solving problems that confront the global community.
While strengthening the Japan-U.S. security alliance and trying to build an East Asia free trade zone, the nation should clarify the meaning of Section 2 of Article 9 of the Constitution and make it clear that the country can exercise the right to collective defense.
Of course, measures also must be taken to limit the scope of the SDF's missions and collective defense activities so as to avoid raising concerns that Japan is again on the path to militarism.
Japan's Constitution has not been revised since its creation in 1946, but Germany -- which was defeated in World War II together with Japan -- has amended its supreme code 51 times (as of 2002). And Italy has revised its constitution 14 times (as of 2003).
As a nation ruled by law, Japan should ease the legal requirements for amending the Constitution so that amendments can be introduced in a manner timely enough to respond to changes in the country's circumstances.
While there are a number of other issues involving constitutional amendment, Keidanren believes it would be realistic to tackle these two issues -- amending Article 9 and relaxing the constitutional amendment requirements -- as priorities for Japan.
For Japan to build a nation that fits the image of the future envisioned by the public and by Japanese corporations, each one of the Japanese people should engage in continued debate on the very foundations of our country.
We hope our report will increase momentum for such debate and contribute to Japan's future.
Yoshio Nakamura is a senior managing director of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).