Call to Order

The Yomiuri Shimbun has been an excellent source of news on Japan's practical attainment of noble standing in the free world. Debate on the revision of war-renouncing Article 9 of the postwar constitution proceeds while less newsworthy — yet significant — operational changes, made in close coordination with the United States, are under consideration or due for implementation.

In the conference room, suggestions, differences, arguments and compromises shape constitutional draft amendments to be revealed in April:

The Liberal Democratic Party's committee on constitutional reform is involved in heated debates over whether the party should maintain its conservative stance or work with other parties to devise constitutional amendments that are feasible. The hottest topic at the meeting was whether the amended Constitution should clearly state the right to exercise collective self-defense.

...An advocate of the change said, "It would be bad if the government's interpretation of the stipulation could be easily altered after a change in administration. An ambiguous constitution is problematic."

But an opponent said, "It's a matter of course that the nation can exercise the right to collective self-defense. There's no need to put it in the Constitution."

The Liberal Democratic Party appears to be as solidly eager to establish Japan's right to military action as the party leading Diet opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, is abhorrent. A two-thirds majority requirement for amendment passage will force the LDP to balance its venerable political power with parliamentary realities.

For Japanophobes reading a jingoist resurgence between the lines, relax: some committee members were reportedly dithering on the potential offensiveness of the newly directed armed forces' title.

The fact that Japanese (or any foreign) military self-reliance would modify (and eventually obviate) America's based military presence is lost on neither Washington nor Tokyo. During the recent meeting that produced Japan's first unambiguous statement respecting Taiwan's freedom from Chinese seizure, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discussed with their Tokyo counterparts how best to renovate a San Franciscan house built in 1951:

At a bilateral meeting of foreign and defense chiefs, the two sides confirmed that within the next few months they would map out measures to realign U.S. troops in Japan by reviewing role-sharing between the SDF and U.S. troops and speeding up discussions on the realignment of U.S. military bases.

...Government plans for sharing U.S. military bases involve introducing a variety of sharing formats, including one in which the management rights to U.S. military bases would be returned to Japan, and another that would follow an existing format used at Misawa base in Aomori Prefecture, where SDF troops already use the base under U.S. administration.

...[Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori] Ono's remarks highlighted government plans to enhance base sharing, improve bilateral interoperability and increase joint exercises.

Diplomatically, bilateralism is in bold display:

The two sides also discussed measures relating to China, with Machimura saying it was important to ask the Chinese government to increase the transparency of its military spending.

With a touch of helpful initiative:

The LDP and Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) have been busy drafting bills to be presented to the current Diet session for a law aimed at improving the human rights situation in North Korea. The bills being prepared by the LDP and Minshuto are designed to increase pressure on North Korea over such issues as the abduction of Japanese by Pyongyang and assistance to North Koreans fleeing the country, sources said.

From enemy, to companion, to compatriot: quite a lot to be said for democratic creative destruction.

THE CATCH: Yomiuri's links are fly-by-night. All have been switched to caches or mirrors.

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