Seven decades after its surrender ended World War II, Japan took its most significant step away from the pacifist foreign policy that shaped 70 years of its post-war history.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent considerable effort to push a bill reinterpreting Article 9 of the country’s constitution through the Diet, Japan’s legislature. On Thursday, legislators brawled when opposition politicians tried to physically block a vote on the legislation. It passed Friday after three days of raucous debate in the House of Councillors, the upper house of the Japanese parliament, marking a historic shift in the nation’s approach to international affairs.
Pacifism formed the nucleus of Japan’s foreign policy in the post-war era. The policy is rooted in the horrors of the Pacific War and Japan’s wartime trauma, including the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Article 9 of the post-war constitution, drafted under U.S. occupation in 1947, declares that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.”
This constitutional language is common among the former Axis powers. Article 11 of the Italian Constitution declares that Italy “rejects war as an instrument of aggression.” Article 26 of Germany’s Basic Law forbids “activities tending and undertaken with the intent to disturb peaceful relations between nations, especially to prepare for aggressive war.”