Japanese activists turned out in the thousands last week to oppose changes to the nation’s pacifist constitution.
At issue is the so-called Article 9, a charter which severely restricts the activity of the Japanese military, and which has been targeted for updating as the nation’s international role has changed in recent years.
According to the Associated Press, thousands of activists gathered outside of Tokyo last week for a peace conference centered around the issue.
A statement by the organizers of the event said, “We believe that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution constitutes a world-class model for peace and should be protected as a global treasure for future generations,” according to the Associated Press.
Imposed after Japan’s defeat in World War II, the charter states, “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
Article 9 has kept Japan’s military role to a minimum in such conflicts as the Iraq war.
The Japanese navy assists U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, and a small contingent of Japanese army troops is in Iraq on a humanitarian mission, with orders to fire only if fired upon.
They are the first Japanese troops to enter a combat zone since World War II, according to the BBC.
According to Canadian polling firm Angus Reid, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura has supported a larger role for the Japanese military, saying, “We must take part more actively in peacekeeping operations permissible under the current system.”
A 2006 poll found that 77 percent of the Japanese people oppose altering Article 9.
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