Japan in changing world

IF JAPAN is all set to change its pacifist Constitution, it is definitely a sad commentary on the times we are in.

The end of the Second World War saw Japan not only devastated, but also derided by all for its military misadventures. That prompted it to renounce military ambitions in future and concentrate on economic development. That paid handsomely as Japan is today one of the world's top industrialised nations and its people are leading a prosperous life.

The pacifist Constitution, however, has not prevented Japan from acquiring military muscle and maintaining the world's fifth largest military budget ($45 billion). This strength has not been used in combat so far.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is bent on rewriting the Constitution, framed in 1947 by American occupiers, in a way that will restore Japan's right to wage war, if need be, his ostensible purpose being to enable the country widen its global clout. Rewriting the Constitution will be a long process that has already begun.

Japan's move should be seen in the context of the sense of insecurity that is pervading the region and other parts of the world. For instance, there has been a heavy military build-up by China. Japan and China continue to have an uneasy bilateral relationship. North Korea's test-firing of missiles has only added to Japan's threat perceptions in recent times —Japan hosts some 30,000 American soldiers on its soil. Add to this the occasional violations of its airspace and territorial waters by China and Russia.

The world has changed too over the years and more so in recent times. The pacifist Constitution had come into being in a scenario in which humanity, having been a witness to WW II horrors, wanted a world without wars. Recent instances like Iraq have, however, undercut such initiatives and put the world in reverse gear. Such military expeditions have undoubtedly heightened the sense of insecurity prevailing in independent nations that have limited military capabilities. Japan's move to restore its right to wage war must also be seen in this light.

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