Monday, the AP reported that Japan’s parliament voted to hold a referendum on Article 9 of its constitution. That provision in the constitution very strictly limits Japanese use of force. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly supports a variety of measures and the country will spend the next few years debating the language of the referendum:
Abe’s party has promoted weakening Article 9 to allow more peacekeeping missions, and perhaps to let Japanese troops come to the aid of an ally such as the United States.
Sounds kind of defensive, eh?
However, many of Japan’s neighbors are likely NOT to want this change:
“Although Japan doesn’t have the intent of becoming a military power, revising the constitution could be seen by neighboring countries as a move toward militarism,” said Hiro Katsumata, a defense analyst at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Short version: anything that makes Japan feel more secure has the opposite result in China.
Incidentally, the vote cannot come before 2010 and the parliament cannot vote on the issue during the preparation period. Cynically, that allows plenty of time for hotter heads to prevail.