How much has Japan changed after World War II

Japan wants to strengthen the military


Alexandra Sakaki

ARTE Journal: What is the special meaning of article nine in the Japanese constitution?

Alexandra Sakaki: Article 9 of the constitution, which was largely formulated by the USA, has shaped Japanese security policy since the end of the Second World War. If you read it carefully, it basically means that Japan is not allowed to maintain a military. However, the exact interpretation of the article was changed relatively early, around the early to mid-1950s. Namely, to the effect that Japan may only maintain armed forces for the purpose of self-defense, the army was not allowed to carry out other tasks. The Shinzo Abe government changed its interpretation of the purely defensive character of the military in a cabinet decision last summer. With this, Japan's army, provided that the security of its own country is endangered, can also rush to the aid of other partners in the event of a defense.

What does Prime Minister Abe want to achieve with the constitutional amendment?

I think the main reason is that Japan wants to be a more equal ally with the US. In the past few months, the question of how far Japan can rely on the US in certain situations has arisen. The main reason for this is the territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Japanese are no longer quite sure whether the USA would support Tokyo in the event of a conflict and defend the islands against China. With the change of course, the Japanese government now hopes to become an equal, more valuable partner who can provide the US with military aid if necessary and who will not be let down by Washington in the event of a conflict.


Has the big neighbor China, which has been massively armed with military equipment in recent years and has considerable territorial claims, contributed to the development in Japan?

Indeed, that is the decisive factor in the debate that there are more and more worries in Japan about the growing military strength of China. Beijing has greatly expanded its presence in the region in recent years, especially around the disputed islands, with its navy and coastal defense. The fact that China appears powerfully with its interests here is perceived as a danger in Japan. That is the main reason that is driving the political debate in Japan at the moment.


The latest surveys have shown that around 80 percent of Japanese are dissatisfied with the reasons for the change in the law.

Alexandra Sakaki - 16/07/2015

A debate that is being followed very closely in Beijing. Can you understand China's nervous reactions to Tokyo's plans? After all, the Japanese army committed gruesome war crimes in China before the catastrophic defeat in World War II.

I believe that a critical look at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is entirely understandable. He is a more right-wing nationalist politician who is not particularly critical of Japan's war past, and also glosses over what happened back then. In this respect, I can understand the concerns of the neighbors who suffered from it at the time. On the other hand, one must also see that Japan was a very peaceful country after the Second World War that only sent its armed forces abroad under strict conditions, even if these were United Nations missions. I think there is no need to fear that Japan will now become a belligerent power with a reinterpretation of its security policy. Nevertheless, more trust needs to be created in the region as a whole, but the responsibility for this lies not only on the Japanese side.


In Japan, as in Germany, the two big losers of 1945, strong anti-militarist mentalities developed in the period that followed. Should Shinzoe Abe expect domestic opposition if he goes ahead with his plans?

In addition to the clear political majority with which the laws can be passed, there are reservations among the population. The latest surveys have shown that around 80 percent of Japanese are dissatisfied with the reasons for the change in the law. There are still a lot of questions and skepticism in public, and a lot of persuasion for Shinzo Abe. In addition, the government needs a parliamentary resolution if it wants to send troops abroad. So the debates will continue, especially in the absence of public support for such military operations.