Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is not just a provision of the Japanese law; it also acts as an international peace mechanism towards reductions in military spending, promotion of nuclear-weapon-free zones, ending violence against women, supporting conflict prevention, and mitigating the negative environmental impact of the military.
With its Preamble and Article 9, the Japanese Constitution proclaims pacifism as one of the nation’s fundamental principles. Article 9 not only renounces war and the threat or use of force as a sovereign right for itself; it also demands that all wars be made illegal.
Japan’s constitution provides the right to live in peace – a basic human right not only for the Japanese people, but also for the people of the whole world. The Preamble reads as follows:
“We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship… striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.”
Article 9 has acted as a restraint on the militarization of Japan, which has maintained what it calls an “exclusively defence-oriented policy” and limited Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) capability to the “minimum necessary level.” In addition, Article 9 prohibits dispatching SDF to foreign territories to engage or participate in military combat overseas. Japan has also interpreted Article 9 as prohibiting the country from exporting arms, thus preventing the resurgence of Japan’s pre-WWII military industry complex. Furthermore, Article 9 prevents development of an arms race and nuclear proliferation in East Asia.
Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Article 9 was born out of the direct experience of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The devastation and immense suffering that followed these attacks led Japan to commit to the “three non-nuclear principles” which prohibit the country from possessing, producing, or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into its territory. The spirit of Article 9 rejects dependence on nuclear weapons in security policies and promotes Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones worldwide – an idea long advocated by hibakusha (the victims of the atomic bombings). It also demands that nuclear weapons be outlawed.
Article 9 prohibits the threat or use of force as a way of settling international disputes. As such, Japan cannot pose a threat to the security of other countries. This principle has played an important role in establishing trust relationships between Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, and has contributed to keeping the peace for more than 60 years. Article 9 is of paramount importance for the prevention of conflict. In July 2005, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)’s Action Agenda declared that “Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has been the foundation for collective security for the entire Asia Pacific region.”
US Military Presence
The move towards revision of Article 9 partly comes from the U.S. demand for Japan’s full-fledged military support and participation in its “war on terror.” Washington has consistently used the Asian-Pacific region as a hub for launching attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, the U.S. needs logistical support from its bases in the region to dispatch and sustain any deployment in the Middle East. Article 9 acts as a restraint against US military expansionism.
Poverty has long been recognized as a root cause of conflicts. Instead of building and maintaining armies in preparation for war, governments should mobilize financial resources in support of sustainable development. The United Nations has been calling for a decrease in military spending, and reallocation of limited resources to solve global problems such as poverty, hunger, epidemics, disasters, and to protect human rights. Japan’s Article 9 supplements the UN Charter (Article 26)’s call for regulating armaments and minimizing the world’s resources used on military expenses, and promotes disarmament for development.
From air, water and land pollution produced by wars to the environmental and social stresses caused by the presence of military bases, the negative effects of military activities on wildlife and the environment have long been recognized. Growing awareness of climate change has led the debate to focus on what could be achieved with the colossal resources currently being spent on the military, if instead governments invested such sums in protecting our planet from the extreme impacts of climate change.
Article 9 offers an alternative to the current global trends of globalization. Instead of the drive for economic profit, competition for political interests, and rivalry for dominance, globalization should spread pacific, gender-balanced and human values to make our increasingly interlaced world a better place. The globalization of war can only be kept in check by a new global rule of law, such as outlined in the principles of Article 9. Additionally, the principles of Article 9 call for substituting the globalization of neo-liberal economic principles, which deepen disparities among rich and poor, with sustainable, community-based development that will bring equal opportunities to all.
Article 9 distances itself from the state-centered, militaristic approach to national defense, and brings a human dimension to security, which must be based on sustainable human development and the fulfilment of basic needs by non-violent means. First developed in 1994, the notion of human security was consecrated by the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document of the United Nations.
By refusing reliance on armed force, Article 9 calls for an alternative approach to security and has paved the way for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). This landmark UN document recognizes the under-valued and under-utilized contributions that women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building, and stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.
Drawn up a few months after the founding of the United Nations, Article 9 is a logical extension of the spirit of the UN Charter. Sharing the same values of multilateralism and pacifism, Article 9 supports and strengthens UN dispositions such as Article 2(4) prohibiting the use of force and Article 26, which promotes the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.
As governments negotiate how to reform the UN, Article 9’s principles encourage the strengthening of peaceful and democratic norms that focus on the genuine prevention of armed conflicts and on peace-building efforts based on human rights and respect for cultural diversity. Any UN changes must be aimed at advancing multilateralism and pacifism.