Japan will hold elections of the Upper House of the Diet on 21 July 2013. Several parties, notably Prime Minister Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, have made constitutional revision a priority. If they obtain a majority – and they are in a good posture to get it – they will push for amendment of war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese constitution to seek Japan to be allowed to exercise collective military action. Article 9 is not just a provision of the Japanese law. It also acts as an international peace mechanism towards reducing military spending, supporting conflict prevention, promoting nuclear-weapon-free zones, recognizing the human right to peace, and more. The Global Article 9 Campaign is asking through an online petition for everyone’s help to prevent this vital article being revised.

Adopted in the aftermath of the devastation of World War II, Article 9 was a pledge to the world, particularly neighbouring countries who had suffered under Japanese invasions, to never again wage war. Japan vowed that no other country should suffer an atomic bombing. With such a pledge, Japan prospered as an economic superpower, rather than attempting to develop as a military power.

The Article states;  1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

During the Cold War, Japan developed its ‘Self-Defense Forces (SDF)’ and has since become one of the world’s top military spenders. Yet, Article 9 – and the Japanese people’s support for its principles – have acted as a restraint against the further militarization of Japan and forced the government, in its national policies, to abide by several key principles anchored in the spirit of its peace clause, such as non-export of arms, a non-nuclear policy, and not deploying the SDF for active combat.

Back in 2006 already, when he served for his fist term as Prime Minister, Abe stated his intention to revise Article 9, partly due to the U.S. demand for full-fledged military support in its “war on terror” and to pressure by big business that sees great potential in arms development and trade. Today, as Abe is back in power, his attempts to amend the constitution, coupled with revisionist remarks by high-ranking politicians – notably regarding ‘comfort women’ forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s Imperial Army during WWII as being “necessary” and questioning whether Japan’s wartime actions should be considered as “aggression” – are generating anxious reactions in Japan.

However, such anxious reactions go far beyond the Japanese borders. At the regional level, Article 9 has served as “the foundation for collective security for the entire Asia Pacific region”. There are very real and realistic fears that a revision would trigger an arms race in East Asia – a region still haunted by unstable Cold War structures – and have severe implications for the Korean nuclear crisis and Japan’s relations with China. In such a situation, the debate over amending Article 9 threatens to destabilize the fragile peace in Northeast Asia.

The Global Article 9 Campaign, launched in 2005 by a coalition of Japanese civil society organizations, seeks not only to locally protect Article 9; it also attempts to educate people around the world about existing international peace mechanisms such as Japan’s Constitution and encourage governments to work towards disarmament, demilitarization and a culture of peace.

In the lead up to the 21 July elections, the Global Article 9 Campaign has launched an international petition to ask Prime Minister Abe not to amend Japan’s Peace clause. This initiative seeks to highlight the global support for war-renouncing Article 9 and to contribute to ensuring that global voices in support of Japan’s peace constitution are heard in the election debates.

So far, in less than 48 hours, almost 1,000 people from 57 countries have signed the petition. Join them by giving your support at www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-shinzo-abe-save-japan-s-peace-constitution. Be part of the movement to maintain Article 9 and work towards peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Marte Hellema

Programme Manager Public Outreach and Regional Coordinator Asia Pacific

Global Secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)