07/02/2014, 00.00
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Tokyo, after 60 years pacifism dropped from Constitution

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lauds the decree approved yesterday which effectively abolishes Art. 9 of the Charter, that set limits on the national army. Protests from China, South Korea and Japanese civil society: more than 10 thousand people take to the streets in Tokyo and compare the prime minister to Hitler.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - After 60 years of institutional pacifism, the Japanese government yesterday approved a decree that "interprets" (and in fact deletes) Article 9 of the National Constitution. It basically reduced Japan's armed forces to humanitarian missions and self-defense operations.

The approval of the decree is in fact a victory for the Conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had based his election campaign on the idea: "The environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly dangerous - the Japanese prime minister told a press conference - and to be prepared for any eventuality, we need to develop legislation to ensure security, to protect the lives of our people and ensure peace".

The debate on the abolition of Article. 9 has stirred up a mostly negative reaction from Japanese society. The Catholic Church has repeatedly asked the government to back off and not give in to the temptations of militarism. In a message published in June of 2013, the Archbishop of Tokyo and President of the Bishops' Conference had defined the constitutional pacifism of the Land of the Rising Sun "a source of pride before all mankind."

But the calls for peace have fallen on deaf ears. Abe's decision has also provoked China, the not too hidden target of this latest move. The Chinese Foreign Ministry says it is "very concerned" and has urged Tokyo to "act with prudence in matters of security."

Japan is embroiled in a dispute with the Asian giant over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands - which Beijing calls "Diaoyu" - and China, in turn, is grappling with several territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and India. In Korea, a protest was held yesterday in front of the Japanese embassy, while in Tokyo over 10 thousand people marched on government buildings comparing the prime minister to Hitler. Recently a man even set himself on fire in protest.


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