Pacifist Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is an impediment to the alliance between Japan and the United States, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
He made his comments Wednesday to Hidenao Nakagawa, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Diet Affairs Committee, who is visiting Washington.
Armitage indicated that the present constitutional interpretation prohibiting the exercise of Japan's right to collective self-defense will have to be revised to further strengthen the military alliance between the two nations.
Armitage said much the same thing in a proposal he helped write four years ago when he was still working in the private sector as part of a bipartisan panel that outlined policy positions.
Armitage made his remarks in response to Nakagawa's comment that both the LDP and opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) would continue to discuss constitutional revision.
Armitage added that while the United States supported Japan's moves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, any nation with that status has to be prepared to deploy military force in the interests of the international community. He said unless Japan was prepared to do that, it would be difficult to become a permanent member.
I have to ask, why wouldn't this be a good thing? New investment in military capabilities might well boost Japan out of its economic torpor, and allow for a stronger regional presence. Unlike the Imperial era, Japan today is a democracy, and closely tied to the rest of the world (Japan is the Globalization poster child). Its hard to envision a scenario where Japan renews its Imperial ambitions.
It also helps to have a strong Other to rally against - in this case, China. Japan could blunt Chinese regional ambitions, especially if it went nuclear - and keep in mind that the madman in Pyongyang is just offshore. The idea is balance, not domination, and I think a strong Japan would be an essential ingredient.
Of course there are benefits beyond geopolitics - Japan would be better able to help police the Malacca straits and other chokepoints plagued by pirates on world trade. And since the boundary between shipping piracy and global terror is probably a diffuse one, a beneficial impact on terror is not fantasy.
Overall, the idea has merit. The important question is, though, what role do the Japanese themselves want to play?