Kōmeitō in Japanese Politics

Its Pacifism and Influence on Japan’s Security Policy

Daisuke Akimoto, Sōka University Peace Research Institute, Japan [About | Email]

Volume 12, Issue 3 (Article 1 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 17 February 2012.

Abstract

In the study of Japanese politics, Kōmeitō tends to be overlooked despite its position as a casting voter. This paper sheds light on the influence of Kōmeitō and its pacifism on Japan’s security policy. By applying a theoretical classification based on political philosophies, this study categorises Kōmeitō’s pacifism as ‘anti-war pacifism’, ‘realistic pacifism’, and ‘international pacifism’. Based on these theoretical perspectives, this paper argues that Kōmeitō’s anti-war pacifism has been consistent, that the party has recognised Japan’s right of self-defence based on realistic pacifism, and that Kōmeitō has supported Japan’s contributions to post-conflict peace operations based on international pacifism. To substantiate the main arguments, this paper outlines the historical background of the pacifism of Kōmeitō, the shift in security policy of the party in the Cold War period, and examines the roles of the party in the three important legislative processes of the 1992 International Peace Cooperation Law, the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, and the 2003 Iraq Special Measures Law. Finally, the paper explores the implications of Kōmeitō’s stance on constitutional revision with particular regard to Article 9, the so-called ‘peace clause’, which is crucial to Japanese security policy.

Keywords: Kōmeitō, pacifism, PKO, security policy, Sōka Gakkai.

Introduction

Scholarly works on Kōmeitō, also known as the Clean Government Party, are relatively scarce, although it had been the third largest political party in Japan until July 2012, and was a coalition government partner of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for ten years in total. One reason may be inferred from the fact that analysts of Japanese politics normally focus on the Japanese government. Another reason is Kōmeitō’s relationship with the Sōka Gakkai, the largest Buddhist organisation in Japan, which founded and supports the party. Curiously, it had been almost taboo to anatomise the connection between Kōmeitō and the Sōka Gakkai (Hori, 1973, pp. 325-326). One exception is an analysis of Kōmeitō voters by George Ehrhrdt (2009), yet some Sōka Gakkai members declined his request for interview as they did not wish to share information on the organisation. In addition, objectivity has been an issue: most publications on Kōmeitō and the Sōka Gakkai are apt one-sidedly to criticise the two organisations, as Hisashi Nishijima (1968) of Yomiuri Shimbun pointed out. Likewise, descriptions of Kōmeitō by the members of the party tend solely to praise its policies. Moreover, only a few academic papers on pacifism and the security policy of Kōmeitō have been published (e.g. Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1969; Matsumoto, 1982: Benedict, 2011).

This paper attempts to fill a gap in the current scholarship by providing a comprehensive analysis of the pacifism of Kōmeitō, which has influenced Japan’s security policy. Robert Kisala (1999, pp. 73-94) argued that the pacifism of the Sōka Gakkai was compromised by the organisation’s involvement in politics. In fact, the pacifism and stance on security policy of Kōmeitō have transformed since its inception. First, while Kōmeitō originally did not recognise the constitutionality of the Self-Defence Forces (SDF) and the Japan-US Security Treaty, in the late 1970s, it began shifting its political stance on these policies. Second, Kōmeitō initially opposed the dispatch of the SDF to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) and insisted that civilian peacekeepers be sent instead. Eventually, however, the party supported the LDP government in enacting the 1992 International Peace Cooperation Law, or the 1992 PKO Law, which enabled the SDF to participate in the UNPKO. Notably, without the support of Kōmeitō, the Japanese government would not have been able to enact the PKO Law because Kōmeitō held the casting vote. Kōmeitō was a ruling party in coalition with the LDP from 1999 to 2009; during this period, the party assisted in enacting the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law and the 2003 Iraq Special Measures Law, which legitimised the SDF dispatch to the Indian Ocean and Iraq respectively. Third, Kōmeitō had previously been against revisions to the Japanese Constitution, especially for Article 9; recently, however, the party has adopted the kaken method, which recognises constitutional amendments.

To the casual observer, it may seem that the party’s pacifism has been compromised by these changes. However, the ‘anti-war pacifism’ of Kōmeitō has never changed. In particular, the party’s interpretation of the exercise of the right of collective self-defence has not shifted. Furthermore, Kōmeitō’s pacifism has been evolutionarily ‘realistic’ and ‘internationalised’ in response to the changing global security environment, rather than opportunistically ‘compromised’ based on partisan interests.

In considering theoretical perspectives of Kōmeitō’s pacifism, the paper employs three types of pacifism: ‘anti-war pacifism’, ‘realistic pacifism’, and ‘international pacifism’, respectively consistent with traditional political philosophies of international relations theory: ‘Kantian idealism’, ‘Hobbesian realism’, and ‘Grotian internationalism’ (Bull, 2002, p. 25). Strictly speaking, Kōmeitō does not adhere to ‘absolute pacifism’ which is against both individual and collective self-defence. However, the party, on the basis of its ‘anti-war pacifism’, has consistently opposed the latter as well as the illegitimate use of force. During the Cold War, the party adopted ‘realistic pacifism’ to recognise the legality of the SDF and the Japan-US military alliance. In the post-Cold War and the post-9/11 periods, Kōmeitō has supported and facilitated Japan’s contributions to international peace operations, based on its ‘international pacifism’.

In an attempt to substantiate the arguments and theoretical implications above, this paper will examine the origin of Kōmeitō’s pacifism, its security policy during the Cold War, the influence of the party on the legislative processes to legalise the dispatch of the SDF to international peace operations, and Kōmeitō’s stance on Japanese constitutional revision. Moreover, interview materials with leading senior Kōmeitō parliamentary politicians, who have been in charge of the security policy of the party, such as Chief Representative Natsuo Yamaguchi, Masao Akamatsu, and Yōsuke Takagi, support the main arguments of this paper. In principle, this paper utilises the term, ‘Kōmeitō’ instead of the Kōmeitō, the Kōmeitō party, or the former/New Kōmeitō, because it is commonly used and pronounced this way within Japan.

Historical Background of Kōmeitō: Relationship with the Sōka Gakkai

In the examination of Kōmeitō, it is imperative to comprehend its relationship with the Sōka Gakkai, because the political and religious organisations are ‘intertwined in such a manner as to make them inseparable for analytical purposes’ (Palmer, 1971, x). The Sōka Gakkai, the supporting organisation of Kōmeitō, has been one of the most successful, but controversial religious organisations in post-war Japan (Moos, 1963, p. 137). Interestingly, since most voters for Kōmeitō are Sōka Gakkai members, Kōmeitō can accurately estimate the number of votes it will receive prior to elections (Stockwin, 1989, p. 97).

During the Second World War, the Imperial Japanese government, in connection with State Shintō, suppressed religions and philosophies other than Shintoism. The first president of the Sōka Gakkai, Makiguchi Tsunesaburō (1871-1944), did not cease religious activities and criticised the militaristic nature of the government based on his anti-war pacifism and Nichiren Buddhism (Tamaru, 2000). As a result, in July 1943, Makiguchi was arrested in Izu for lese majesty and the violation of the Maintenance of Public Order Act (Chian iji hō) (Aruga, 2000 pp. 98-99). The second president, Toda Jōsei (1900-1958), was also forced into imprisonment due to his opposition to State Shintō and the militarism of the Empire of Japan (Dator, 1967, p. 212). After the end of the Second World War, Toda was released from prison and resumed propagation of Nichiren Buddhism. In 1948, Toda expressed his intention to contribute to the restoration of the war-devastated Japanese society, stating that “We must take it upon ourselves to remould politics, economics, and culture” (Metraux, 1988, pp. 34-35). This indicates that the Sōka Gakkai could not remain completely apolitical in contributing to the reconstruction and prosperity of Japan (White, 1967, pp. 744-745).

The Sōka Gakkai initiated its political activities in November 1954. A department of cultural affairs was established in the Sōka Gakkai in the same month to deal with political, economic, cultural, and educational activities. Three Sōka Gakkai members were elected to the House of Councilors in April 1955. At this stage, their political campaigns were not well-organised, due to the lack of a formal political party (Sheldon, 1960, p. 385). In August 1957, Toda wrote an article on the theory of harmony of politics and Buddhism (ōbutsu myōgō) (Hrebenar, 1992, pp. 156-157). Ikeda Daisaku became the third president of the Sōka Gakkai in 1960 and the Kōmei Political League (Kōmei Seiji Renmei, predecessor of Kōmeitō) was established with the support of the Sōka Gakkai in November 1961. In the Upper House elections in July 1962, the Kōmei Political League won nine seats in the House of Councilors, becoming the third largest political group with a total of fifteen seats following the LDP and the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) (Moos, 1963, pp. 137-138).

The Kōmei Political League was reorganised as Kōmeitō on 17 November 1964. On the very same day, Ikeda Daisaku published a book entitled Seiji to Shūkyō (Politics and Religion). In this book, Ikeda argued for the necessity of establishing Kōmeitō to attain the embodiment of the aforementioned ōbutsu myōgō and its theological foundation stemming from Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren insisted that ideal politics meant harmony between the law of the king or politics (ōhō) and the law of Buddha or Buddhism (buppō). Ikeda (1964, p. 176, 204, 261) argued further that ōbutsu myōgō means politics by people, with mercy and altruism as a Buddhist philosophy, different from the union of politics and religion (seikyō icchi), which means politics on the basis of national religion.

In the same manner as other countries’ political systems, Japanese political parties and political stances tend to be metaphorically categorised as left, middle, and right (Stockwin, 1984). According to this political classification, Kōmeitō is categorised as a centrist party (Azumi, 1971, p. 918), in the so-called 1955 political system in Japan as well as in the midst of the ideological confrontation in the Cold War structure. Indeed, Kōmeitō identifies itself as a centrist party on its Website (New Kōmeitō Home Page).

Pacifism and Security Policy of Kōmeitō during the Cold War Era

A Combination of Anti-war Pacifism and Realistic Pacifism

In his writing, On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land (Risshō Ankoku Ron), Nichiren stressed the importance of praying for and establishing peace through Buddhist philosophy (Sōka Gakkai, 1999). Nichiren’s writing on peace has inevitably influenced the pacifism of the Sōka Gakkai, which in turn influenced the security policy of Kōmeitō (Green, 2003, p.54). Kōmeitō expressed its political goals in its party platform as the: “1) Realisation of world peace by means of global nationalism; 2) Attainment of the well-being of the masses through humanitarian socialism; 3) Creation of a mass party based on Buddhist democracy; and 4) Eradication of corrupt politics.” (Matsumoto, 1982, p. 62)

The influence of the pacifism of the Sōka Gakkai on the security policy of Kōmeitō is evident throughout its history. Based on anti-war pacifism, Kōmeitō insisted on the gradual abrogation of the Japan-US Security Treaty and proposed that Japan attain diplomatic neutrality while reorganising the SDF as the National Security Forces (kokudo keibitai) (Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1969). In addition, Kōmeitō has prioritised the abolition of nuclear weapons based on Toda’s declaration of the ‘Ban on Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs’ on 8 September 1957 (Lee, 1970, pp. 510-511).

From the late 1970s to the early 1980s, Kōmeitō adopted ‘realistic pacifism’ to recognise Japan’s right of individual self-defence, and its security stance shifted. During the late 1970s, Kōmeitō did not publicly recognise the constitutionality of the SDF and the Security Treaty. Yet, the party regarded the right of self-defence as an inherent right. At the same time, however, the party did not adopt a policy of unarmed neutrality, unlike the JSP. At this stage, Kōmeitō still adhered to the security policy, arguing that the SDF should be diminished and reorganised as the National Security Forces (Kōmeitō, 1978, pp.19-20, 24-24).

In December 1981, Kōmeitō officially expressed its policy shift to recognise both the existence of the SDF and the conditional constitutionality of the Japan-US Security Treaty (Asahi Shimbun AERA Henshūbu, 2000, p. 190). In an interview with the author, Akamatsu Masao of Kōmeitō, one of the security policy specialists of the party, stated that it was a significant shift of Kōmeitō’s pacifism and security policy (Interview with Akamatsu Masao, 30 September 2009). This decision to adopt ‘realistic pacifism’ became the foundation for future cooperation with the LDP government.

At the 19th Kōmeitō National Convention in 1982, it was announced that the party did not wish an immediate abolition of the Security Treaty because it would lead to the destabilisation of the international structure (Kōmeitō, 1982, p. 75). In response, the JSP and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) criticised Kōmeitō’s policy shift as a “tilt toward the right,” whereas the LDP and the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) welcomed the changes (Japan Quarterly, January-March 1982, p. 13). Nonetheless, it is fair to argue that Kōmeitō moved from a leftist position towards “an ideologically centrist position,” rather than to the rightwing (Baerwald, 1986, p. 9). The shift in security policy of Kōmeitō from the late 1970s to the early 1980s suggests that Kōmeitō’s pacifism adopted ‘realistic pacifism’ that recognises the right of self-defence.

Kōmeitō’s Response to the 1990 Gulf Crisis and 1991 Gulf War: Its Role in the Enactment Process of the 1992 PKO Law

The Anti-war Pacifism of Kōmeitō and Opposition to the UN Peace Cooperation Bill

The 1990 Gulf Crisis and the subsequent 1991 Gulf War became significant stimuli in shifting the security policy of the Japanese government and Kōmeitō. In a New York Times feature article, it was reported that for the first time in contemporary Japanese politics, a Japanese political party other than the LDP was playing a “pivotal role in determining Japanese policies” (New York Times, 27 February 1991). Kōmeitō had opposed the 1990 UN Peace Cooperation Bill, which aimed to dispatch the SDF to UN-authorised military operations. Kōmeitō’s opposition was a “major obstacle” for the government, because Kōmeitō’s support in the Diet was “essential to enable the bill to pass” (Stockwin, 2008, p. 78). Kōmeitō did not support the legislation because the party judged that the exercise of the right of collective self-defence was the true intention of the bill.

Kōmeitō originally opposed the SDF dispatch to UNPKO. The party insisted that an unarmed peacekeeping organisation be established separately from the SDF. Eventually, however, Kōmeitō changed its PKO policy and supported the enactment of the 1992 International Peace Cooperation Law (PKO Law) (Shinoda, 2007, pp. 50-62). Although Kōmeitō’s political influence on Japan’s security policy was basically limited (Stockwin, 2008, p. 197), the party’s support was indispensable for the government to legislate the PKO Bill: the LDP did not hold a majority in the House of Councilors and Kōmeitō held the deciding vote (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 1989, 1990). In other words, without support from Kōmeitō, the Japanese government could not have passed the bill through the Upper House.

In response to the 1990 Gulf Crisis, Fuyushiba Tetsuzō, a Kōmeitō legislator serving in the House of Representatives, stated that the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq was unforgivable. Fuyushiba also referred to a House of Councilors resolution adopted on 2 June 1954, which determined not to dispatch the SDF overseas. He insisted that an SDF dispatch in support of the US-led multinational forces was unconstitutional (NDL, Proceedings of the 118th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Special Committee on Security, 5 October 1990). At the Lower House plenary session on 16 October 1990, Ishida Kōshirō, the Chairman of Kōmeitō, also expressed his opposition to SDF participation in the multinational forces because it would violate the Japanese Constitution. At the same time, however, he argued that Japan should actively participate in UNPKO on the basis of UN-centrism. Ishida proposed the establishment of a Japanese peacekeeping organisation separate from the SDF. He insisted that such an unarmed corps—without even small arms—should be organised to join non-military activities, such as medical services, transportation, telecommunications, construction, and refugee rescue (NDL, Proceedings of the 119th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 16 October 1990). In short, Kōmeitō opposed an SDF dispatch for the logistical support of the multinational forces.

As a result of the lack of support from Kōmeitō, the UN Peace Cooperation Bill was scrapped at the 190th Diet session on 8 November 1990. Yet, at the same time, Kōmeitō signed a Three-Party Agreement with the LDP and the DSP on 9 November 1990, confirming the creation of a new peacekeeping organisation separate from the SDF (Yomiuri Shimbun, 10 November 1990). Notably, the script of the Three-Party Agreement was written by Ichikawa Yūichi, the Secretary-General of Kōmeitō, based on the idea of a ‘separate organisation from the SDF’ originally suggested by Doi Takako of the JSP (Shinoda, 2006, p. 69). On the basis of its anti-war pacifism, which opposed the exercise of the right of collective self-defence, Kōmeitō contributed to the rejection of the UN Peace Cooperation Bill. After the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War, Ichikawa Yūichi stated that the LDP government should respect the Three-Party Agreement and organise a new peacekeeping force separate from the SDF. Responding to Ichikawa, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki argued that Japan should take responsibility for international peace as stipulated in the Preamble of the Constitution (NDL, Proceedings of the 120th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Budget Committee, 5 February 1991).

In the case of Japan’s financial contribution of $9 billion for the multinational force, in addition to having already contributed $4 billion, Kōmeitō was reluctant to support these contributions, at first due to the influence of the anti-war pacifism of the Sōka Gakkai members, especially its women’s division (Shinoda, 2006, pp. 66-67). After negotiations with the LDP Secretary-General, Ozawa Ichirō, Kōmeitō succeeded in making the government accept conditions such as limiting the aim of the financial contribution to only non-military purposes (Aruga, 2000, p. 121). As a legal basis for financial support, Sakai Hiroichi, a Lower House legislator belonging to Kōmeitō, explained that the use of force was based on the UN resolution, and therefore, the financial contribution to the multinational forces could be justified by the resolution. Kōmeitō supported the contribution of $9 billion not by increasing taxes but by reducing the defence expenditure (NDL, Proceedings of the 120th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 25 February 1991).

The International Pacifism of Kōmeitō and Support for the 1992 PKO Law

As a means of legalising the SDF participation in UNPKO, Kōmeitō legislators looked to the Preamble of the Japanese Constitution. Futami Nobuaki, a Lower House legislator, quoted the Preamble: “We desire to occupy an honoured place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace” (NDL, Proceedings of the 120th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 28 February 1991). Likewise, Miyachi Shōsuke, another Lower House member, pointed out the limitations of ‘one-nation pacifism’ and referred to the Preamble: “We recognised that all people of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want” (NDL, Proceedings of the 120th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 28 February 1991). In addition, Miyachi argued that the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution would function better when combined with the international pacifism of the Charter of the United Nations. He insisted that such pacifism should be Japan’s national principle (ibid).

Although Kōmeitō legislators supported Japan’s contribution to UNPKO based on the Three-Party Agreement, they opposed the dispatch of the Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) minesweepers to the Persian Gulf. Despite this opposition, the Japanese government decided to send the MSDF on 26 April 1991 without creating a new legal framework. Japanese minesweepers were successful and highly appreciated by the international community. Moreover, according to a public opinion poll conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on 9 and 10 June 1991, 74% of respondents supported the overseas dispatch of the SDF, whereas only 21% had supported the SDF dispatch in the opinion poll in November 1990 (Shinoda, 2006, pp. 70-72). Despite the non-military nature of the Japanese minesweeping activities, Kōmeitō, on the basis of its anti-war pacifism, was wary about the dispatch.

After the MSDF dispatch, however, Kōmeitō became more supportive about the dispatch of the SDF to UNPKO. Ishida Kōshirō pointed out the purpose in the Preamble of the Constitution for Japan to occupy “an honoured place in an international society” and stressed the significance of international cooperation. He suggested Japan could participate in the UNPKO in Cambodia in the fields of infrastructure, agriculture, and empowerment of the Cambodian people (NDL, Proceedings of the 121st Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 7 August 1991). Kōmeitō as well as the LDP forced through the revised PKO Bill in a special committee meeting on 27 November 1991. At the Kōmeitō convention on 29 November, however, strong criticism against the forcible passage occurred and Kōmeitō had to ask the LDP to send the bill back to the committee (Shinoda, 2006, pp.74-75). This case indicates that Kōmeitō did not abandon its anti-war pacifism, while recognising the significance of international peacekeeping operations based on international pacifism.

In addition to referring to the Preamble, Kōmeitō also paid attention to Article 9 in the legislative process of the PKO legislation requiring the application of the so-called Five Principles it had proposed (ceasefire, consent from host countries, neutrality, withdrawal, and the use of weapons for self-defence) and the freeze of participation in Peacekeeping Forces (PKF). In the deliberation of the PKO Bill at the Diet on 3 December 1991, Watanabe Ichirō of Kōmeitō made it clear that “Japan’s participation in PKO based on this bill was constitutional” (NDL, Proceedings of the 122nd Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 3 December 1991). As legal bases for the dispatch of the SDF, he raised the Preamble and the Five Principles (Ibid). The PKO Bill passed the House of Representatives on the same day, as a result of Kōmeitō’s support. On 2 February 1992, Foreign Minister Watanabe Michio referred to the “freeze of PKF participation” in a public interview. In response to this, Ishikawa Yūichi agreed with the idea that SDF participation in PKF activities should be frozen until consensus among the public was reached and the new legal framework approved (Shinoda, 2006, p. 75). In an interview with the author, Yamaguchi Natsuo mentioned that Kōmeitō supported the enactment process of the revised PKO Bill on the basis of ‘international pacifism’. More importantly, the party decided to support the bill when Cambodia, including the Pol Pot faction, showed willingness to accept SDF participation in peacekeeping operations in the country (Interview with Yamaguchi Natsuo, 6 October 2009).

On 8 June 1992, the revised PKO Bill passed the House of Councilors. In the Diet session, Koba Kentarō of Kōmeitō expressed support for the bill based on the Preamble. As a justification for supporting the bill, he emphasised the authority of the UNPKO winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988, the Diet approval for civilian control, and the freeze of SDF participation in the PKF activities (NDL, Proceedings of the 123rd Diet Session, House of Councilors, Plenary Session, 8 June 1992). The revised PKO Bill passed through the Upper and Lower Houses and was finally enacted on 15 June 1992. During the Diet session that day, Nakano Kansei of the DSP pointed to the cooperation of Kōmeitō regarding the freeze of the PKF participation. As legal bases, he pointed not only to the Preamble, but also to Article 98 which stipulates the obligation to obey international law (NDL, Proceedings of the 123rd Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 15 June 1992).

Although Kōmeitō actively supported the enactment of the 1992 PKO Bill, some youth members of the Sōka Gakkai unequivocally criticised Kōmeitō’s support for the dispatch of the SDF (Metraux, 2000, p. 131). To counter strong opposition from the youth and women’s divisions of the Sōka Gakkai, Ichikawa Yūichi persuaded Sōka Gakkai members to understand the necessity of the PKO Law by emphasising the shift from one-nation pacifism (ikkoku heiwashugi) to worldwide pacifism (sekai heiwashugi). As a result, Sōka Gakkai members gradually accepted the dispatch of the SDF to UN-authorised peacekeeping operations (Asahi Shimbun AERA Henshūbu, 2000, p.92).

Kōmeitō’s Response to the 2001 Afghanistan War and the 2003 Iraq War

The International Pacifism of Kōmeitō and Its Role in the Enactment Process of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law

As with the 1992 PKO Law, Kōmeitō’s support for the LDP was important to enact the Anti-Terrorism Law. In the legislative process of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, Kōmeitō swiftly approved the bill proposed by Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō on 25 September 2001, only two weeks after the terrorist attacks in the United States (Shinoda, 2007, p.136). Shinoda Tomohito argued that the reason the Koizumi government was able to enact the law in such a short period of time was that Prime Minister Koizumi prioritised persuading Kōmeitō to support the passage of the bill. Koizumi persuaded Kōmeitō to do this by confirming that the bill would not violate Article 9 of the Constitution (Shinoda, 2006, pp.90-91, p. 128).

During deliberations on the bill, Yamaguchi Natsuo of Kōmeitō stated that the legislation would fill the gap between Article 9 as a prohibitive factor, and the Preamble and Article 98 as facilitative factors with regard to overseas dispatch of the SDF (NDL, Proceedings of the 153rd Diet Session, House of Councilors, Budget Committee, 9 October 2001). In addition, Tabata Masahiro of Kōmeitō mentioned that for the purpose of implementing humanitarian activities and combating international terrorism, the Anti-Terrorism legislation could be enacted within the scope of the Constitution as well as being an observation of UN Resolution 1368 (NDL, Proceedings of the 153rd Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 10 October 2001). In fact, the resolution could be interpreted as authorisation for the speedy enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law. Indeed, Resolution 1368 called on “All states to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks” (United Nations, 12 September 2001). As a result of support from Kōmeitō, the Anti-Terrorism legislation, submitted by the Japanese government on 5 October 2001, was quickly enacted on 29 October. The legislative process of the law shows that the party supported the legislation based on the international pacifism of the Preamble, which is compatible with Article 98 and UN Resolution 1368.

The International Pacifism of Kōmeitō and Its Role in the Enactment Process of the 2003 Iraq Special Measures Law

Similar to the legislative process of the Anti-Terrorism Law, Koizumi prioritised convincing Kōmeitō to support the Iraq Special Measures Bill before the LDP reached a consensus. Shinoda argued that Kōmeitō increased its political influence on Japan’s security by cooperating with the enactment of these two significant laws (Shinoda, 2006, p.95, 128). This pattern, also seen in the legislative process of the PKO Law and the Anti-Terrorism Law, proved that the support of Kōmeitō was integral for the enactments of laws to legitimise dispatch of the SDF to post-conflict peace operations.

Understandably, Kōmeitō, on the basis of its anti-war pacifism, did not support the US-led military operations in Iraq. In response to the 2003 Iraq War, Fuyushiba Tetsuzō, the Secretary-General of Kōmeitō, expressed deep regret about the war and questioned the legality of the military action on the basis of UNSC Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 to Koizumi in the Diet. While opposing the use of force, Fuyushiba referred to a request by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and emphasised the importance for the international community and Japan to work hand in hand for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq (NDL, Proceedings of the 156th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 20 March 2003).

To dispatch the SDF to Iraq for post-war reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, it was indispensable for Koizumi to convince Kōmeitō to support the enactment. Still, Sōka Gakkai members, especially the women’s division, led Kōmeitō to be cautious about the legislation. Even though its supporting group was not necessarily satisfied with the dispatch of the SDF, Kōmeitō decided to ‘respect the judgement of the prime minister’ (Stockwin, 2008, p.117). Shimada Hiromi (2007, p.9) observed this as a perception gap between Kōmeitō and the Sōka Gakkai regarding the SDF dispatch to Iraq. In a sense, Kōmeitō was “torn between its pacifist label and its responsibility as a government coalition party” (Shinoda, 2007, p. 138).

During the deliberation of the Iraq Special Measures legislation, Kōmeitō attempted to reinterpret pacifism to justify the SDF dispatch. Akamatsu Masao categorised Japan’s pacifism after the 1991 Gulf War as new pacifism (atarashii heiwashugi) distinguishing it from one-nation pacifism (ikkoku heiwashugi) before the 1991 Gulf War. He argued that Japan should make contributions to peace-building in Iraq based on new pacifism (NDL, Proceedings of the 156th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Special Committee on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance for Iraq, Prevention of International Terrorism, and Japan’s Cooperation, 25 June 2003). Likewise, Hamayotsu Toshiko of Kōmeitō criticised one-nation pacifism as egoism in situations where people are suffering from war, conflict, poverty, and diseases (NDL, Proceedings of the 157th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Plenary Session, 30 September 2003).

The new pacifism of Kōmeitō as international pacifism was based not only on the Preamble but also on UN resolutions. Kōmeitō Diet members stressed UN Resolution 1483 as a legal authorisation for the SDF deployment to Iraq. Maruya Kaori of Kōmeitō mentioned appreciation from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) regarding Japan’s financial contribution for reconstruction of Iraq. Maruya also referred to the dispatch of the SDF based on UN Resolution 1483 (United Nations, 22 May 2003) which encourages UN member states to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq (NDL, Proceedings of the 156th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Special Committee on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance for Iraq, Prevention of International Terrorism, and Japan’s Cooperation, 27 June 2003).

Likewise, Tōyama Kiyohiko of Kōmeitō stated that the UN resolution was based on humanitarian needs. He also pointed out that the SDF dispatch was necessary for post-war reconstruction, because the SDF possessed the “ability to complete the mission by themselves” (jiko kanketsu sei) (NDL, Proceedings of the 156th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, 10 July 2003). Indeed, although the SDF needed protection by the Dutch Forces and the Australian Defence Forces, the dispatch of non-SDF organisations may have needed more protection than the SDF.

Shortly before Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) personnel were deployed to Iraq, Akamatsu Masao described Kōmeitō’s pacifism as active pacifism (kōdō suru heiwashugi) supporting Japan’s contribution to international peace operations. He argued that SDF dispatch to Iraq for post-war humanitarian assistance was compatible with Kōmeitō’s pacifism (Akamatsu, 2004). Even after the death of Japanese diplomats Inoue Masamori and Oku Katsuhiko on 29 November 2003, Kōmeitō did not express its opposition to the dispatch (Asahi.com, 1 December 2003). After the GSDF arrived in Iraq, Kitagawa Kazuo of Kōmeitō reconfirmed its legitimacy, referring not only to UN Resolution 1483 but also to Resolution 1511 as another similar legal basis for the SDF dispatch (NDL, Proceedings of the 159th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Budget Committee, 10 February 2004). The statements of Kōmeitō parliamentary politicians in the National Diet during the legislative process of the 1992 PKO Law, 2001 Anti-Terrorism Law, and the 2003 Iraq Special Measures Law substantiate that Kōmeitō supported the dispatch of the SDF to international peace operations on the basis of international pacifism.

Kōmeitō’s Stance on the Japanese Constitutional Revision Debate

Since its foundation, Kōmeitō had been opposed to constitutional revision, especially Article 9. For instance, Kōmeitō expressed clear opposition to Kuraishi Tadao, Agricultural and Forestry Minister, who insisted on the necessity of Japan’s rearmament, including nuclear weapons, through revision of Article 9 in a press conference on 6 February 1968 (Gendai Masukomi Kenkyūkai, 1969, p.156). This was due to the influence of the pacifism of the Sōka Gakkai. In his Peace Proposal in 2001, Ikeda Daisaku (2001, pp. 9-10) explicitly argued that “Article 9 should not be touched.” For this reason, Kōmeitō has valued the anti-war pacifism of Article 9, but the party’s stance on constitutional revision except for Article 9 started changing in 2001. After the enactment of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Law, Ueda Isamu of Kōmeitō touched upon the possibility of constitutional revision. He insisted that Paragraph 1 of Article 9 should be left pristine, but implied that the existence of the SDF for self-defence and international cooperation could be added (NDL, Proceedings of the 153rd Diet Session, House of Representatives, Research Commission on the Constitution, 6 December 2001). Likewise, in the wake of the 2003 Iraq War, Akamatsu Masao pointed out the limitations of Article 9 in the changing international environment and implied the necessity of constitutional revision (NDL, Proceedings of the 156th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Research Commission on the Constitution, 20 March 2003). Still, as mentioned above, Kōmeitō has been unsupportive of revision of Article 9 on the basis of its anti-war pacifism. For instance, Endō Kazuyoshi of Kōmeitō argued that Article 9 ‘forever’ renounces war. He pointed out that the word forever means that revision of Article 9 is not necessary (NDL, Proceedings of the 156th Diet Session, House of Representatives, Research Commission on the Constitution, 3 April 2003).

In 2004, Kōmeitō officially began recognising the necessity of constitutional amendments by addition to the Constitution (kaken) rather than protection (goken) or revision (kaiken). Takagi Yōsuke of Kōmeitō argued that ‘international contribution’ could be written into the Constitution (Kōmei Shimbun, 23 March 2004). According to Kōmeitō, the kaken method is aimed at protecting the existing Constitution, while improving it by adding new clauses. The kaken method is an alternative plan to prevent radical constitutional revision which aimed at the entire revision or deletion of Article 9 (Kōmei Shimbun, 18 March 2005). At the same time, the method plans to preserve the three principles of the constitution: popular sovereignty, guarantee of basic human rights, and eternal pacifism. Significantly, the method attempts to preserve Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9 and does not recognise the exercise of the right of collective self-defence. Additionally, Kōmeitō argued that the right of individual self-defence, environment, and of privacy need to be added to the current Constitution (Kōmei Shimbun, 21 December 2005). In principle, Kōmeitō’s stance on constitutional revision is that the party does not support any styles of revision which intend to exercise collective self-defence. Thus, Kōmeitō adheres to the anti-war pacifism of Article 9, while advocating the international pacifism of the Preamble of the Constitution.

Kōmeitō’s kaken method is different from other parties’ stances. The LDP argued that Article 9 should stipulate the possession of a ‘self-defence army’. Furthermore, the LDP has insisted on the necessity of exercising the “right of collective self-defence” (LDP, 2005). The stance of the DPJ on constitutional revision is not consistent and differs from person to person. In December 2003, Kan Naoto argued that the DPJ would create a new constitution from scratch by modifying all articles, including Article 9. Okada Katsuya announced in July 2004 that the DPJ would revise the Constitution so that Japan could deploy the SDF overseas. In September 2005, Maehara Seiji contended that Paragraph 2 of Article 9 should be deleted and a provision of the right of self-defence should be stipulated (Shimbun Akahata, 28 July 2007). Hatoyama Yukio wrote a draft for a new constitution and insisted that Japan should possess a ‘self-defence army’ and participate in military operations under the UN security system (Hatoyama, 2007). Ozawa Ichirō advocated the creation of a ‘UN Stand-by Force’ by reorganising the SDF (Ozawa, 2006, pp.157-161). Both the LDP and the DPJ leaders prefer to revise the Constitution in ways that can justify the possession of a normal army to exercise the right of collective self-defence. In contrast, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), as a successor to the JSP, and the JCP have been opposed to constitutional revision. Fukushima Mizuho, leader of the SDP, insisted that Japan should make the best of the current constitution (SDP, 2008). Similarly, the JCP has explicitly opposed the existence of both the SDF and the Japan-US Security Treaty (JCP, 2004).

Unlike the dichotomy of kaiken and goken, Kōmeitō has attempted to maintain a balance between the ideal of Article 9 and the reality of international politics. Although Kōmeitō’s pacifism and security policy seem to be “compromised pacifism” (Kisala, 1999, pp. 73-94), the party has never compromised on its stance on the exercise of the right of collective self-defence. If anything, as Helen Hardacre observed (2005, p. 235), Kōmeitō placed its influence on preventing “the LDP from inscribing collective self-defence into its draft for a new constitution.” During the Koizumi government, Kanzaki Takenori, the Chief Representative of Kōmeitō, stated that the party “cannot continue the coalition [with the LDP]” if the LDP’s plan for constitutional revision is incompatible with the policy of Kōmeitō (Asahi.com, 19 June 2004). It can be argued that Kanzaki’s remark was effective, at least during the Koizumi government, as the prime minister did not facilitate the process of constitutional revision.

During the Abe administration, Kōmeitō supported the forcible passage of the National Referendum Bill, which determined the procedures for constitutional revision. All the opposition parties, including the DPJ, were against the passage of the bill (Japan Times, 19 May 2007). In particular, Fukushima Mizuho stated that the law would destroy the Peace Constitution. Clearly, the general public feared that constitutional revision might turn Japan back into a pre-war-type militarist state that would make waging wars possible (ibid). In fact, the LDP-Kōmeitō coalition was unable to gain the majority of the seats in the House of Councilors in the 2007 election. According to Kabashima Ikuo, a former professor of Law at the University of Tokyo and the current Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, the LDP-Kōmeitō coalition government was defeated because Prime Minister Abe had prioritised constitutional revision. Moreover, Kōmeitō supporters, Sōka Gakkai members, had an uncomfortable feeling (iwakan) about Abe’s hawkish stance on constitutional revision (Kabashima and Hayano, 2007, pp. 75-76) because his plan included the exercise of the right of collective self-defence (Abe, 2006, p. 132). This was not compatible with the anti-war pacifism of Kōmeitō. The stance of the party on constitutional revision, therefore, has been consistent regarding the freeze of the exercise of the right of collective self-defence. This case shows that Kōmeitō prioritises its anti-war pacifism with regard to the revision of Article 9. Although some Kōmeitō politicians, Takagi Yōsuke, for instance, showed support for revision of Article 9, Yamaguchi Natsuo, the Chief Representative of the party, told the author that the basic stance of the party on Article 9 has been consistent, and will remain unaltered in the foreseeable future (Interview with Takagi Yōsuke, 5 October 2009; Interview with Yamaguchi Natsuo, 6 October 2009). Based on its political identity as a pacifist and centrist party, Kōmeitō’s stance on constitutional revision is to balance the reality of Japan’s security policy and the party’s ideal of pacifism.

Conclusion

This paper has examined the pacifism of Kōmeitō, which has been influential on Japan’s security policy. The study confirmed that Kōmeitō’s pacifist stance regarding Japan’s security policy stemmed from the anti-war pacifism of the Sōka Gakkai. It also identified Kōmeitō’s shift in stance towards the security policy during the Cold War period. From the end of the 1970s to the early 1980s, Kōmeitō adopted ‘realistic pacifism’ and recognised the constitutionality of the SDF and the Japan-US Security Treaty. This signifies that its national security policy is based not on idealistic absolute pacifism but on realistic relative pacifism.

During the post-Cold War period, Kōmeitō adopted ‘international pacifism’ to support SDF participation in UNPKO. Through the analysis of the legislative processes of the 1992 PKO Law, the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, and the 2003 Iraq Special Measures Law, two patterns have emerged: Kōmeitō supported the passage of legislation based on the international pacifism of the Preamble of the Japanese Constitution, and the LDP persuaded Kōmeitō to support bills to legalise the SDF dispatch for post-conflict peace operations. The legislative processes showed that Kōmeitō increased its political significance by assisting the LDP. As for analysis of Kōmeitō’s stance on constitutional revision, this paper has substantiated that the kaken method of Kōmeitō attempted to protect the essence of Article 9 and simultaneously to codify Japan’s responsibility for international peacekeeping operations. On the basis of the anti-war pacifism of Article 9 and the international pacifism of the Preamble, the party opposes the exercise of the right of collective self-defence and promotes Japan’s contribution to post-war peace operations.

The findings of the paper reveal that the anti-war pacifism of Kōmeitō has been influential on Japan’s security policy. It also confirmed that the pacifism and security policy of Kōmeitō have become realistic and international in order for the SDF to make contributions to national and international security. Without the support of the party, the Japanese government would not have been able to legalise the overseas dispatch of the SDF. In spite of the shifts in its security policy, Kōmeitō’s anti-war pacifism, particularly its policy on the right of collective self-defence, has never been compromised. This is a critical factor on why the Japanese government has not been able to revise Article 9. Although Kōmeitō became an opposition party as a result of the 2009 Lower House Election, the party still holds the casting vote, and therefore, the influence of the pacifism of Kōmeitō on Japan’s security policy is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Acknowledgements

This paper is based on my presentation at the Biennial Conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia on 16 July 2009. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. William Armour and Professor Gō Itō for their valuable comments and advice on my research. Also, I am grateful to Masao Akamatsu, Yōsuke Takagi, and Natsuo Yamaguchi for their generous cooperation for interviews and lectures on Kōmeitō.

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About the Author

Daisuke Akimoto is Assistant Professor at the Sōka University Peace Research Institute in Japan. He holds a PhD (Asian Studies and International Relations) from the University of Western Sydney, an MA (Peace and Conflict Studies) from the University of Sydney, and a BA (Humanities) from the Sōka University Japan. His research interests include Japan’s pacifism and security policy, Japan-Australia relations, international peacekeeping operations and nuclear disarmament.

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