Article 9 of The Japanese Constitution - Historical Background

Historical Background

The failure of the collective security of the League of Nations led to the realization that a universal system of security could only be effective if nations agreed to some limitation of their national sovereignty with regard to their right to belligerence. Like the German Article 24, which was incorporated in the post-war German Constitution, and which provides for delegating or limiting sovereign powers in favor of collective security, Article 9 was added to the Constitution of Japan during the occupation following World War II.

The source of the pacifist clause is disputed. According to the Allied Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur, the provision was suggested by Prime Minister Kijūrō Shidehara, who "wanted it to prohibit any military establishment for Japan—any military establishment whatsoever." Shidehara's perspective was that retention of arms would be "meaningless" for the Japanese in the postwar era, because any substandard postwar military would no longer gain the respect of the people, and would actually cause people to obsess with the subject of rearming Japan. Shidehara admitted to his authorship in his memoirs Gaikō Gojū-Nen (Fifty Years Diplomacy), published in 1951, where he described how the idea came to him on a train ride to Tokyo; MacArthur himself confirmed Shidehara's authorship on several occasions. However, according to some interpretations, he denied having done so, and the inclusion of Article 9 was mainly brought about by the members of Government Section (民政局, Min-Sei-Kyoku?) of Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) (連合国軍最高司令官, Rengō-Koku-Gun-Saikō-Shirei-Kan?), especially Charles Kades, one of Douglas MacArthur's closest associates. The article was endorsed by the Diet of Japan on November 3, 1946. Kades rejected the proposed language that prohibited Japan's use of force "for its own security," believing that self-preservation was the right of every nation.

The article's acceptance by the Japanese government may in part be explained by the desire to protect the imperial throne. Some Allied leaders saw the emperor as the primary factor in Japan's warlike behavior. His assent to the "anti-war" clause weakened their arguments for abolishing the throne or trying the emperor as a war criminal.

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