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Japan: Peace activists rally to halt war charter changes

HUNDREDS of peace activists gathered at a Tokyo rally on Japan’s Constitution Day on Saturday to oppose militarist changes to its post-WWII charter.

The demonstration took place amid a growing debate over whether to revise the anti-war constitution as US strategy in the region increasingly targets China.

But protest organiser Ken Takada explained: “We citizens must stand up, take action and raise our voice.

“Or this country could return to a Japan that wages war with Asia as it has done before.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for an expanded military role but while his right-wing Liberal Democrats have long urged a change in the self-defence clause public opinion has remained opposed.

Mr Abe is now proposing that the government reinterprets the constitution to give the military more prominence without having to win public approval for the revisions.

His initiative is backed by the US but has upset Japanese people who see it as undermining the constitution and democratic processes.

The 1947 constitution says that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation” and that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

That ban has been relaxed over the years with US encouragement as the cold war unfolded and latterly against the growing might of China.

Mr Abe's grandfather Nobusuke Kishi — who was arrested as a suspected war criminal but never charged and later became prime minister — was among vocal opponents of the constitution.

A 2012 draft revision proposed by the Liberal Democrats promotes a conformist Japan with traditional patriarchal values, which place family units above individuals and elevate the emperor to head of state. 

Civil liberties such as freedom of speech and expression could be restricted if considered harmful to public interest, according to the draft.

Amending the constitution requires two-thirds approval in both houses of parliament followed by a referendum.


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