Thursday, October 05, 2006

Abe--from peace country to normal country

Washington should be thoroughly pleased with the pledges from the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to repeal the military restrictions of Article 9 of the U.S.-imposed constitution. Lacking a normal military force has hamstrung Japan's diplomatic presence in Asia and has left Japanese foreign policy adrift. As Mr. Abe leads Japan from a peace state to a normal state, the United States should expect a close ally to start to reshape the security dynamic in Asia and to take a larger role in the war on terror.

Mr. Abe's predecessor, who also favored strong relations with the United States, had sent troops to Iraq in 2003. But they could only serve in a strictly noncombat role. Japan was also precluded from supplying troops for the coalition in the 1991 Gulf War, although it did furnish $13 billion, and was understandably displeased when Kuwait failed to thank it publicly for the effort.

Mr. Abe has maintained his commitment to revise Article 9, but told lawmakers recently that "criticism that the purpose of our plan to revise the constitution is to become a country that wages war overseas is totally off the mark." Statements such as this are important to reassure domestic as well as international critics that Japan's transition will be from pacifism to military preparedness, not to military aggression.

A tough question, but I guess the majority will opposed to reforming the article 9.

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