In Washington, Defense Minister Kyuma told the Washington Post that revision will go forward, but with “restraint” and with the goal of enabling Japan to uphold UN resolutions, a position that sounds rather similar to DPJ President Ozawa Ichiro’s “UN-centric” foreign policy activism.
Meanwhile, on 2 May, at a press conference in Cairo, Abe emphasized that Japan must explain constitution revision to the US and to surrounding countries in Asia so “to not be misunderstood,” as the Diet prepares in the coming weeks to pass the legislation establishing a national referendum system for constitution revision.
The problem with coverage of the Abe Cabinet’s comments on revision, however, is that these reports take for granted the ease with which Abe will be able to get his way on drafting revisions. Despite this recent Mainichi survey that showed 51% of those polled in favor of revision, other surveys have suggested that support for revision is far from overwhelming, especially where the first clause (renouncing war) of Article 9 is concerned. Of course, even within the political system support is far from assured — with the DPJ opposed to revision at this juncture and moderates within the LDP concerned about the outline of revision — raising questions as to whether the Cabinet would be able to muster the necessary two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet. (And if Abe’s bid to make this summer’s election about constitution revision results in a disastrous defeat for the LDP, will constitution revision retain a prominent position on the national agenda?)
Again, as with the transformation of the US-Japan alliance, what matters is the process: if constitution revision results from a genuine debate, engaging all parts of Japanese society, as opposed to being imposed from above, then indeed constitution revision can play an important part in rejuvenating Japanese society in the twenty-first century. But if it just perpetuates heavy-handed, top-down rule from above by authorities in Nagata-cho and Kasumigaseki, then constitution revision is the wrong policy at the wrong time for the Japanese people.